Growing up, I remembered the time Jerry Falwell preached that the local church was the storehouse for all tithe only to have John R. Rice take him to task for that message. Jerry backed down real fast because he had no Bible basis for making this claim.
This discussion has been on-going for generations, and I chuckle now about it. It was the exaggeration of “the autonomy of the local church” that led to this exaggeration of kingdom economic principles on the tithe.
By that, I mean, we cannot describe the kingdom of God by pointing only at “the local church” since that is not a Bible concept. “The local church” is not a kingdom of God idea. It is a combination of error and exaggeration, beginning with first reformation ideas joined with embellishments from neo-church-growthism. That is, the Bible ain’t got nothing to do with it.
We have a mixture of opposing and contradictory ideas that result in a hodge-podge of financial support ideas. Throw in a few “we don’t want to be like those rich faith preachers” and a few verses on “be poor and sorry about it,” and you get a devilish soup of silliness about how to support kingdom leaders.
First, there is no Bible basis for “the local church” to be led by a shepherd. Note: the word “pastor” occurs but once in the King James Authorized Version and is just another word for the correct translation of the word for a person herds sheep or cattle.
Applying such an overemphasis to one of the five aspects of the King’s leadership at the expense of all the other four, designing a spiritual position for the local church while leaving all the “non-spiritual” to leaders with no “represent Jesus” mandate is ridiculously non-Biblical.
Second, the Bible never separates the ekklesia from the kingdom of God. The financial support of kingdom leaders who serve and lead the ekklesia is a kingdom culture and economy discussion more than a “local church” discussion.
Third, to make sense of anything the new covenant agreement says about financial support, we must discuss ekklesia in the context of kingdom culture and economic principles and protocols. All the references in the new to the old covenant agreement assume that the ekklesia is a kingdom assembly with kingdom leaders.
Fourth, kingdom leaders function on assignment from the King and are worthy of support from any kingdom of God citizen worldwide as any kingdom ekklesia may respond to the assignments of the King by honoring His representatives.
Biblical Exegesis on Financial Support
Premise: Consistent, constant, and sacrificial financial support to apostolic fathers is Biblical. All financial giving is not local church giving, nor is the storehouse the local church — financial giving in kingdom giving focused upon the support of the representatives of the King.
After carefully surveying the Bible’s statements and presuppositions, practices of Jesus, originating apostles, and kingdom leaders in regional Ecclesiae, the New Covenant revelations are more apparent to me.
Kingdom economic principles, processes, and protocols include “what the Bible says” about financial support for apostolic fathers. They speak to the apostolic order that governs the entire worldwide kingdom Ecclesiae matrix. That is, they are personal, regional, national, and international in scope.
New Covenant Overview of Ministry Support
Jesus funded His ministry. There was money from supporters.
“Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others contributed from their own resources to support Jesus and His disciples.”
The “many others” may not have been women with money, but they were all people who received ministry from Jesus and His disciples. They became a support base for His ministry. Jesus did not work and taught His disciples to live by the support they received.
This essential for kingdom leadership support has never changed.
“Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality because those who work deserve to be fed.”
The circumstances that called for this strategy were unique to this short-term assignment. The principles of Jesus’ thinking are evident. People should give to support those sent to represent Jesus.
In this instance, Jesus was describing how to function with financial support in a short-term and specific situation,
Paul requested that the Roman church financially support Phoebe, one of the ministers at Cenchrae.
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who ministers in the Ecclesia in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.”
The “honor” means financial support for her ministry in Rome. Paul makes this apostolic normal in other places, but this reveals that those that receive support those that serve.
Paul himself received support and was grateful for the support he received.
I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little, for I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.
“As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Instead, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.
“At the moment, I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
Here we see that Paul was not a manic fund-raiser. His needs were met, and he was thankful.
During this time, the apostle received support from people to whom he was not directly ministering, who supported him as a fathering leader. That continued, and he made it clear that he was not fund-raising them in acknowledging their generosity. The Ecclesia knew they were his sole means of support even though he was not ministering directly to them at the time.
So, supporting a spiritual father in his fathering expansion or fathering leadership is consistent with Biblical ideas on leadership support.
Paul did work for income for a limited time, in a particular place, but admitted this was not the best idea for him or the people receiving ministry from him. He did so only temporarily and stopped as soon as possible.
This narrative does reveal that a ministering leader can make his own money, that it is not wrong for him to do so. For those who criticize kingdom leaders for being in the workplace, stand down.
Many of the kingdom leaders who minister have personal income streams, and that is not a reason for them to receive nothing if they have personal income streams.
Paul clarifies with the Corinthians that they are responsible for supporting him financially. He shows them from the Scriptures that this support is owed to him, but he doesn’t demand it, for his own reasons, for a short season.
1 Corinthians 9.1–18
“Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves, are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle. This is my answer to those who question my authority. Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?
“Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?
“What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.
“Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.
“Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust.
“What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.”
Paul reveals the kingdom’s economic rights of those Holy Spirit sets into place as leaders. The ruling elders set the amount. It is income he has a right to receive.
He clarifies that Jesus and the originating apostles functioned in this same way. He explains that he has the right to the same support. He could demand it. He does not. He is not heroic in doing so. He is strategic in doing so, and his strategy includes teaching them to accept their responsibilities.
At no time or in any sense does Paul say that there are exceptions to this kingdom principle. At no time or in any sense does Paul change the principles for the “new testament church” under non-Jewish care. At no time or in any sense does Paul establish a new category for ministry support.
Paul says we learn about kingdom culture economic principles from Moses because these are God’s principles.
Paul says he decided not to claim what was his. They owe him money.
Let me say that this is a common circumstance for kingdom leaders. They are owed money they do not receive but remain faithful to their assignments. This dishonors God and His representatives, but these leaders are devoted to God’s assignments.
As I say, “Ministry will always cost you some of your own money.”
Later, Paul says, “I’m coming to stay with you for a while, and you can take care of me, then send me on for the last of the journey I’m taking.”
He is not bashful about it. Paul shows us that the King is the One expecting support for His representatives.
“My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,
‘Those who have never been told about Him will see, and those who have never heard of Him will understand.’
“My visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places. But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.”
Paul is clearly fund-raising from this Ecclesia for his journey to Spain. Asking for offerings, informing a ministry that you will receive offerings from them when you arrive, and planning for offerings as part of a trip is consistent with Biblical thinking.
“Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.”
The leaders that teach the Word, apostles, prophets, teachers receive from the “all good things” of people they teach. The idea that someone receives for free isn’t Biblical.
3 John 5-8
“Dear friend, you are faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. They are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.”
These representatives were sent by kingdom leaders to assist in training people by circuiting the Ecclesiae. Some of them were not known to the people upon arrival, but the standard for support is “what pleases God,” and the responsibility is “we ourselves should support them.”
The New Covenant agreement quotes the Old Covenant agreement principles as a basis of understanding how to support kingdom leaders properly. It also enumerates policies, processes, and protocols about support for those who give their time to teaching, worship, leading, training, preaching, prophesying, and representing the King.
So, we could also list hundreds of Scriptures relating to financial giving. These verses reveal what is fundamental to the representation of God’s leadership. Giving to leaders is giving to God. Financial support of His representatives is “giving to God who sent them” or “dishonoring them dishonors God who sent by neglecting their supply.”
Presuppositions of Financial Support
God sends human beings to represent Him. God selects these leaders within regions where kingdom culture operates. These leaders are recognized as “sent” by the validation of other kingdom leaders, especially apostles, prophets, and teachers.
The financial supply they receive can be raised by asking, reminding, awareness of plans and needs, and by what leadership, training, teaching, preaching, and serving they provide.
The standard for what is appropriate is “what pleases God” and the “honor due to those that do this well.” The measure would immediately be considered, “Not at the same level as other people” since the very nature of the supply is for the King. That is to say, these leaders represent God, so they are not supposed to be “kept in poverty to make them humble” or “put into a position to beg and ask for what is rightfully theirs.”
Leaders come before building and other tools provided for kingdom ministry. Giving is focused upon leaders who serve God’s people.
Giving to the poor and supporting the leaders of the kingdom are not giving considerations in competition, but giving to the poor does not eclipse or come before support for the representatives of the King. Ignoring leaders, or not having any in the first place, is a principle violation of kingdom culture ministry. Providing for the support of leaders is the priority of the believer and comes first on the list of giving.
The financial support of these leaders includes family and personal wealth. It is not only for the immediate needs but for the ministry plans and assignments that come with being leaders. It also consists of the personal financial wellbeing of these leaders. They do not take a vow of poverty.
To understand this principle, we look to the Old Covenant as Paul and others do in the New Covenant. We also read that the leaders in the kingdom, who preach and teach, receive twice as much as others. We learned that the leaders have provisions for living as leaders, and doing so without the need to earn from other income production means they do not need to supplement to live and maintain their lifestyles.
In other words, Paul says that his employment level of provision should have been the level of financial support he received for ministry. The lifestyle Paul lived working was the lifestyle he should be able to support with gifts from believers and the Ecclesiae. Paul didn’t demand this for a time, but he had the authorization from Jesus to receive this financial support at this level.
Lifestyles in Ministry
Each and every kingdom leader should have a set level of lifestyle in the place of his assignment, live that lifestyle, and maintain that lifestyle. Kingdom leadership that produces more than this lifestyle seldom means the leader needs to alter his lifestyle.
If the source of money is not directly from the giving of believers, the lifestyle of a kingdom leader can be as high and extravagant as that other income provides. He has no obligation to live below that level of income. He continues to have the right to financial giving from those he leads regardless of that income stream.
Of course, any authentic kingdom leader is a giver. It is appropriate for him to give extravagantly. He will invest his income in the kingdom. He should also tithe and give offerings that leave his hand and ministry, out of his control, that support other kingdom leaders, especially fathering leaders who provide leadership, training, teaching, preaching, and accountability to his ministry and life.