When our new church was built in 2005 I advertised that I would buy ten chairs as an encouragement for other members to follow suit. However, I was rebuked, or corrected by two ladies in the church. We all need, from time to time, wise and kind discipline and I’m not above that. However, was their criticism justified? Well you be the judge. I had asked the congregation to respond to the challenge of buying a chair (or more) for the new building. I led the way by saying that Patricia and I would buy ten and at £135 per chair that made a total of £1,350. I then realised that if I spent or gave that much the church could claim Gift Aid and HICC could actually get 12 not 10. I mentioned this the following week.
The first point of criticism I received was “don’t tell us about how many chairs you are buying – again” Twice was enough. I agree that the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing and generally speaking that is how I conduct my giving to God. However, this situation was different, the people ought to know whether the ‘vicar’ was putting his bank book where his mouth was. I illustrated this by stating that probably I‘m the lowest paid professional in the church, and to find the money would take all our effort plus God but that is what faith is all about. We were not actually putting our necks on the line, for with God that never happens. His grace undergirds and supports and He always surpasses our expectation, and comes to our aid when we step out in venture with him.
My first church was started with 66p in the bank, faith as a mustard seed and little else. However, as time passes we become too sophisticated and faith becomes conditioned by intelligence and experience of past provision, which is sometimes forgotten. We become conditioned by the now and, as some God-led avenues actually appear cul-de-sacs, our nerve temporarily fails. God says “prove me now” and that’s not a bad maxim to live by. It was that example I was showing.
The second was “don’t tell us that you could have preached for another hour on the blood of Jesus, it sounds like boasting.” That may be true, but I could have preached for over 11 hours. My emphasis was to say this subject is huge. I didn’t touch reconciliation through blood, cleansing through blood, sanctification through blood, dwelling in the holiest through blood, life in the blood, victory through the blood and joy through the blood – and there is yet more!
The problem we have in today’s church is that there is insufficient Bible Study, or no Bible study. Consequently, many errors prevail and suspect lifestyles predominate because the average Christian does not know Biblical truth. This needs to be remedied. In other words all churches need a regular Bible Study in a relaxed atmosphere where truth can be exegeted to correct and support lifestyle. Sunday morning is no longer the right time for Bible Study; it is for expository preaching, but not a detailed study. The average person can sit today listening to a 30minute sermon (as long as a soap opera) beyond that they begin to flag.
Can we pull these two comments together, yes we can? Giving and receiving are the two greatest attitudes in life. My reticence to talk about money may cause the average member to miss out on God’s bounty. We live in the year of His favour, and His promise to us is 30, 60 and 100fold. The promise is not that we will automatically get 100fold but it’s a gradation scale. Some may not be able to handle 100fold, so God only allows them 30. Often it is not poverty that causes us to stumble but riches, although some Christians have a poverty mentality.
The words of the teacher are like nails driven in a sure place, and so the Word of God is imperative for it fixes things permanently. I would not be where I am now in God without that precious word, living, revealing and encouraging in its daily ministration. It has fixed my life, preserved me from error, kept me in temptation, encouraged me when depressed, challenged me when half-hearted, rebuked me when I’ve sinned and drawn me into the lover’s closet to meet my Lord. It has caused me to weep, to laugh and to sigh in expectation. The bible is truly a book beyond all books; a wonder about God. It answers the riddle of life and reveals Jesus in all His beauty – hallelujah!