Tithes and offerings
According to Matthew 23:23
Jesus did not do away with tithing (These you ought to have done
[justice, mercy, and faithfulness], without neglecting the others [tithing]).
Also, there is good internal evidence that the early church tithed to
support its ministers (1 Corinthians 9:13-14; Galatians 6:6). The question
for New Testament house-church believers is not whether to tithe,
There is no concept of salary
in the New Testament. You might say the New Testament ministers worked
on a contract-level basis. Much like a carpenter, once the task
of building a church in one city was completed, they moved
on to the next. If they stopped and stayed, it was to strength the church.
However, Paul rarely did this. Usually he would move on, and then come
back on a subsequent trip to elect elders and provide additional encouragement.
Also, you will note that the New Testament apostles all had a vocation
to fall back on (Peter and several of the other disciples were fishermen;
Paul was a tentmaker). Even Jesus had a vocation. Note Pauls reason
behind working as a tentmaker:
Paul knew that those
who neglect physical work soon become enfeebled. He desired to
teach young ministers that by working with their hands, by bringing
into exercise their muscles and sinews, they would become strong to
endure the toils and privations that awaited them in the gospel field.
And he realized that his own teachings would lack vitality and force
if he did not keep all parts of the system properly exercised.
--Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 352.
So, if a house-church has
no temple or priesthood (i.e. no building complex to support and no
full time Pastor), What do they do with their tithes and offerings?
The New Testament does not give clear instructions. One suggested approach
is the following:
Let each family set aside
their tithes and offerings into their own special giving fund. The
money can accrue there, stored up until a need in the congregation
arises. Giving is done directly from giver to getter, with no middleman
involved. In this way believers can give to church planters, missionaries,
foreign orphanages, and the needy. The house-church does not pass
an offering plate each week. It has no church bank account nor owns
pioneer Seventh-day Adventist Church practiced this approach initially
(in the mid-1800s), but found it inequitable. That is, depending on
the ministerial tour each minister would take, he might
get significantly more or less than the other ministers. So they began
to pool the money and hence began the need for an organization. Ellen
G. White was in favor of an organization, but not too much of an organization.
Today, the matter has gotten
quite out of hand. It is estimated that as much as 82% of church revenues
go toward buildings, staff and internal programs; only 18% goes to outreach.
Who then is better able to advance the gospel, a modern-day church saddled
with a mortgage payment, utilities, janitorial fees, building maintenance
and pastoral salaries or a network of house-churches with no staff to
pay and no buildings to maintain?