Let's do a sort of spiritual inventory.
How is your life in Christ going? Is it fulfilling? Are you pleased with your service in the Lord's work? Does it consist of merely being "a faithful member of the church"? What has happened to your personal and individual responsibility? Do you handle it yourself, making your own decisions about what you will do; or have you given it away to the institution or body corporate called "the local church"? More and more the organization, through its duly constituted officials, has taken responsibility for the total "service to Christ" of its members. It plans and directs all you do in spiritual activities.
What about decisions in your individual service to Christ? Do you decide what you will do, when, how, where, and with whom, if others are to be involved? Perhaps you are like most Church of Christ members today, the decisions are all made for you. Everything is planned and organized for you and you are told what, where, when, how and with whom you will do it. The Eldership and "the local church" organization, which definitely includes "The Pulpit Minister" as the "sparkplug" for things, decides when and where to meet, sets the number of times you are required to be at the appointed place to do the appointed things; that is, "attend the services,'' as we call it. It is all planned and structured for you. Hence, you can occupy your place in the pew as a spectator at the church service, to do the things you are allowed to do. Everything must go according to schedule, very formal, cut and dried! The rituals are performed in proper style.
One vital thing you are required to do is to make your proper financial contribution, meaning you drop it in the basket or plate, to be used or spent by the "rulers" at their discretion. You turn it over to The Eldership for them to use as the Board of Directors of the corporation. They manage the business of the organization. And it takes money to operate an organization. Hence, you have no voice nor vote in such matters; and likely really do not know what use is made of it, save in a general way. You do not make the decision about the use made of YOUR financial contribution! You have been trained to forfeit your responsibility to make your own decisions in serving the Lord. Like the Roman Catholic, "the church" will take care of you; your role is to (1) obey and (2) pay!
Your income and finances are yours. They are but an extension of yourself. You are personally responsible for the use of such the same as you are responsible before God for your entire life and abilities. This includes the use of your money. There isn't any such thing in the New Testament as "the Lord's money" or "the Lord's treasury." The pooled or collected money from the disciples of Christ is not sacred or holy money. Where does the New Testament set forth any such superstitious idea as that?
Your money is yours and you are responsible to God, as an individual, for its use the same as you are for any other ability or resource you have. In the Scriptures, the early disciples understood this. They did not have a "corporate treasury," because there was no corporation. Indeed they did, as each one determined to do, pool their financial resources for a specific purpose. They did not contribute money into "the church treasury" to be used at the discretion of the organization and/or its officials.
There is no instance in the New Testament of disciples giving into a general fund for general purposes. In every case the disciples knew the exact purpose for which funds were raised. They always gave to and for specific needs; and each one decided for himself or herself that he/she could/would do so. Every contribution was earmarked for some specific cause; and each disciple determined whether he would contribute for that specific need.
Look at Acts 11:29: "And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea." This was an individual decision on the part of each one. They contributed to a specific cause. It was earmarked for that purpose. The disciples, each one of them, decided what they would contribute to; and whether they would contribute or not. This is the exercise of personal responsibility! This is what the Lord requires of us.
In Acts 11:30 we read that "this they did, sending it by Barnabas and Saul to the elders." It was sent to "the elders" for distribution, not to decide what would be done with it! If "the elders" used it for any other purpose than that designated, they would have misappropriated the funds! It was sent to them because they were true "shepherds of the sheep," not corporate managers of a business operation. They knew the needs of the disciples in Judea better than anyone else because they were doing what Peter instructed elders to do, "shepherd the flock of God among you."
In Acts 2:45, the contribution of the disciples was for a specific purpose. There was a need to be met. In Acts 4:32, 34-35 (turn and read the passages in your Bible!), the purpose is specific and known to all. In Acts 6:1-7, "the multitude of the disciples," somehow, in some manner, selected seven men who were "put in charge of this task" of daily ministration for those in need. In I Cot. 16:1-2, Paul talks of "the collection for the saints," the needy saints in Judea. Verse 2 says, "0n the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come"(NASV). This is a plan for each person to budget or save on a regular basis for this great need. The teaching is that it was to be put aside at home on a regular basis, so it would be in place when Paul came. It has no reference to putting something into a common fund or treasury. Certainly there isn't the slightest indication that he had in mind making a contribution each first day of the week into the corporate treasury as our people are trained to do today. Yet our preachers drive hard with this passage to line up the members to dutifully drop their contribution into "the corporate treasury" each Sunday. This is even now taught to be "an act of worship!" I guess that means the more you give the more you worship! It is obvious that an abundant "corporate treasury" is necessary to an upward and onward local church corporation. The corporation has to pay for a building (perhaps a bigger one or remodeling job), properly equip it with comfortable pews, air conditioning, classrooms, playrooms, kitchen, recreation hall, Family Life Center, bar-b-que grills, ball fields, places to eat and play!
In addition, the preachers have a strong vested interest in "the corporate treasury," because that is the source of their livelihood. As an employee of "the corporate church," their wages, Social Security, hospitalization insurance, house payment, living expenses, car expenses, and vacation come from this source! Every really successful "Minister" deserves a really first-class "Compensation Package," as it is now called! One can understand why they are so concerned with a large, and increasingly larger, financial income for "the corporate church." True, in our day, this is a mark of success in the ministry of The Pulpit Minister, but of greater importance, it is his source of income.
The "corporate treasury," "the church treasury," as we have it today in "the local church" organization, is borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church and other denominations. It is a source of great trouble and evil among the people of God. It is a concentration of power; and power often corrupts. It is a vital part of the organization or institution we have formed called "the corporate body" or "the local church." It is the funding source for the operation of our institution, with its highly paid staff, its massive buildings, its recreation program, and all the necessary expenses of big business. The operational budget must be bigger and bigger. The largest part of it is spent on ourselves, while the world remains lost in sin and bound for hell! How terrible.
My brother and sister, you alone are responsible for the decision for the use of your "contribution" in the service of Christ. You dare not give away this responsibility. You will be held accountable before God. It is easy to merely drop our contribution in the plate and let the organization decide its use according to the operational budget. But it is a copout on your part! It is a shirking of responsibility. We had better back off and take a long, hard look at this practice and all the other practices now in place that make up "the local church" organization. It is not from God, but borrowed from the wisdom of men.
Is it any wonder that the Church of Christ is losing members and losing respect? We are engaged in a big business venture, largely having to do with this world! We have "sold our souls" to the "company store," the institution. Individual responsibility is largely gone; surrendered to our "formal organization" that we are required to "join" and "therein serve under the control of the organization." Do you wonder why you are dissatisfied and unfulfilled in your relationship to Christ? Why are we losing the young people in spite of all our efforts to hold them with recreation, parties, fun, foolishness and frolic? There may be a lot of activity, but it is empty and of no spiritual value. We try to feed ourselves on the "husks" of this world. The "preaching" is usually designed to "build the church," not save souls. Much of the preaching today is about what you could get anywhere else, from Robert Schuller or Norman Vincent Peale. The power of the Gospel is rarely ever heard.
Wake up, brother and sister, before it is too late! We are not likely to stop the big church organization movement among us. The "on the march" leadership is well entrenched and in control of the organizations. But, thank God, the organizations are not important; they are a hindrance, not a help. The hope lies with the individual - you and me! It always has been this way. Individuals must be awakened and aroused to the dangers of what has happened to us. This is a purpose of this journal. We hope you will consider seriously, and with prayer, the things presented herein. Please search the Scriptures daily to determine if the things are true or not. Our eternal destiny is at stake. May God bless you, one and all, with an honest and good heart to know and do His will. - CAH