Money can easily destroy a life…or a movement. A few days ago I was talking to another Disciple Making Movement trainer. In the course of our conversation, I blurted out, “I think we have killed as many movements as we have started.” It is not difficult to destroy a budding movement. Money can be a major movement killer. Or, if offerings are handled well, they can greatly help it grow.
The early church struggled with money issues too. In 1st Timothy, Paul (the trainer) writes to his trainee Timothy. He warns him of two big problems that come in a growing movement; false teaching and money problems. It is in this context that we find the well-known phrase, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10)
Address Money Issues in Discipleship
Whether you work with rich or poor, you will need to address the use of money in your discipleship process. The Bible has much to say about money. It comes up naturally as we study God’s Word. Train disciples to be free of the love of money, and generous in giving.
In previous blogs, I’ve written about the importance of taking offerings as you move a Bible study group toward becoming a church. What do you do with the offerings? Who should be in charge of what is given and how it is used?
Establish Clear Patterns
Train disciples to be generous in giving toward one another, and toward Kingdom work. Training them to give at least ten percent of their income, crops, or food, is a wonderful way to help them break free from money-mindedness. Generosity breaks the yoke of greed and poverty over our lives.
As you train the group to give regularly, clearly establish how the money will be used and who will account for it.
Generosity breaks the yoke of greed and poverty over our lives.
Below the Poverty Line
We were working in a slum community in India. It was inhabited by both Hindus and Muslims. Some living in the slum were beggars. There were widows, rickshaw drivers, factory workers, and food sellers. Most lived below the poverty line or close to it, and the poverty line for India was incredibly low!
As people began to believe, groups of disciples were formed. We started teaching about giving.
In some ways, it was difficult to broach the topic. They had so little compared to many. I knew, though, that the key to them coming out of their extreme poverty was to learn to give. They may not be able to give much, but those few coins would change their destiny. What they gave mattered to God and was an important part of their worship. It was vital to their growth as faithful disciples.
We did Bible studies on giving passages. The story of the widow’s gift created interesting discussions. We looked at the book of Acts together and saw how the early church cared for the widows around them. Studies on the passage from Acts 2:47 onwards, took place. As they began to understand the New Testament model, a desire rose within them to give. After each study, we asked – “What must we do to obey?”
Our first giving project was to purchase a mat for the floor of the house where we met. It only cost about $15. It would be something visible and was something needed for our fellowship. Within a few weeks after starting to take offerings, we purchased the mat. Next came the goal of buying an Indian style drum for our worship together.
Later the group decided to begin a feeding program for the widows in the community. Each person daily set aside a handful of rice for the widows. Before long, regularly giving became a well-established part of our worship.
“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”Luke 21:3-4
5 Principles for Offerings in a House Church
1. Establish a Clear Purpose for Giving
This is especially important in the beginning. It builds trust. Choose a project that is not too big and can provide a target for the use of the gifts. It should be something people can see quickly that they have contributed to.
Adopt projects like; items to serve the new house church, things to help with hospitality (biscuits, tea, etc.), bus fare for an outreach together, etc.
2. Maintain a Record of Giving
From the beginning, get a notebook and appoint someone to keep track of what is given each week. Ask to see this record at least every month. Train them to do this with excellence and integrity. Keep the system as simple as possible. It is good if one person records and another person signs the book to confirm it is correct.
3. Make Decisions about the Use of Offerings in Unity
As the trainer, avoid making financial decisions. Let the group decide what their project should be and how finances will be used. Guide them, but let them decide.
Initially, do not use the money for financial needs within the group. Use the money to serve others. If you begin to help with medical needs and things within the group, it can quickly become complicated or contentious.
4. Build Trust through Transparency and Reporting
At least once a month, have the recorder give a brief report of what has come into the fund and what has gone out. If the funds are significant, you may need to establish a bank account with several signatories. If they are not much, it can be kept in someone’s home. Be careful though that the offerings are kept in a safe place.
5. Re-invest in the Movement and in Missions
Do not let large amounts of money build up in a bank account. Use what God provides through the offerings to serve the needs of the movement’s expansion.
Evangelism, outreach, and serving the poor should be your primary commitments. Avoid using funds to build buildings, even if you have the money! This will slow down the growth of the movement.
Make it a goal to regularly support a cross-cultural missionary with these offerings. Even a small monthly gift to a missionary can greatly help. It will also develop a sense of ownership about reaching those outside their own community. It is important to establish a heart for missions in the new churches.
As the movement grows, several groups may join together to support missionaries who go to unreached areas and peoples around you. Start missionary-sending movements!
Giving is a Gift
Scripture says, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Don’t deny your group the joy and privilege of giving to the Lord and His work!
What will you use your first offering for? Let me know in the comments below or in the Disciple-Making Movements Facebook group.