A Fragrant Aroma: Funding the Expansion of the Church

Fragrant Aroma2Do you know what Paul called the financial gift the Philippian church sent him? “A fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18).

Do you see how bold that was?

He was telling them that their offering—like the sacrifices of the Old Testament worshipers—smelled good to God! How could he say that? How could he know it smelled good to God? How could he know it was “acceptable” and “pleasing to God”?

Perhaps because it was an “abundant” offering—that’s what Paul said at the beginning of Philippians 4:18. It was sacrificial and generous—just like God. Perhaps because it “amply supplied” one who was doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way for the Lord’s pleasure.

I’m not a fund-raiser. I don’t like talking about money. But here’s why we can enthusiastically invite you to give generously to our work:

  • We believe what we’re doing is the Lord’s work, the Lord’s way. Frankly, if it’s not, then you shouldn’t support us. But, we’re doing something we’re convinced is solidly Biblical—a sharp return to the way of Christ and His Apostles. (Read these two posts for a full explanation of what we mean: My Journey—Our Journey and The Antioch Tradition: Foundations.)

  • We believe what we’re doing is for the Lord’s pleasure. That’s our true motive. I think of Paul’s statement: “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). No one is trying to make a buck here. We’re not doing the most lucrative thing. Or the easiest thing. We’re doing what we believe God wants us to do—we’re walking by faith. And we believe that is pleasing to Him.

So, please take a look at two things below: First, the Biblical principles and then, secondly, our application of them here in our setting.

The Biblical Principles: Funding the Expansion of the Church in the First Century

When we closely examine the New Testament, we find that there were four critical factors involved in funding the spontaneous expansion of the network of churches.* These same factors are utilized around the world today to fund church-planting efforts. What were they?

  1. Churches. We’re all familiar with this idea. Philippi is a great example of a local church that gave generously—not just to keep the lights on, but for the progress of the gospel. Read Philippians 1:5ff;4:15-19 and 25-30.

  2. Collections. Collections were special giving opportunities to help fund important, critical needs. Paul wrote extensively about this is in 2 Corinthians 8-9. I believe it was a crucial part of the support for his work. He encouraged most, if not all the churches in the network—churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire—to set aside money weekly toward one particular collection for the Jerusalem church.

  3. Tent-Making. At times, Paul made it clear that he and others like him who had committed themselves entirely to the work of the ministry had a right to earn their living from the gospel—through the giving of the churches. Other times, he refused to take money from the churches so they wouldn’t be able to question his motives. During those times, he provided for himself by making tents (Acts 18).

  4. Benefactors. Benefactors were wealthy Christians who gave money and made their homes available as needed to support the expansion of the church and her leaders. Acts 4:34-37 and Romans 16:1-2 (Phoebe was called a “benefactor” NRSV) provide a couple good examples.

Our Application: Funding the Expansion of the Church in Lawrence, the United States and the World

How does this apply to us?

  1. Church. We encourage generous giving in each of our local churches just as the New Testament churches were encouraged to give with liberality (Romans 12:8).

  2. Special collections. As special needs arise, we will encourage special collections. During our current transition from traditional Bible church to a church-planting network, we have been asking each family to give extra due to the financial strain of the transition.

  3. Tent-making. None of our leaders (including myself) know how to make tents, but we are either working “non-ministry” jobs or looking for entrepreneurial opportunities. If Paul was willing, we should be as well. At the same time, we believe it is perfectly legitimate for us to receive support from the churches and benefactors as God provides.

  4. Benefactors. We are currently developing a benefactor team. We really want more than just money—we are inviting benefactors to help us develop the entire vision of local, national and global involvement. If God has blessed you with an abundance, we ask that you prayerfully consider joining our benefactor team by giving sacrificially and generously and consistently.

Faith is pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). So, those who cheerfully give to His work by faith must please Him abundantly—like a “fragrant aroma.”

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*[For a more extensive explanation of these concepts, see Funding Spontaneous Expansion: Four Critical Success Factors in the Early Church by Jeff Reed.]

Posted in Finances.

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