Monday 1 March 2010

The Pastor Pyramid and Tithing

To begin with have a look at Julie's post.
Ahhhh, the old tithing question, next to universal atonement, maybe one of the most hotly debated teachings among the grace crowd. For a broader view of the no-tithing side of the debate I highly recommend Joel's series over on Grace Roots. Also Bertie Brits has some great teaching available on his website Dynamic Love Ministries.

Why do I think it's important to talk about? Well, I think if I've learned anything from the many grace preachers and teachers out there, I've learned how serious it is to mix in law with grace, even if it is only the tiniest whiff of the tiniest drop of it. Of course I don't believe any of us will live in 100% pure grace while living in this broken down world, but I do think we can avoid hanging on to bits of the law mentality in obvious teachings and practices.

In fact, I don't think anyone has a good excuse to be teaching tithing (and I think I've probably heard most of the excuses) because I know people have been questioning those teaching tithing, even bringing in applicable Scripture ect... I know this because I personally know people who have done this, including myself. I don't want any 'have to's' mixed in with my good news! This does NOT mean that I don't love and appreciate and learn loads from grace teachers who teach some form of tithing. Some of my favorite grace preachers still hang on to it as far as I know--some in a very gracious way and some in a much more blatantly Old Covenant way.

One important reason to stop preaching tithing is it is VERY confusing to people coming into the revelation of New Covenant grace. I am often questioned about why grace preachers are still talking abbout tithing. In the mind of someone coming out of legalism, they hear the good news that they've been set free from ALL law and requirements in the New Covenant and start to feel new freedom, then they hear the same preacher tell them they must still tithe and confusion sets in. How many other requirements are they still bound to? Maybe the good news is not as good as it initially seemed? Maybe there is still some bondage in some areas? As one of my fellow gracers once commented to me on the subject, "I just don't feel released from tithing yet". So is tithing the one thing Jesus didn't release us from??? Do I need to feel released or believe I'm released?!?!

Let me just say again, I do not want to disrespect anyone who still believes in tithing in grace. I'm not trying to offend and I certainly don't see this as an issue that should disrupt fellowship in any way. I love you tithers! And if you see something in my words that you think is legalistic in any way, please please tell me!

Ahem. So to Abraham. Joel touches on some of this in one of his posts but I want to talk about it a little more, mainly because it is one of the biggest arguments I've heard for New Covenant tithing. When I was first coming into grace, I was having a horrible time because financially it became impossible to tithe. Aaron never bothered much about that stuff, but I had a running tally in my head at all times of how much money we owed God and eventually it got to the point where I realized we would never be able to pay him back. Hahaha, it sounds so ridiculous now!

Anyway, as I said I was coming into grace so of course I was reading and reading Galatians and one day as I was doing this God just spoke to me: "replace circumcision with tithing and you have today's church". Wow!!! That was the end of it for me, I saw it clearly and ever since have been free from the bondage and constraint to give any particular amount of money to anyone at any time. Gone was the idea that part of my money really belonged to God, that I needed to give money to God in the first place etc., ect,... It's a crazy idea to think that giving money to a church or ministry is the same as giving money to God! All our giving is to other PEOPLE. It's more a matter of sharing if you ask me. If we see a brother in need of food or clothes, we share what we have with them. If we see the church needs money to get the good news out there, we see our pastor working hard to feed us spiritually, we share what we have!

Now, I've asked several pro-tithers who say "Abraham tithed out of faith 400 years before the law, therefore I tithe out of faith not under law"; so how is that different from circumcision? You see, in faith, Abraham was circumcised 400 years before the law. Actually, in faith, Abraham sacrificed animals, and was even going to sacrifice his own son, 400 YEARS BEFORE THE LAW. If I have faith should I also take my son up a mountain and lay him on an alter? I mean, Abraham did! So I find this line of logic extremely illogical.

Second point about Abraham: If this example of Abraham tithing was meant to be an example for new covenant believers to follow, why is it not taught ANYWHERE in the new testament??? In fact, Hebrews even refers to the story and still somehow the writer forgot the mention the very important fact that we should still be tithing! I gather that to mean that the point of Abraham tithing to Melchizedek was NOT to show us that we should tithe. In fact Hebrews tells us why that account is in Scripture, and the point of it is the opposite of the tithing idea. So what's the point???

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. Hebrews 7:1-10

The point, as we can see is the whole point of Hebrews as well, is that the new covenant with the new Great High Priest is completely superior to the old system. I think it is safe to say that in the context of Hebrews the point of recounting this story is NOT to teach us that there is still one little rule we should keep from the old covenant, that is, tithing.

So, what do I think is the real reason most people still preach tithing? Well, I do think many people honestly just believe this Abraham thing, but part of it is definately connected to unbelief. It would be very difficult for a leader of a church or ministry to switch gears part way through and start telling people they don't need to tithe. Why? Because they rely and trust in the people's tithe for financial provision, not in God himself. Oh, they think God has given them the tithing teaching for their provision, but I say God is able to put in people a true desire and joy to give without any kind of rule or regulation about how they should give! It's the same argument that legalists use against those preaching grace all the time! If we just tell them they don't have to they won't! It's a panic issue, a fear that is based in unbelief in the power of God to produce sons in the image of Jesus. Sons who will naturally be generous, really!

And as many of these preachers have noted, sometimes when we kick out the props of law from under people they will wobble and even fall around for a time. But then they will learn to stand on their new grace legs and will infinitely healthier and stronger for it in the end. So couldn't we believe God to carry us through that time financially?

So those are some of my main thoughts on it all...What do you think?

Chris Welch reply
The entire present church model is suspect and based largely on unbelief.

What on earth do I mean by that?Before answering, may I commend once again Jack Fortenberry's book "Corinthian Elders" which is only small but packs two or three main punches that will leave you reeling for a while...until you get as gripped with them as I am.

Church exists for only one main reason. To broadcast "the gospel of salvation and growth into Jesus according to the three growth stages of 1 John2". Local churches may have commissions, unique characteristics...but really their sole function is to get Jesus into folk and take back soul territory that the devil has nicked.

Traditional churches and charismatic churches seem to have dubious extras which maintain "it" for its own sake rather than for Jesus sake.And tithing can as Julie has stated just be one of these self-preservation mechanisms.

The unbelief mentioned above is a belief system that restricts "take back soul territory" to claiming scalps for the Kingdom, then keep them entertained in church until they die."
"take back soul territory" actually means everything below the scalp as well. That Christ become the all in all in us. And to quote Ern Baxter,"the gospel is THE power unto salvation. There is no THE-ER power." Jesus salvation is ultimate to our extremes.

And having a correct faith view means we have faith that a FULL Jesus gets to grow in each member of the church and therefore cannot remain as a static object...because now half its members have moved off to raise up other churches all over the globe...who again don't stop at the scalp stage....but see others through to the Father stage in 1 John 2.

In amongst this will be fulltime leaders, part time leaders,leaders in full employment, leaders tentmaking......all adopting the faith that Mueller pioneered...believing for the money to come in....any which way...because our God is sufficient.

Anyone reading my blog will know I have spent the best part of the month on Pyramids in churches...and one of the main maintenance techniques employed by pyramids is tithing.

The Pastor Pyramid and Tithing
Goldhill Baptist Church ,Goldhill nr.Gerrards Cross and London UK have spent the best part of a year finding a replacement pastor. Still not found one.

Why is that relevant? Well I hail from one of three churches that were linked quite closely in the early days of the charismatic movement. Two Baptist and one Anglican.
But really they are all the same model, and I am calling this model 2nd level.
Most of the congregation are born again. A large number have had the experience of being baptized in the Spirit and in Goldhill's case enjoyed several decades of some of the best charismatic teachers on the circuit. First David Pawson, then Jimmy Graham , who, and this is rare, is content to have stepped down and just enjoys being part of the congregation. His son, a drummer plays on a couple of tracks on my CD.

So they are hunting another teacher/pastor I guess with a similar eloquence and ability to transfer spiritual Bible knowledge in clearly articulated left-brain format.

Well, pause there...and now read Dan's latest post on a SGM church in Newport.
What have you found?
Yup, that's right. It's the same model.

Now when I first read Jack Fortenberry's book "Corinthian Elders" I noted his main points, took the punches, was impressed.....but here's the thing.
You can always tell a significant book by the way it grows on your insides.

And I can tell you this, up until reading it, I had never seen the link he made between what was going on in the Corinthian Church and our present and almost universal structures.

And in the last month or so seen that connection grow to include this issue of tithing.

My friends, we are building pyramids and we are using tithing to fund our system.
Not only that, we are ONLY one short remove from the Catholic Church, and I never as an old Baptist boy, thought I would be writing that.

But it is so. Instead of a priest, we have crowned our pastor as head of the pyramid. This is as true of Rob Rufus and Terry Virgo, and lots of other really dedicated fine men, as it is anywhere else. And you know something? You won't find a scrap of Biblical precedent for this perhaps that James was the head honcho at Jerusalem. Bet you anything you like though, this was a practical function. It certainly did not include sole preaching rights....we have that spelled out clearly.

So as impressed as Dan may be with the quality of grace preaching at Newport, and as impressed as I am with Jimmy Graham's record and humility to still continue enjoying fellowship at Gold Hill I have to state this......

As God moves us onto the third level
You'd better not be thinking in pyramids
Because they are not there in the scriptures.
Pastors have usurped a role that just isn't there. Pastors are a gift to the church. They are also a certain character function. They tend the sheep. There are loads in one church! The church, a church , needs loads....

are they a CEO in a corporation!!!!

(In a singing voice) Pyramid, funded by tithing!!!

Great system but - NEW CART
More shoulders needed, I'm sorry.


jul said...

Chris, VERY very much agree. I really hate the pyramid structure in churches. Actually, I'm nervous of any structure in churches, I think structure should not be stressed as so important, good structure isn't even seen, think skeleton! But the pastor is not above any other member of the church and should not be employed as a title of importance, and neither should apostle, prophet, ect... they are FUNCTIONS, and yes, many members of the same body may function in similar capacities with everyone having a chance to use their gifts. If we did this, we would have far less jockeying for position, far less people trying to be something they are not in order to elevate themselves. I don't know if this is making sense or not...

The people in a church are as much part of the problem as the pastors ect... we as humans seem to love to put people/leaders up on pedestals and want them to be and give things to us that are not their part to be and give. Somehow we've gotten this worn out old covenant system in our heads that still wants men here and now to mediate between us and God, God is not real to us so we look to men. Let's fix the real problem: get into the right system, the new covenant mindset and abide in Jesus, know him without striving to know him, move effortlessly in his presence, aware of HIM in us ALWAYS. Then we can stop looking for men who make us feel closer or try to teach us how to get closer to God.

Don't know if that hits on anything you're trying to say or not, but that's what your post stirred up in me.

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

Yes, I feel you're completely home and dry on that one.

I cannot expect that everyone reads my blog all the time, as it is difficult enough to find time enough that each of us post our own.But you should be encouraged to see I have tackled this "false symbiotic" relationship between adoring congregations and over important pastors here....


Thankyou for penning your post on tithing Julie

jul said...

Chris, I read the order of the Holy Spirit post earlier today and enjoyed it, had some thoughts but was too lazy to write them down then! I couldn't find the other post after scrolling through, tried to copy paste but it didn't work for some reason.

I just remembered a dream I had last year just before Bertie came to visit us and I thought you might enjoy hearing it. It was very powerful though I think it loses that in the telling... I dreamt that our house was jam packed with people worshipping, very excited, and the man leading worship was John Wimber. It was a great time but when he finished, everyone got up to go home until I stood up and started waving my arms and shouting that things were far from over, in fact, the most powerful part was yet to come and I introduced Bertie who had been more or less in the shadows completely unnoticed. I understood the meaning immediately upon waking up. The church had been going through a time of important and powerful leaders who were basically famous and everyone congregated around them. Though there were some good things that came out of this, this time was passing and the best time is now coming (or here). The church is coming into maturity and the main focus will not be on any particular man, Bertie in my dream represented the Message, that is, the good news, the word of God, Jesus himself. There are some who are still looking for a leader but this is the time to look to Jesus ( I think you could argue it was always the time to look to Jesus!) Anyway, I find it hard to express the impact of the dream but it's really stuck with me. Upon meeting Bertie, we were so much impressed with his humaness. He has no need to impress people, he is just himself, grounded in his identity in Jesus. More and more I am the same way. We found that Rob was very like that in person, not any hype or weird over spiritualizing of things. I think Rob having spent over 30 years in such a structured system may not totally ever be free from some influence, but I found his church to be remarkably free, it was something that kept me up half the night after our first time in their church. I was asking God, what is so different about this church? The answer was the lack of a sense of anyone trying to control the people. Rob is a strong leader, but I'd never been in a church before that didn't have that sense of over arching control. It was lovely. I think I still understand what you were getting at in your other post though. I for one am completely done with hero worship, just the other day I put up a status on facebook "I used to idolize preachers now it's the dog whisperer" haha! I am not at the moment immersing myself in any preaching and miss it to a degree but will probably be wanting a wider diversity when I get back into it. As a sidenote, I wonder if I've never gotten into Bill Johnson and other popular teachers as much because I instinciviely avoid the groupie mentality? I don't think Rob is popular on that level, though I do enjoy Prince, McVey and other popular ones...I don't agree with everything (Aaron has more serious reservation about JP but I tend to view it as at lest the gospel of grace is going out to a large audience, even if it does cost you a fair bit if you want to hear a whole message heh).

Anyway, sorry to be rambling on again, that's really what I'm doing!

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

Hi Julie. I think that dream so encapsulates things I'll post it on Facebook if I may.

As far as Rob goes,sometimes i put stuff up to "needle" folk just as they used to do with me in Bible House. I had a girlfriend briefly, and one of the Argentinian leaders looked straight at me at one point and said by the Spirit " You know she's a lot nicer than you are" Meaning in the Spirit...she has travelled further down the road of discovering her niceness comes from still think you are nice in your own right" Oh it's painful when someone says that and it's true!!!!

I just feel Rob represents such a transitional thing going from 80s "man of power for the hour" into new territory. Maybe as he twins more with Ryan something new and more beautiful will emerge.

Don't know what Aaron senses about JP...but it could be that JP needs to spend longer as a nobody...just content to live life in Jesus for its own sake.

I managed to cut and paste by the way...anyhoo its June 24th 2009 when Paul Anderson Walsh made a new announcement.

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

Daniel Yordy writes elsewhere about this combi-article:
"I found this statement on a blog of a friend of mine, in an excellent article on tithing and the pyramid structure of the church.

"Of course I don't believe any of us will live in 100% pure grace while living in this broken down world"

The operative word here is "I do not believe."

I have always understand this point to be the primary difference between 2nd Feast and 3rd Feast, between living in the holy place and living in the presence of God. And the point beyond which people are able to see all that God is doing versus the in-part realm of Christianity. I have seen for many years that passing this point is what opens the heavens and the presence and voice of God to a believer and refusing this point is what gives so many a limited experience of God.

Nothing is impossible with God, except, of course - fulfilling His word in "this broken down world."

The problem is that God does not say that He will not fulfill His word in this world. We make that up and force it upon God with the excuse that we are, after all, grasshoppers. It is the same thing the serpent claims in the garden. "Did God really say that?"

This is a point the Lord leads me to hammer over and over. There is no faith in seeing God fulfilling His word "in heaven." Which is why this statement "I do not believe" is so telling.

It's a huge hurdle, I know. Believing God absolutely is a leap off a cliff that makes one "heretical" or "crazy." But why not make that leap? Why ever limit God?

Here is how I would say that phrase. "Of course, I believe absolutely that we will know 100% pure grace in this age, in this life, in this broken down world."

And I do, I really do. Why? Because God says I will. And I exult boastfully in all the victory of Christ inside of me. There is no glory if God wins in heaven. I feel such a great need welling up in my heart to declare that He will win right here in this broken down world - the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ, in this earth, in this life, in this age, in us, now.

You see, those who dare to believe such a thing will see it with their eyes. And those who dare not to believe it - well, they will see it too. But what glory will they have missed?

I do like what I read in this article on tithing. Here is the point of the tithe. Yes, Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek, and the tithe belongs to the Lord - bring that into the New Covenant and we are the tithe. God wants 100% of His tithe brought into His storehouse, that part of Abraham that belongs to Melchizedek. That's us, the first-fruits of His church, our whole being, brought into never ever limiting God or having the knee-jerk need to push His power into another age or to another realm. Only the first tenth of the church will be that before they see it with their eyes. Everyone else will wait until they see it before they believe. Yet they also belong to Jesus

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

Well that's very similar to what Nancy wrote about the tithe.I also want to thank Julie who instigated a lot of this. A very precious couple Aaron and Julie.Unless I've been totally conned at a distance!

"This is a point the Lord leads me to hammer over and over. There is no faith in seeing God fulfilling His word "in heaven." Which is why this statement "I do not believe" is so telling."Daniel wrote.

I was incredibly worked up yesterday about today's I was in hammering mode. How dare we preach secondrate 1906 two level gospel messages. Aren't new converts worthy of our best. Of what God is saying now. Of the clarity with which God is now speaking. I put this on Facebook yesterday...together with this link to a Free Believer's article on Bitterness sometimes being a good propelling force.