Question: “I receive a weekly copy of a local church bulletin. One recent issue announced, ‘The youth group would like to extend a big thank you to all those who have been so supportive of the youth group’s fund raisers for their mission trip this summer to Mexico. To _______ and _______ _______ for allowing the youth to use their yard for the rummage sale, to all those who donated their time, rummage items, and money to the sale, also to all those who have purchased calendars or simply donated money ? THANK YOU!!’ Are these activities Scriptural?”
Answer: You have communicated a concern pertaining to the Lord’s church. I appreciate the manner in which you stated your question. Since the New Testament of Jesus is our sole guide in matters of faith and practice, we must go there for the answers you seek. Please consider the following points (1 Thess. 5:21):
1. The work of the church costs money. It is appropriate that the brethren who worship with the congregation you mentioned focus some of their energies on finances. A local church cannot effectively carry out its mission without some form of currency. I appreciate one Bible student’s thoughts on this matter. He writes,
“Let me share an experience with you. On June 2, 1940, a little girl was born to us. She cost us money from the moment she was born. As she grew from [infancy] to girlhood, she cost even more ? her dresses and shoes were more expensive, and we had to have the doctor through all those childhood diseases. She was even more expensive during her school and teen years. She needed long dresses to go to parties. When she went to college, we discovered, along with other parents, that all the college expenses [were] not listed in the catalogue. Then after graduation she fell in love and married. She was married in a church wedding and that too cost a lot of money. Then, five months after her marriage she suddenly sickened and within a week she was dead. She hasn’t cost us a penny since the day we walked away from her grave. As long as the church is alive she will cost money, and the more alive a church is, the more money she will cost. Only a dead church, like a dead child, is no longer expensive” (emphasis mine?mb). Cf. 2 Cor. 8-9; Phil. 4:15-17; Gal. 2:9-10; Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 12:8; 15:25-27; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 5:16.
2. These brethren are also to be commended for their emphasis on missions (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). People who have been truly impressed with the grace of God in their own lives are compelled to share their spiritual fortune with those around them (2 Kgs. 7:9; Jer. 20:9; Rom. 1:14-16; 1 Tim. 1:12ff). The fact that this congregation plans to teach the Word in Mexico is indicative of their priority for lost souls (Matt. 18:11; Luke 15).
3. It is encouraging to see that young people are actively involved in efforts to publish the Gospel. When the youth of the church are involved in evangelistic outreach, they learn that Faith is much more than some narrow intellectual pursuit; they also begin to see it as that singular force which not only affects people today, but for eternity.
4. Whenever the Lord tells us something should be done (e.g. generic command) without informing us as to how to do so (e.g. specific command), we are at liberty to decide which method is most expedient (cf. 1 Cor. 10:23). For instance, had Noah simply been told to build an ark out of “wood”, the aged patriarch might have chosen any number of different types of lumber for his boat project (cf. Gen. 6:14). Had the children of Israel simply been told to “transport” the Ark of the Covenant, they might have moved the sacred chest in a wide variety of ways (cf. Ex. 25:12-14; 2 Sam. 6:3; 1 Chron. 15:16). Had Jesus simply told us to use “food” during the communion, we could offer a wide “menu” of edible items today (cf. Matt. 26:26ff). Likewise, had Jesus simply told us to “give”, we could employ any number of capital-raising ventures for obtaining money for His work. Bake sales, suppers, bazaars, car washes, garage and calendar sales are all effective means of raising funds. However, Christ has, in fact, specified but one method for financing the work of the church. Note?
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: on the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2; cf. 2 Cor. 9:7).
WHEN we should give, WHO should give, HOW we should give and HOW MUCH we should give is clearly set forth in the Scriptures. We are therefore under Divine obligation to obey the Savior’s will in this particular realm (Col. 3:17; Matt. 17:5; John 12:48). Monies to carry out missions were not solicited from unbelievers in the first-century church (3 John 7); nor should they be now. The New Testament condemns “making merchandise of the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17?ASV footnote). “The church of the Lord is to stand in contrast to such efforts. We must not charge the lost for the opportunity of hearing the Gospel. …It is a privilege and responsibility of those who have obeyed the Gospel to support evangelistic work” through freewill giving (Mike Vestal, “A Greeting and a Commendation,” Studies in 1, 2, 3 John, Sixth Annual Denton Lectures, Dub McClish?editor, 283)
“There is nothing which so quickly wins men to a sympathetic hearing as the realization of complete unselfishness on the part of those who bear the message to them: and it is absolutely requisite that in all missionary efforts the missionaries be wholly independent financially and materially of those to whom they preach” (Guy N. Woods, “New Testament Law of Missions,” A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, 362).