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Is the Church the bride of Christ, or just a fundraising machine?

Getty Images/CatLane
Getty Images/CatLane

Paul stated, “Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:34-35). This scriptural principle shows us that what fundraising has become in America is antithetical to what it should look like according to the Bible.

Marketing makes a science out of selling products and raising capital income based on cultural trends. As a college student, I was fascinated by the effectiveness of good marketing and once considered marketing as a career. During my 25 years of experience as a youth pastor, studying teen culture became my necessary pursuit. I felt that if I could just comprehend the common beliefs, trends, desires, and tendencies of young people I could be more effective in getting them to participate in Christian programs. What I didn't understand then was that I was creating a mechanical model for ministry which did not need God’s presence or approval to actuate.

I also decided that simply asking for donations seemed no longer enough. I felt I needed to come up with a method to coerce people’s giving. Over time, I felt convicted by God’s Spirit. I knew I could no longer subtly manipulate givers, and donations dropped precipitously. A part of my subsequent calling as a revivalist was born of my realization that many in the Church have not been taught how to be led by God in their giving. Sadly, they often only give in response to marketing based on emotional stimulus.

While taking up offerings in addition to tithing is part of the New Testament Church, many nowadays have come up with marketing formulas focusing on the demographics of their congregants. They learn keywords and catchphrases, attaching many peoples’ favorite scriptures to encourage donations. Paul warned in the book of Romans, “For those who are such do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:18).

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None of us in the Church want to think of ourselves as having minds so simple that we have been deceived by “flattering speech.” All the while, the world looks on and listens to theserecognizably hyped-up marketing strategies. Should this subtle form of deception using money making marketing be supported by true men and women of God? Has God stopped providing? Does He need our craftiness? Do we truly make every effort to teach God’s people how to hear from God in their giving? Have we considered that our man-made manipulations may be violating Ephesians 4:30 and possibly grieving the Spirit of God?

Every teaching that is truly from God is shown by both word and example in Scripture. Paul set the perfect example with his whole life including how he handled finances. He warned Timothy to watch out for “perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:5). If the one who could confidently say “follow me as I follow Christ” set forth the perfect model in God’s eyes, then let every man-made manipulative tool that is a possible stumbling block to unbelievers be stopped.

Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is

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