October 15, 2018, Sears filed for bankruptcy. What happened? To truly understand, we have to go back in time to a man by the name of Gutenburg. Gutenburg invented the first version of the printing press in the 1400’s in Europe. Things did not move that quickly back then. It took another 200 years for a printing press to make it to America and even longer for the press to be common. But it was just in time for Richard Warren Sears to start a mail-in watch and jewelry store. He took advantage of all of the farmers in those days who had to come to town and buy from small general stores with very little selection. He revolutionized retail sales by his innovation.
Now, fast forward to the 1990’s, what had begun as a military instrument morphed into what we now call the Internet and a man by the name of Jeff Bezos was in his garage coming up with what we now know as Amazon.com. He did what Sears had done hundreds of years before. He changed with the times the way people purchased what they want. While Bezos was building the first company to be valued at $1 trillion dollars, Sears did not change. The company built on innovation did not innovate this time. Now Amazon is ruling the world and Sears has filed bankruptcy. What is the point of this story? The Scripture says that we are to be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. Churches must be wise in their organization or they will die.
According to Thom Rainer, church growth expert, 100-200 churches die each week in the United States. Why? Many fell into the same trap as Sears. Their model of growth had worked for so many years and when society began to move from catalogs to online, from Sears to Amazon, they did not move with society.
The Church should never change its message. But like Paul who recognized that different groups had to be reached through different means, churches must look at the society around them and figure out how to reach them. Missionaries have always done this. When they go to a new culture, they learn the language. They learn the culture. And they develop a plan for reaching that people group according to that culture. But in America, too many churches are doing just the opposite. They are not changing their methodologies and they are dying.
One way that businesses have adapted to our culture is by giving their customers more choices. Coke for example has nine different flavors of Coke. Not only this, but they have Dasani water, Fanta sodas, fairlife milk, Gold PEAK tea, Minute Maid juices, Powerade energy drinks, Sprite, Smartwater, Vitamin Water, Zico coconut water, and many, many more. No wonder this company is still on top of its game though it is 132 years old.
Here at CrossRoads, we want to add another choice to the people in our community. Next Fall, we want to add an early service for those who want to go to church, but also have a busy day planned. They don’t want to miss church, but they have errands to run, social plans, kids sports games, NFL games, etc. Will you help us. If you will, get out your phone right now and text Pastor Lee @ 210-834-3364 and say, “I will help with the early service.”
Not too long ago, I wrote on my blog (www.pastorlee.org) an article about tithing (giving 10% of your gross income to the church where you are fed spiritually). I received an email back that read:
“Nowhere else do we see any direct instruction or example in the New Testament of anyone giving a 10%/Tithe. Is there anything else you find that is an example or a direct command here?”
This is a question that comes up a great deal. The Church of the Nazarene, of which we are part of, encourages members to tithe as a minimum financial commitment to help take care of the needs of the church. However, the Church of the Nazarene does not take the stance that Christians are commanded by God, in Scripture, to tithe. So what do we do with the tithe?
The reader is suggesting that since the tithe was part of Mosaic Law and we are no longer under that law, we should not be required to tithe. Let’s look at this thought. We first see tithing before the Mosaic Law was established. Abraham and Jacob both gave a tenth of their income, but the Scripture is not clear that it was required. Tithing was not required until the Law was established. Jesus would later commend the Pharisees for tithing, but it could be said that until the death and resurrection of Christ, the New Covenant was not established so the Pharisees would have still be required to tithe under the Old Testament Law. And once Christ died, the New Covenant began and there is no requirement in Scripture that Christians are required to tithe.
For a better understanding, let’s look at another point of the Mosaic Law-the Passover. Under the law, each year, the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover. They were ‘required’ to celebrate the Passover once a year as a way of remembering how the Lord had delivered them from their earthly enslavement to Egypt. But Christ took the Passover and connected it to the New Covenant by saying, “This bread is my body and this wine is the blood of the new covenant.” However, He gave no requirement of how often Passover or communion should be celebrated. Instead, He taught that communion was a sacrament to be celebrated in memory of what He did for us on the cross. So then the question becomes, “How often should we celebrate the memory of Christ dying for us?
Some churches celebrate communion every Sunday. We do it once a month, but wouldn’t once a year seem too little? The requirement was removed, but the context suggests we should celebrate communion more than the Mosaic Law required. Hmmmm?
The purpose of the tithe in the Old Testament was to care for the Levites and priests who then took care of the Temple. Christ made it clear that we should give to care for clergy and the needs of the church. Galatians 6:6 says that those who are taught should share all good things with their instructor. In 2 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul encourages offerings for the church and calls people to give cheerfully, not under compulsion. The Apostle Paul attaches giving to the New Covenant through, but never indicates how much should be given. The book of Proverbs is a list of principles that still apply today and in Proverbs 3:9, we are commanded to honor the Lord with our substance or wealth. And Jesus taught “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So, giving is attached to time in which we now live, but like communion, things have changed.
The requirement of the Old Covenant was based on an amount, but the requirement of the New Covenant in which we now live is based on the meaning of what is given. We should give now to honor God and what we give should be characterized as ’treasure.’ In other words, we should not give so little that it means little.
If you were walking along the street and found the same amount you gave at church last week, it would be nice, but would you consider that amount to be a ‘treasure?’
Tithing is good, commendable, and encouraged, but there is no requirement. However, it seems as if the New Covenant has, in a way, called for more than what the Old Covenant did just as it did with communion.
The question under the Old Covenant was ’how much am I required to give?’ The question now is ’Am I giving an amount that reflects the honor God deserves in my life?’
If ten percent was the required minimum to honor God in the Old Covenant, perhaps today in the New Covenant period, a tithe should be a goal we seek to surpass that we might honor the Lord all the more. Let us give our treasure to honor the Lord for all He has done.