The Bible’s Object Lessons in Church Fund Raising

June 10, 2007 at 1:45 am 25 comments

ChurchI am personally convinced that many Christians do not believe their own Scriptures. At least you wouldn’t think so by the way the Bible is used selectively in our modern church sermons and Bible Studies. I would like to do a survey of the Top 25 Bible passages that sermons are derived from, because I bet most sermons and homilies are derived from the same few Bible passages. The 10 commandments (Exodus 20), The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and the Resurrection accounts would certainly make the cut. However, there are several passages in Scripture, which are useful and relevant in our modern world, but are avoided as if they never existed.

While we are on the subject of tithing from the last article on de-conversion, I would like to bring up one of my favorite examples of fund raising tactics from my old church. Just as I was leaving Christianity, my old Baptist Church was undergoing a huge fundraising campaign for the new Childrens’ playroom. They had to make room for the ever expanding main sanctuary, so the church needed money to buy and renovate a building across the street for the youngsters. The church spent months on their campaign to raise the funds. They got onto this standardized investment strategy for churches called “The Great Investment”. It was managed by Great Nation Investment Corporation, which is a lending and strategy company that specializes in church fundraising. This had to cost a pretty penny, but I also know that many churches are following this same investment strategy.

For months, the congregation heard a weekly message on tithing and on the need to give back to God. This was followed by a plea to the church for a pledge of a specific dollar amount we would give. We were encouraged to sign this pledge. There was also a weekly painting contest where children of all ages painted sunflowers, which were sort of the mascot or logo for the entire campaign. We then had a Wednesday night congratulatory dinner, complete with a dinner jazz band, where we congratulated ourselves for our selflessness and faithfulness, and we were encouraged by our pastor to fulfill our dollar pledges made following the message on tithing from the previous Sunday.

Now, I am not berating our church for these tactics. After all, I feel there was nothing sneaky or backhanded in what they were doing. Our pastors were pretty upfront with it all and honest, and they used modern, proven techniques for raising funds. But let’s face it, they ain’t biblical.

The Bible mentions nothing about investment strategies, or sweet talking the congregation into giving and fulfilling their pledges. The Bible does give clear instruction on how to handle fundraising and commitment to God, but none of this clear instruction was used for any of the fundraising. There were many Bible passages used to encourage giving and generosity, and even tithing, but the most explicit biblical examples of commitment to church pledges were totally ignored. Because of this, I am convinced that most Christians do not believe large parts of their own Scriptures, or at the very least pretend they are not there.

bulletThe first biblical lesson in fundraising can be found in Acts 4:32 – 5:11. It is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the would-be disciples who dared try to steal from God. If you don’t know the story, here is a quick recap. Picture this scene as if this were happening in your church; it is really quite hilarious. The early church was apparently without need, since everyone sold all that they owned and gave the money to the apostles, who distributed the funds to the poor.

For example, there was Barnabas who sold some of his property and gave all the profits, every last penny, to Peter.

What a guy! Barnabas is the example to follow!

But there was a couple, named Ananias and Sapphira, who conspired to trick Peter by selling their property but pocketing some of the funds for themselves. None of this 10% sissy tithing stuff with Peter. It’s all or nothing with this Apostle! So while Sapphira is elsewhere, Ananias lays the partial funds at Peter’s feet. Peter suspects something fishy is going on and said, “What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” At this point, Ananias drops dead, and some young altar boys come dispose of the body! A few hours later, Sapphira comes, and Peter asks her if she is sure her husband gave him everything. She sealed her fate by answering “yes”. Just then she dropped dead, just after she heard the footsteps of the altar boys who just finished burying her husband!

WOW, God does not fool around when it comes to church pledges! There is one and only one point to this story in Acts – don’t think you can get away with ripping off the Church. Give your due or else the wrath of God is upon you. It is Scripture. Christians claim it is inspired, ordained, inerrant, and sanctioned by God Almighty. But does this particular story follow the same rules? Not that I’ve noticed, since I don’t think I have heard it used as an object lesson from God in modern fund raising. There is no other purpose to this story than as an object lesson. It is there for a reason. Yet, I never heard that mentioned in the Great Investment strategy, and I bet no Christian reading this has ever heard this story as part of a fund raising drive. “You better give to God, or you could keel over DEAD!”

bulletThe second object lesson ordained by God is the story of Jephthah the Gileadite in Judges 11:30-39. Our churches do not have enough sermons, homilies or inspirational messages from Judges. Church would be much more entertaining if they did, wouldn’t you agree? Here is the story. Jephthah was a mighty warrior, who was chased from his own land when it was found his mother was a prostitute. But when the pesky Ammonites decided to attack Israel, Jephthah was called out of exile!

Jephthah’s determination to beat the Ammonites was so great, that he made a vow with God. He prayed to God, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Can you see the setup here? The analogy that our modern Bible teachers will make with the sacrifice of tithing from their congregation is pretty obvious.

What happens next? Predictably, Jephthah crushed the Ammonites in only two verses! When Jephthah returns from battle, who should come out to meet him first but his only daughter! And a virgin at that! Jephthah cried in anguish because of the deal he made with God, but as a great man of faith, he carried through with his commitment to sacrifice her as a burnt offering. But merciful God did give a small leniency, as she was allowed to roam the hills and weep for two months before she roasted on a pyre as a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord.

What a guy! Jephthah is the example to follow!

So, these are the two object lessons in fund raising and keeping our commitments to God that you will probably never hear in any church. Hey, I don’t blame church pastors for not using these stories. Bible study leaders and fund raisers would drive away half the congregation using scare tactics like these. But, like I said, it is Scripture. These stories are supposedly inspired history from the inerrant Word of God. They serve no other purpose but as object lessons. But I cannot help but wonder what career pastors are thinking. Are pastors not ashamed of passages like these being in their Scriptures? Do they just pretend that they are not there?

Do they really believe their own inspired and inerrant Scriptures? Has doubt crept into their hearts when they intentionally ignore passages like these? I am serious when I ask this – it is entirely possible. As I have confessed on this site that I intentionally avoided certain passages of Scripture when my wife expressed an interest in Bible Study. I knew there was a problem when I did that, and doubt crept in upon further investigation. Does this happen with church leaders also? They cherry-pick with the best of them. What is going on?


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Tithing: The Church’s Greatest Lie? Gender Equity

25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pastorofdisaster  |  June 9, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    I am probably not the type of pastor that you are asking for, because I do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture, not all xians believe innerancy. It was the first thing that I dropped upon leaving the fundamentalist church.

    Yes, I am very ashamed of the Jephthah passage. Human sacrifice? What? I ripped that one out of my Bible a long time ago. I will have to think about the Acts passage.

    In seminary we were warned not to let our scriptural interpretation become a canon within the canon. The longer that I live the more comfort that I get from delimiting my texts.

  • 2. j scott wissman  |  June 10, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Given your recent topics concerning Organized Christianity and the Almight Dollar, I wonder if any of the contributors can comment on the current trend of churches becoming incorporated. A church is the only (business) entity that can incorporate and does not have to file an annual corporate tax return. For five years, I have worked in one of the two Entity Departments of the IRS (Covington, KY and Ogden, UT) that adds and removes filing requirements. When a church incorporates, it basically means a name change. Here is an uncited quote I found on the internet that sums up the deal:

    “Churches are automatically tax-exempt without the requirement of filing an Application for Tax Exempt Status (Form 1023). While other 501(c)(3) entities must report their financial status, activities, and compensation paid to directors and officers on an Annual Information Report (Form 990), churches are exempt from filing these annual informational returns.”

    They are also exempt from FUTA taxes as well. Anyway, a corporation is a business entity and many churches have business managers/personnel with various titles that are well-paid. Gee, I don’t want to sound naive, but doesn’t Jesus say somewhere (in the bible) that you cannot serve both Money and God? “Christianity Incorporated” would make a nice title for an exploration of this subject.

    If you’ve already covered this topic, my apologies.

  • 3. agnosticatheist  |  June 10, 2007 at 1:44 pm


    Our churches do not have enough sermons, homilies or inspirational messages from Judges. Church would be much more entertaining if they did, wouldn’t you agree?

    Wow! You’re right. I skimmed through the following list of readings from Judges and wow!

    Readings in Judges


  • 4. societyvs  |  June 10, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    The judges book of Hebrew scripture is a pure war book and nothing more – at least from my read of it. I can barely find a good reason to teach from it since it is a Jewish writing about Jewish warriors – and wars with neighboring nations. What is very ironic is Jesus never used these teachings within his own – makes one wonder – did books like Joshua and Judges have diiferent meanings/uses back then? Were they part of the continuation of the law or just war stories in Canaan. Either way, I am a Gentile and these were never of concern to me.

    As for the Peter story and the two who dropped dead – this seems to be in reference to lying to God – not so much about the money involved. Money was involved but that was not the central issue in the story – they could of not gave anything – but they seemed to want recognition with the others who did – on false premises. Problem was they got found out for their devious behavior – and for some reason they dropped dead. How this story can be used (since it is such a one off story) I am not sure – but that also has to be considered when looking at the whole of Acts. But if it did happen as Luke reports – then the issue was about lying/deceit towards the apostles and their building of this faith. For some odd reason, this story spawns many people to come to the faith – go figure on that one (5:14).

  • 5. Karen  |  June 10, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    They had to make room for the ever expanding main sanctuary, so the church needed money to buy and renovate a building across the street for the youngsters. The church spent months on their campaign to raise the funds. They got onto this standardized investment strategy for churches called “The Great Investment”. It was managed by Great Nation Investment Corporation, which is a lending and strategy company that specializes in church fundraising. This had to cost a pretty penny, but I also know that many churches are following this same investment strategy.

    The last church I was a member of did something very similar. They had had a building campaign in the 80s that racked up huge cost overruns, financed at an adjustable interest rate. The result was disastrous, and even refinancing the loan several times didn’t help much.

    Three or four years ago, they decided to hire one of these professional church fundraising outfits to conduct a “retire the debt” campaign. It was a slick, corporate entity that really put on a huge PR show, complete with parties, literature, sermon inserts, weekly messages in church – in short, it totally detracted from the rest of what church was supposed to be about for something like 18 months.

    In the end, they did raise a substantial amount of money and they were able to reduce (though not retire) the debt. Of course, this was after they paid a hefty percentage to the fundraisers.

    It all struck me as so totally opposite of what they were preaching at evangelism events and around the world through their missionaries. The hypocrisy of “Just believe in the lord, for he makes all things good for those who love him” versus “We’re in such deep doo-doo we have to bring in the big guns to get us the money” was pretty pronounced.

  • 6. HeIsSailing  |  June 10, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    PastorOfDisaster, SocietyVs,
    I really appreciate both of your input and opinions here. I have to respect you for remaining faithful to your beliefs without putting the Bible into the rediculous stranglehold of inerrancy. I suppose the higher they climb, the harder they fall. I never had that opportunity growing up. When I grew up, not taking the Bible 100% as the absolute Word of God was nothing short of heresy. The churches that taught that doctrine were the ones that I chose to attend. We had names for people like you two – liberal Christians, salad bar Christians, pick’n’choose Christians. It was all or nothing for us, so when I left Christianity it was the same way: all or nothing. At least you guys are smart enough to look honestly at the troublesome parts of Christianity, and try and make some sense out of them, and even discard them if need be.

    You know, I used to think that having an open mind toward my Christian faith was a bad thing. My old Pastor even admitted that being closed minded was a virtue.

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  June 10, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Thus saith Karen:
    “The hypocrisy of “Just believe in the lord, for he makes all things good for those who love him” versus “We’re in such deep doo-doo we have to bring in the big guns to get us the money” was pretty pronounced.”

    Yeah, I understand what you are talking about here, but I am willing to give these guys some slack on this. I mean realistically, what are they supposed to do? It is sort of the same argument that I brought up regarding faith for the sick. They can pray and trust God, but in the end that sick person is going to the doctor just like everyone else. They can’t just hold that sick person back from the doctor and rely on pure faith (unless they are of certain demoninations) – same with the church who is heavily in debt.

    I just wish and wonder that some folks would just stop and think what they are trusting God for in the first place!

    The book of Acts clearly shows a more socialist mentatlity to church living than many American Christians want to admit. And I may be just a little nostalgic here, but that is what much of the early 70s Jesus movement was trying to maintain. I have to give them credit here. Living in poverty out of buses and tipis was not easy – but they felt that was as near to living Christ-like life as they could. But I guess you can’t do that forever, as that phase of popular Christianity burned out a long time ago.

  • 8. Karen  |  June 11, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I just wish and wonder that some folks would just stop and think what they are trusting God for in the first place!

    Exactly. There’s nothing wrong with resorting to practical measures, in my book. They needed to do it, and they did it, and it worked (at least things are better than they were).

    So what “benefit” does it really bring to trust god for everything, when in the long run you pretty much have to take matters into your own hands anyway when god doesn’t deliver? It’s a contradiction in principle, to me, but they totally don’t recognize that.

    We had names for people like you two – liberal Christians, salad bar Christians, pick’n’choose Christians.

    Ooohh, let’s not forget “lukewarm” Christians, “spiritually dead” Christians and the ever-popular ….

    CARNAL Christians!!! 🙂

  • 9. agnosticatheist  |  June 11, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Those CARNAL Christians had the most fun! 🙂

  • 10. Heather  |  June 11, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    **We had names for people like you two – liberal Christians, salad bar Christians, pick’n’choose Christians. *** WHat’s really interesting about this statement is that all Christians ‘pick and choose.’ Now, everyone chooses to interpret statements alluding to a flat Earth, or heaven actually above us in the clouds, as metaphorical (well, most. Rumor has it there are some fringe elements that do still hold that the Earth is flat). Others choose to interept Adam/Eve as metaphorical.

  • 11. lonerangerone  |  June 27, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    You make some very good points. I do want to point one thing out, though. In Acts 5, Peter clearly states to Ananias that the problem is that they lied to the Apostles (and to God) by claiming that they were giving the entire profit from the sale of the land to the use of the brethren. He also explains that the land was theirs to do with what they pleased – they were not even required to sell it and share the money, and if they did sell it, they could easily keep some of the money. The issue was that they tried to make themselves look more holy by claiming to sacrifice it all, while giving only a portion.

    The most interesting part of the story is its parallel to the passage in Malachi that many pastors do use when they preach on tithing and fundraising (not sure if it made your top ten, since quite a few pastors are afraid to preach on that as well) The reason God is so steamed at the Israelis in Malachi is because they’ve cheated God of the tithe, while pretending to be the most holy.

    I do have to admit, you don’t see many pastors teaching on Judges. An examination of the Revised Common Lectionary (where most mainline churches get their weekly readings/sermon basis from) only lists one passage in Judges – for November 16, 2008 (they’re on a three year cycle). Interesting stuff.

  • 12. HeIsSailing  |  June 28, 2007 at 7:03 am

    lonerangerone sez:
    “Peter clearly states to Ananias that the problem is that they lied to the Apostles ”

    Oh, I understand that point. I agree that a lot of people misunderstand the story by saying God will kill you if you don’t give everything. They dropped dead for not fulfilling their pledge and saying that they did. We still make financial pledges in our modern churches, so this could be an object lesson. I mean, if Christians really believed in Scripture this stuff would be used for its intended purposes. That was the point of this article.

    “An examination of the Revised Common Lectionary (where most mainline churches get their weekly readings/sermon basis from) only lists one passage in Judges ”

    No kidding? Do you know what that passage is?

  • 13. Mathew India  |  October 18, 2007 at 6:13 pm



  • 14. Dennis Clough  |  February 20, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Um, you left out several significant points in the Ananias/Sapphira/Peter incident.

    Peter,led by the Holy Spirit, holds the two responsible, not for their failure to give all, but for their lying about giving all. He makes the statement that it was ($) all theirs to do with as they liked. They ere under no obligation to give a penny.

    But lying about the amount given in order to have the honor associated with true giving was the problem.

    Good idea to give all the facts in the story unless one has a private agenda firmly in place around which scripture is cleverly wrapped; but who would do that?

  • 15. CM  |  October 16, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I agree that when churches fundraise they often go about it wrong and it bothers me when sermons are built around the need to collect money for a new building, but if you think passaged like this aren’t used anymore you were in the wrong church. Plus, as is indicated above – each story lies within a context and when you actually research the passages and pay attention to what is actually being said the outcome is quite different.

  • 16. Kathy Hendrex  |  September 9, 2010 at 7:33 am

    The church today is ran like Corporate America and I believe when God has a work he will lay it on the hearts of his people to get it done and if the money doesn’t come in maybe its not God’s will. I dont understand how a church could ever think it is okay to borrow money or beg from the world for money to build buildings or whatever is on the agenda for the time. I try to follow Jesus but sometimes I am ashamed to say I am a christian because people assume you are a legalist non tolerant hater of everything. pray for me, I need it. When I was young I attended a small church, they met in a very old ran down building, The people asked the pastor about building, he said when we get $1000 in the bldg fund we will start and so they did, the people gave, the pastor would be out in the church yard working and strangers would come by and give him $1000’s at a time saying God laid it on their heart, they built a new church not one fund raiser or asking from the world, God moved on the hearts of people to give to meet the need. I believe God has a better way than fund raising.

  • 17. Kathy Hendrex  |  September 9, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I always thought the point of the story you used in Acts was that they didn’t even have to do that, I think they were so guilty because they wanted to appear to men “look at us we are giving too” I really don’t think the early church did what they did out of law, but out of Love they had extra so they laid it at the disciples feet and I believe it was distributed among the people as needed. How many of us have 3 cars and so much worldy goods we can never use it all? Thats what it is all about, in my opinion.

  • 18. Jimmy  |  October 21, 2010 at 11:06 am

    wow. I’m sorry you have apparently had such a negative experience with people of faith and in you previous church. I teach from those passages, but they really have nothing to do with giving and should never be used to manipulate people as suggested. Yes, the Bible is inspired and wholly true. I pray you be able to see through all that you have experienced that was not real or true and see the real Christ. There’s freedom, real joy, and real peace. Best to you!

  • 19. BigHouse  |  October 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Yes, the Bible is inspired and wholly true

    And you have evidence for this grand proclamation?

  • 20. cag  |  October 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    BigHouse #19. I believe that Jimmy #18 had a typo or two. It should read

    Yes, the Bible is inspired insipid and wholly true wooly too.

  • 21. Jetsin  |  June 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I am ttollay wowed and prepared to take the next step now.

  • 22. pqxarw  |  June 23, 2011 at 5:28 am

    We0lIs jujtbouvtwax

  • 23. Katie  |  June 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    If you still read this old post…which I just discovered, I need to let you know that it is sad that you believe God accepted Jepthahs offering…Jephthah was not walking with the Lord, he wanted to use the Lord and he offered an offering that his pagan neighbors practiced – his action is not consistent with any kind of offering in the Bible. Jepthah practiced the wicked ritualistic killings of neighboring peoples. The very neighbors God had asked Israel to drive out because of their despicable practices. He created a “righteousness of his own.” God warns about creating your own concept of righteousness. As compared with other offerings in the Bible, such as that of Solomon, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and eventually Christ – the perfect lamb and the end of all sacrifices – you never hear God make a comment about Jepthahs offering.
    As for Ananias and Saphira, Peter said it was the lie, the falsehood that they practiced that did them in. He did say, It was in their hand to do with it as they pleased, so why did they want to look impressive before the Church, yet be filled with vile hypocrisy on the inside. God could care less about our offerings – they do not serve Him. Those offering were clearly to help the needy among his people: Poor, widows, orphans and fatherless. These are the people God looks out for in any church offering and He is consistent. Read Ezekiel 34 and see the heavy judgement upon pastors who don’t spend the offerings on the poor and disenfranchised: You may be de-converted right now, but I need to let you know God is looking out for you. You are the subject of His love and He desires that you be saved….He has had mercy on your ignorance. I too, was one ignorance and I can feel why you would want to argue. He desires to bring you back to Himself – He so loved you! I pray you will understand what that means. He is so much more than the box short sighted pastors may have put Him in. Open your heart and listen to the podcast: “Daily Audio Bible” everyday and get to know God for yourself without the filters of man and organized religion and then take it from there!

  • 24. ubi dubium  |  June 11, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Oh, please. Like we haven’t heard all this stuff before. Like we didn’t live in a religion-saturated environment, and yet walked away from it. We walked away because it was all one big con game. We’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and can’t go back to believing in the “Great and Powerful Oz” anymore.

    More of the same drivel and excuses we were bombarded with before won’t bring us back. Sermonizing pushed us away, you can’t bring us back with it. If you are a true messenger from a real god, then tell me what my pass-phrase is, and I’ll listen to you.

  • 25. cag  |  June 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Katie #23, so glad that you have such personal knowledge of what god wants. Obviously you have heard this first hand, because I would hate to find out that you are just repeating hearsay and lies. When you next meet with your god, please have it contact me directly, not through some human. After all, it would be a feather in god’s cap to convert a heathen. Get on this right now. If I don’t get direct contact with your god this week, I will be forced to conclude that your god is just a delusion in your mind and you are trying to convert me with a pile of BS and rote lying. You’re not lying to me now, are you? Prove me wrong, prove to me that you are not an adult who still believes in fairy tales and a serial repeater of superstitious nonsense.

    Word of advise – quoting from a book created by a committee to sell an otherwise disgusting belief system does not work well with those that aren’t swayed by unevidenced claims.

    Time starts now.

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