I have been having some great discussions around this topic since posting “Church & Finances = Oil & Water?” As a follow up, I wanted to post a comment left by Steve. This is the kind of work I am asking God to to in me, in our church network, and in the simple church greater body as a whole. Thanks Steve!
God has absolutely transformed our world in the area of tithing over the last year as we have transitioned into house church. Sometime last June, a good friend of ours from our house church was sharing how, one day, he felt so clearly that God was telling him that he needed to give his tithe to his mom in eastern Europe, as she is a widow who is struggling financially. He shared how it was initially somewhat difficult for him to receive this word, as all of his Christian life, he had only known and practiced the norm of giving his tithe to the institution of the church or denomination he was involved in. But then the Lord led him through the places in the Gospel where He so clearly states how important it is to give towards the widows and the poor. And that pretty much cleared up his confusion.
This opened up a huge new door for my wife and me, as we had never even considered NOT giving toward a specific church institution or denomination, though we at the same time were in the process of transitioning out of traditional church and into house church. After this discussion with our friend, we both prayed about it and felt so clearly that our tithe was now to go wherever God directed us each pay period. I remember so clearly–I prayed one morning right before payday and said, “Lord, we have no clue where we are supposed to give this money, but we know You will show us. So please do!” And it turns out that before I had even uttered that prayer, I had received a email in my inbox at work from www.livinggenerously.com, a British ministry that gives people opportunities to provide for all kinds of needs all over the world. (you can even make a “wishlist” for areas of need that are special places in your heart, and people can give towards those areas) Right away when I saw that email (which was the day after I prayed this prayer), I knew this was where we were supposed to give whenever we didn’t have an immediate need in our community or circle of friends/connections. So I think that day we bought a couple of goats for some families in Ethiopia, and it was such an amazing feeling. Suddenly we KNEW where our tithe was going–that it was going to help someone in a very practical way and not go towards buying a new HD flatscreen monitor for the church foyer (something that, in light of large areas of need in the world and in our community, seems so unnecessary and trivial).
The next time payday came around, we told God again, “Lord, please show us where our tithe is to go”. And sure enough, it turned out someone from our house church had been praying about an opportunity to go do an internship at the International House of Prayer and needed some funds to be able to help prepare for this. So without question, we gave directly to her, as did several other people in the church who felt led to do this at the same time–and her trip was paid for! (incidentally, she has finished the internship and has decided to stay in Kansas City because God has shown her this is where she is to stay–something we felt so blessed to be a part of). In the past, we have NEVER felt this sense of being able to directly impact the body of Christ around us in a real and practical and true way. We always knew in the past that God was using our tithe regardless, and when we did give to Him, wherever it ended up, we knew we were only responsible for giving it in the fi!
rst place–not what the recipient actually did with it. But what an amazing blessing to see it in action! And this in turn brought our community even closer together in a sense of truly being the body of Christ that He has called us to be.
So my friend who I mentioned earlier–the one who got us thinking about the whole tithing transition in the first place–is now a missionary in Europe. Our house church sent him and his family, and we have the blessing of helping to financially support them as a community, of course in addition to praying for them and sending them words of encouragement, etc (and eventually going to see them!)
Other things come up (ie for Christmas our house church adopted an immigrant family in the community) and give us opportunities to use our tithes and offerings to directly impact the community around us. I have come to realize that this is exactly how God desires us to use our tithes, and we are so blessed and thankful to be a part of this!