(How Is Church Fundraising to Be Done?)

Church fundraising. Some interesting questions have been raised with regard to how a local church should gain the funds needed for its operation. Here are some thoughts on the subject.

What other churches do is up to them of course. Each congregation must follow its own convictions in the matter. But I believe God's people need to be discerning, and not simply do something because others are doing it.

Over the years, we've all known churches that have used bake sales, and rummage sales, raffles, car washes, walk-a-thons, lotteries, bingos, or two-hundred-dollar-a-plate banquets to bring in money. Or maybe they've sold magazines, calendars, candles and so on, in church fundraising, with a portion of the income going into the church coffers.

Is this something your church should be doing? And are there biblical principles that should affect the decision?

One thing that should be noted is that the methods listed above are not all equal. They differ from one another in important ways.

1) Have Some Pie
Some methods offer goods or services for sale at fair value. Car washes or bake sales can fall into that category. As long as what is offered is not over-priced, there's nothing inherently wrong with this.

And notice who it is that does the donating. It isn't the purchaser, but the ones providing the goods or services. In a bake sale, it's probably the church ladies who buy the ingredients, and donate their time and effort to produce the baking. If a youth group holds a car wash to raise money for their program, the materials needed likely come from them, or from the church, and the time and energy invested is theirs.

This is all well and good. But what if the principles of grace and Christian love governed these same practices (Lk. 6:35; II Cor. 8:9; Gal. 6:10)?

Suppose the baked goods were donated and sold at prices well below market value. Suppose a weekly or monthly "Pie and Coffee" time were a program carried on by Christians of the local church as an opportunity for engaging others in conversation, and using the time to be an encouragement and blessing to others, in Jesus' name.

Or what if the young people offered a free car wash. When drivers brought their vehicles, they could simply explain that they want to show the love of Christ to others, and there's no charge for the service. The result of this could be worth infinitely more than a few dollars gained.

2) Marching for Money
Some methods are thinly disguised appeals for donations. Walk-a-thons and fund-raising banquets are like that.

Walking five miles (or eight kilometres) provides neither goods nor a service. It doesn't offer anything to the donor. And we know that a banquet doesn't cost two hundred dollars a plate, especially if it's held on church property, and much of the work is done by the ladies of the church. These are simply appeals for money, and it becomes very significant who's asked to donate.

Likely no programs such as these would be worthwhile if only people from the church's own congregation were approached. Rather, contact is made with the whole community, sometimes door-to-door. This means almost certainly that to support the church we would be appealing to non-Christians. Or perhaps those who attend churches that don't preach the gospel. But is that what God wants us to be doing?

Early in biblical history, Abraham recognized the danger in that. His nephew Lot and his family were living in wicked Sodom when a raiding army carried them off, and looted the city. Abraham and a band of servants pursued, and brought the people and the booty back. Then the king of Sodom offered all the looted goods to Abraham as a reward. But he replied:

"I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich'" (Genesis 14:22-23).

So, will others in the community say of us, "They claim to be trusting in the Lord. But notice that when they need money they come to us! How come God isn't strong enough to help them with that too?" We serve "the Possessor of heaven and earth." It would be a sad thing if we had to depend on the unsaved to save the church!

And there's a further problem. We are preaching the free grace of God, His unearned, unmerited favour and blessing. Salvation is by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9). How would it look if we offered salvation as a free gift to the unsaved, and asked them to pay us to tell them about it?

In Scripture, appeals for money are made to the people of God, not to those outside the body of Christ (cf. I Cor. 16:1-2; II Cor. 8:1-5; 9:6-8; Phil. 4:13-19).

3) You Bet Your Life
Some methods involve games of chance. Bingos and lotteries are examples of that. This is the most questionable form of fund raising imaginable. Gambling is a scourge on our society, and many have become slaves to it. It holds out the seductive appeal of a get-rich-quick scheme, but the Bible says, "A man with an evil [covetous] eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him" (Prov. 28:22).

A Salvation Army writer defines gambling as "an act of risking property that gives material advantage, based on chance, and at the expense of others." This is entirely the opposite of Christian love, which involves selfless and sacrificial giving. "Through love [we are to] serve one another" (Gal. 5:13), not risk what God has given us to gain selfish advantage over others.

Christians are called to be different (II Cor. 6:17), and it's okay to be different. It can be a testimony to our confidence in God. What others do, is up to them, but we don't need to follow suit. If the Lord wants a ministry to continue He will provide, as His people look to Him, and give consistently and sacrificially. Depending on the Lord to supply through His people is not a position of weakness, but of strength. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).

The Lord can work in wonderful ways through our obedient faith, and we know by experience that He can do much with even a little. We ought to say, with Jonathan, "It may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few" (I Sam. 14:6).

"God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (II Corinthians 9:8).