A serious problem with modern apostolic ministries is lack of money. Many apostles feel that their activities are restrained by lack of resources. The apostle at the centre, who is governing a region and training church planters, needs lots of money.
One solution is to establish regional finance programmes. Because these ministries function at a trans-local level, they need trans-local funding. A region finance pool is a possible solution, but it does not deal with the problem.
Problems with Centralised Finances
There are several reasons why centralisation of finances is a danger practice.
Centralisation is dangerous during periods of persecution. If the government gets serious about stopping the church, it could cripple hundreds by arresting the people in charge of the money. If necessary, it could freeze the bank accounts, or clean them out. Decentralised finances are safer.
2. Dangerous Power
Any process that gives power to a few people is dangerous. If these people fall into pride or deception, they can do a lot of harm. Trouble crept into the church through money during its very early days. The practice emerged of disciples laying donations of money at the apostle's feet (Acts 4:35). This practice was contrary to Jesus' teaching.
Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret (Matt 6:1-4).
Making donations to the apostles in public contradicted this command. It also led to pride and deception. The worst case was Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:11-11). The pride that came into the church through the practice of giving in public caused this couple to lie to the Apostles to make a good impression.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet (Acts 5:1-5).
This type of incident would not occur if the church depended on decentralised giving at a person-to-person level, as described in Acts 2:45.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).
Bulk centralised finance is vulnerable to spiritual attack. Small scale person to person giving is safer.
3. Waiting on Tables
The Jerusalem disciples apostles received guidance that they should keep out of the finance business.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1).
This problem is inevitable when the distribution of finances is centralised. The people responsible for distribution simply cannot understand all needs and assess them correctly. Some people will end up getting more than they need, while others miss out. This happens with many modern Christian foundations. Those with good connections tend to get plentiful finance, but some really good people miss out on funding.
The solution to the apostle's problem was to appoint deacons to take care of the money. Under the guidance of the Spirit, they identified seven men to be deacons. The ministry of the deacon is an important ministry that needs to be restored in the modern church (see Ministry of the Deacon).
This experience changed the apostles approach to their ministry.
We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).
They committed to focussing on prayer and preaching. There is no mention of handling finance. This change is confirmed in their other statement.
It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables (Acts 6:2).
The apostles decided that it would be wrong for them to wait on tables. The Greek expression for "waiting on tables" is "diakonein trapezais". The word "trapezais" means table, so one meaning of the expression is serving food. However, the word "trapezais" is also used in the gospels for the money changers' tables (Matt 21:12, John 2:15) and the counter of a bank (Luke 19:23). This suggests that the apostles were not just resolving to stop serving food. They were also saying it would be wrong for them to manage the collection of money.
4. Corinthian Collection
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians was consistent with this approach.
Now concerning the collection for the saints 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).
He did not want to be involved in organising a collection. Instead he urged each person to lay up some money each week, so that the money would be ready when Paul arrived in Corinth. There was no compulsion and each person was free to decide how much they would give. The text above implies that there was no central collection, but that each person would put aside their own store (The Greek text literally means "lay beside himself").
Paul focussed on organising of the delivery of the funds to Jerusalem. He was able to do this because he had good relationships with the Corinthians and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.
And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me (1 Cor 16:3-4).
Paul did not want to handle the money himself. His preference was to provide a referral letters for the Corinthians, who would deliver the money. He offered to accompany them, if that would be helpful, but he did not want to get involved in controlling money. This confirms that apostles should not be handling money.
Money flows through relationship between churches. Apostles have extensive relationships, so they will support the flow of giving between communities. Paul had a relationship with both the leaders in Jerusalem and the church in Asia Minor, so he could facilitate the flow of support from one church to another.
5. No Authority
The ministry of an apostle is relational, not positional. Once the apostle has moved on, they can influence the leaders left behind, because they nurtured and mentored them, and then released into ministry. Apostles do not have governmental authority, they have relational influence.
Apostles do not have the authority to decide how much money will be given to another church. The decision about how much should be given to Jerusalem was decided by the individual givers in the church in Asia Minor.
The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea (Acts 11:29).
Paul had no authority to tell the Corinthians how much to give. The size of the fund was decided when the people who gave the money tagged it for that purpose.
An apostle does not have authority to allocate money to particular needs. Paul could draw Jerusalem's need to the attention of the Corinthians and facilitate the giving, but he did not control any funds that he could just allocate to Jerusalem.
Paul received financial support from several of the churches which he had helped the Holy Spirit to establish, but this was always voluntary. He was always gave thanks for their generosity, but he never instructed them to give him money for his support. Paul knew that an apostle did not have authority to demand money from a church he had helped to plant.
Paul was careful not to usurp authority that did not belong to him.. If he had asked for money for his support, many people in these churches would gladly obey him, because they loved and respected him. Paul wanted the elders in the new churches to grow in confidence, so he refused to undermine them, by imposing his authority on the Christians under their oversight.
Centralised financing does not work. This is not surprising, because the core problem is not financial, but with the modern implementation of the apostolic ministry. The solution to the funding problems to push the fivefold ministries down to the local level, where they can be supported locally.
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