My Money, My Church

Yes, Virginia, money really is a source of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:7-10. It’s true in the world’s ways and, sadly, it can be true in the local church.

Consider the leader who personally funded a chunk of a church’s expansion project . . . and then assumed that the contribution exempted him from the scrutiny that goes along with the role of elder.

Or the church leader who personally gave the church planting pastor a giant bucket of money so the pastor could buy a house in the community. Then, one year later, he led the key leaders to give a large salary increase to the pastor. But, within three months of that salary increase, he engineered the pastor’s humiliating removal.

I always figured that a senior pastor who meets the qualifications of an elder and who can lead and preach should be allowed to keep his job. But the elder chairman said the pastor had personality problems. Like what? He’s tough to get along with and some people don’t like him.

OK, let’s see, he’s not having an affair, he didn’t steal money from the church and he didn’t punch anybody. He planted the church, he’s a good preacher and the church’s numbers are growing. And you want to fire him because he’s hard to get along with and some people don’t like him? Then let’s get him some help to fix this. But you don’t fire him.

But he engineered the pastor’s removal anyway and was oh-so-pleased that the church kept growing despite the removal. That’s proof, some say, that the decision was righteous. I’m not convinced. The Lord Jesus loves his church so much that He tolerates all kinds of problems so the church carries on. Psalm 7:11. Only the Lord clearly sees whether the firing and the process were composed of gold, silver and precious stones or wood, hay and straw. But, of course, eventually He will make it clear to all. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13.

Then there’s the church that’s shark-like hungry for cash. Large contributors can be welcomed to the decision-making table, but are expected to keep the money flowing in order to be heard. I spoke the other day with an elder-qualified, financially wealthy man who sadly told me of that pain. When discussing issues in the church, he received the subtle yet unmistakable sense that he needed to keep up the giving pace in order to be heard. I consistently got the message: ‘So, when is your next big contribution coming in?’ He’s now off the elder board and out of that church.

It’s painful. It’s disappointing. It’s not what the Lord wants for leadership in His church. And yet, there it is. So what do you do?

You do what the fired pastor did and you do what the wealthy elder did. You move on, you learn what’s needed and you leave the consequences to the Lord. The pastor got up, got some biblical counsel and is back in pastoral ministry in a local church. Proverbs 24:16. The wealthy elder moved on to another church where his wealth is not a litmus test for his usefulness as an elder. James 2:1.

Of course, what matters at the end of it all is recognition from the One who knows. Well done, good and faithful servant. Matthew 25:21.