Responsibilities

The Beginning of the Church +

During the time of Jesus' ministry He taught His disciples about the kingdom of God. He presented them with kingdom principles so His ministry could continue after His ascension to Heaven. He prepared them to be His servants saying, "You shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They would receive special empowering through the Holy Spirit to enable them to apply the lessons Jesus taught them, and to boldly proclaim the gospel of salvation. They would no longer be disciples, but rather they would be apostles; His sent ones. They would be devoted to teaching and establishing the church of Christ Jesus.

On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples, as Jesus had promised, they began to witness and explain the wonderful acts of God. Many people responded to the gospel message, and were saved and baptized. Acts 2:42 further states, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." They felt a sense of awe and wonder; they were filled with joy and gladness; they praised God, and the number of them increased each day (Acts 2:43-47).

God was calling sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, to Himself and forming His church. For the first time, Jews and Gentiles were united in one faith and joined together into the body of Christ; His church. This is why this specific day of Pentecost is often called the Birthday of the Church. This was a new institution where Gentiles were no longer excluded. Instead they were welcomed into the church where they could worship the Lord together as one body of believers. Paul the apostle explains, "For [Jesus Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Ephesians 2:14).

Also, just as Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, so His apostles were empowered in the same manner to establish His church. The people of God stand as a light in a world that is filled with darkness and sin; therefore, the church is a beacon to weary sinners so they can find love and forgiveness in God. It is not difficult to find churches that teach the love of God, but His message of wrath and judgment of sinners must also be conveyed. The truth of God's Word must sting, and convict, and heal the sin-sickness that is within us. It must lead us to repent. Then His forgiveness, love, and hope soothes and comforts the newborn believer, and encourages his spiritual growth as he takes on the characteristics of Jesus Christ.

Finding a Church

When searching for a church, one must consider the message that it communicates. The church is commissioned to teach Christ crucified, and that He is a risen Savior. Too many Christian churches do not want to offend people, but the gospel is an offense to many who do not want to repent of their unrighteousness. Jesus Christ came to wash our guilt and sin away, not to dismiss it.

Membership +

The early church, in the book of Acts, doesn't reveal any formality regarding membership; although, salvation was essential to be added to the body of believers (Acts 2:47). Similarly, most churches only require individuals to be saved before becoming members. Certainly, membership allows one to identify with a local church where mutual beliefs and concerns are shared in the spirit of unity. This is an essential principle as the apostle Paul taught saying, "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Romans 12:5). We are all different in our backgrounds, education, vocations, cultures, and more, but as members, we are serving others together and using our differences to benefit the whole body. Thus, we are saved to serve, and God equips us for the task through the giving of spiritual gifts.


Spiritual Gifts +

God gives each believer special gifts through His Spirit to enable us to minister to each other within the body of the church. These spiritual gifts are given on the basis of God's grace. Each gift is a special provision He has granted to believers to demonstrate that He is the One empowering the church so that its evangelistic and ministerial work will glorify Him. They cause believers to function in vastly different ministries, and yet, be united in spirit and devotion to the work of the Lord. They facilitate the church's mission of equipping believers to minister inside and outside of the church as witnesses of Jesus Christ, and fulfilling the needs of the poor, the weak, and the helpless.

Since there is a vast range of tasks which need attention within the church, it is only logical that the church needs diversely gifted individuals to fill the requirements of each task. The Bible gives us three key biblical passages that deal with spiritual gifts, they are: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Peter 4:10-11. Certainly, these are excellent places to begin examining the gifts, and praying, and seeking God's guidance for those particular areas in which you may be called for His service. And yes, all believers are called into God's service. No one is a spectator in His ministry as Peter has said in 1 Peter 4:10, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." With gifts come responsibilities, and so, we are to be "good stewards" of these gifts. We are to diligently use them for serving the body of Christ and thereby glorify God in them.

Tithing

This is an area where many Christians struggle. Most likely it is because we live in a material world where we are lured into spending more than we make. So, when it comes to money, this is where some turn a deaf ear. We don't like to be told what to do with our money. Yet, that kind of thinking is very dangerous, because it is not our money; it is what God has graciously given to us. He gave us the job we have and has allowed us to earn an income. When we tithe, we give back to Him a portion of what He has given to us. We trust He will meet our needs, as He has promised saying He will "supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). When we give to the church and its ministries we are giving to the Lord, and He ensures that our needs will be met.

Should I tithe? - How much should I give? +

The New Testament states in 1 Corinthians 16:2, "On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper." From this it is clear that a collection be taken once a week and it was to be proportionate to the individual's income. Some people have taken the Old Testament narrative where Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe (Genesis 14:18-20) to mean that it is a requirement for the church. Later the Israelites were instructed to give tithes and offerings to the Tabernacle and Temple for the needs of those ministering within the sacrificial system. However, the church's giving is to be comparable to our income, and with gratitude to our generous God. We are to give joyfully and not grudgingly (2 Corinthians 9:7). If God has prospered you, then give generously to Him. During times of downsizing, cutbacks, and furloughs; give what you are able to give. Trust the Lord to meet your every need as the poor widow of Luke 21:1-4 did. Jesus observed her putting every cent she had into the Temple treasury. What a testimony she is! Her love for the Lord outweighed her concern for herself. May we all follow her example of trust and devotion.

What happens if I don't tithe? +

Of course there are some Christians who just don't tithe. Among non-tithing Christians who struggle to give, 38 percent say it's because they can't afford it, 33 percent say they have too much debt, and 18 percent say their spouse doesn't agree with tithing.[1] This is very sad because tithing should be seen as a blessing. How wonderful it is to give back to the Lord some of what He has given to us. Without church members tithing regularly the church could not afford the various expenses of the building, teaching programs, staff salaries, and its many other ministries would not receive the necessary funding to continue. When tithes are withheld, funds that support foreign missionaries are cut, and local evangelistic efforts are thwarted. The money that supports medical aid, teaching materials, and building supplies that are essential to spread the good news of Jesus Christ is curtailed. This is, indeed, very sad because tithing allows everyone to participate in sharing God's blessing of His ministry. The apostle Paul taught in Philippians 4:17 saying, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account." Tithes and financial gifts are credited to us as spiritual rewards because of our willful participation in His kingdom work. We are encouraged to make good investments in God's kingdom. He accurately records our giving and credits our account. We can trust Him to do our accounting!

So, to those who say they can't afford it, then consider cutting back on nonessential spending. To those who say they have too much debt, then consider budgeting and cutting out things that are a financial waste. To those who say their spouse doesn't agree with tithing, then consider praying that God would open their understanding to the privilege of giving to His work. May we meditate on what God so graciously gives to us each day, and thereby, feel compelled to give a portion of our income back to Him. When we think about how good He is to us it should cause us to want to dig deep into our pockets for Him. May we also remember that "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). So the next time the offering plate passes by, smile, reach down into your pockets, and give generously.


[1] http://www.christianpost.com/news/study-christians-who-tithe-have-healthier-finances-than-those-who-dont-95959

 

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