Updated: Sep 24, 2019
The Bible is clear. We cannot serve both God and money.
(Mark 10:25, Heb. 13:5, 1 Tim. 6:10, Luke 12:15, Mat. 6:19-21, Luke 12:33-34, etc...)
You know it as well as I do. As Christians, we're called to worship God alone. The love and worship of money is a dangerous, treacherous, and idolatrous thing. We must guard ourselves against it by keeping our faith in God, but believe it or not, our own potential infatuation with that green isn't the only one we should be worried about.
When Christians read passages in the Bible about money, they always apply it to themselves personally, as they should, but rarely do they ever consider such Scriptures as having application for their pastor, or their church.
The fact of the matter is that your pastor, your church's elders, deacons, and your local church as a whole are responsible to the same Scriptures about money that you as an individual Christian are. Since when did we start believing it was okay for churches to be greedy and money-obsessed anyway?
Because unfortunately, many churches and their leaders have become dumbstruck by those dollar signs over the past few decades, especially in America. It's quite rapidly and devastatingly wiped out the Christian church in a way that only a love for money could.
Like a tornado of greedy destruction, the Health and Wealth, or Prosperity Gospel, has not only become its own popular "Christian movement," but many churches and pastors that openly mock and ridicule such teachings have adopted the very same behaviors and strategies for their own churches in order to grow their ministries, put more butts in the seats, and more money in their own pockets.
What are those behaviors and strategies? Well, if you're at a church that exhibits these nine signs, you can be sure that they're utilizing them.
9 Signs That Your Church Is Serving Money
1. The Building is Expensive & Beautiful
Okay, listen. Is it possible for a church to grow in numbers and still be devoted to God and not money? Sure. It's possible. However, according to what the Bible tells us, it's not very probable.
Don't churches with a lot of people need bigger buildings? Yeah. So it's not necessarily the size of the building that matters, but rather, the cost that went into obtaining that building, and the cost that went into its appearance.
Churches that spend a lot of money on appearances, rather than the plethora of other much more important matters a church should be spending its money on, such as helping people in need or producing fruit within its community, is prioritizing material above God.
2. They Preach Tithing
While giving is a sign that a Christian is full of love and the Spirit, required or mandated giving by your church is a sign not only that they are legalistic, but also that they believe money is important to begin with.
2 Corinthians 9:7 is pretty clear when it says that a Christian's giving should be cheerful and between themselves and God, not compelled by the church or out of obligation. Our giving should come as a result of the Spirit within us, not the church pressuring us from without.
Lastly here, tithing is not taught or commanded in the New Testament at all. It is referenced as a law of the Old Covenant and with teachers of the law, but never are Christians told they must tithe in the Bible. Giving is a virtue that is encouraged and commanded just as being honest, forgiving, or doing anything else of God is, but it's all between us and God, not us and anyone else. Including the church.
3. There is No Financial Transparency
A church that goes silent when asked financial questions has a guilty conscience. Otherwise, they would just answer the questions. Christians are constantly told they must give cheerfully, freely, without greed, and without questioning anything by their churches.
Churches should be held to the same standard that individual Christians are, especially if they're preaching tithing and pressuring their congregations to give more money. Yet, they're not being held accountable at all.
In many cases, once someone does build up the courage to ask their pastor or church where all of the tithing goes, or how they spend those donations, or how much the pastor gets paid, they stonewall like a politician that's been caught in a scandal. This is a sure sign that your church is serving money.
4. There's a Cafe, Bookstore, Thrift Store, and/or Coffee Shop in Your Church or Owned by Your Church
There is one reason and one reason alone for why churches open stores, shops or cafes of any kind. To make money. That's it, and if you're church has one, two, or three of these, you can be sure that whether they "need" that money or not for whatever reason, that's why they have them.
Just think about it for a minute. Why do cafes, bookstores, or coffee shops exist OUTSIDE of your church? They're businesses, people. They exist to make money. If they weren't going to make money by opening them, they wouldn't open them.
So what? Who cares if they have a store that makes money, you say? I'll tell you what. What happened when Jesus found people selling doves in the temple? Need I say more?
One last thought on this subject. Ask yourself where the money to open that cafe, bookstore or thrift shop came from. Where did they get the money to build those profitable businesses in the church?
From you, my dear generous, giving Christian. They got it from you.
5. There Is a Focus on Growing The Church
It's the most common mission, vision, goal, and aim of Christian churches in America today: To get bigger. The slogans and sly yet extremely subtle verbiage used to justify this goal above the real purpose of the Christian church, which is to teach the Word, preach the Gospel, and glorify God, are many.
Read these church missions and visions carefully, and notice the emphasis they put on people, "disciple-making", and getting more people into their church.
"Our mission is to multiply disciples through authentic relationships."
"We will create biblical disciples in relational environments.”
"We exist to help as many people as possible take their NEXT STEP toward becoming FULLY DEVOTED and FULLY DELIGHTED followers of Jesus Christ."
Now read what these churches say about themselves and their goals as a church. I don't call these mission statements or visions, because churches that aren't focused on growing in popularity with people don't care about mission statements or visions. They care about God, the Bible, and the truth. Look:
"Deconstructed gatherings where believers subjectively seek God in Spirit and Truth through weekly verse by verse teachings through books of the Bible. All views welcome. Christ Jesus forever upheld."
"(our church)...has been formed as a fellowship of believers in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our supreme desire is to know Christ and be conformed to His image by the power of the Holy Spirit."
The first group of churches whose missions I quoted are very popular and have a megachurch mindset that focuses on growing the physical church in numbers, but not growing in faith in our relationship to Christ Himself. The priority is numbers, not God. Numbers means money. God means struggles.
The second group of churches are small churches who focus a lot more time and energy on the Bible itself and remaining committed to the purity of the Gospel. As a result of this, and their lack of that consumer friendly vision or mission statement on their website, they're not very popular. They also don't care about money.
Which brings us to our next sign.
6. It's a Consumer Friendly Atmosphere
Mission statements, visions, cafes, a nice, big building, a helpful and friendly staff, and the list goes on. There are a lot of things churches that serve money can do to make sure the atmosphere and environment in their church is consumer friendly, and some of them do it all, to maximize their congregation size and as a result, their income.
Churches that don't serve money don't have any of these lovely, convenient and comfortable features, and as a result, people don't go to them. They don't make money because they don't care about making money. They care about preaching the Gospel. Last time I checked, that didn't include selling t-shirts for the next big church picnic, which costs $25 per person to attend.
"Vision? Uh, the Bible. Mission? God. Cafe? Are we a business now? A logo? What the heck? What's wrong with the cross?"
This is the attitude of a Christian who has zero interest in amusing, impressing, or appeasing the world. Rather, they care about God, the Bible, and Jesus. A church that cares more about pleasing and impressing people and the world are serving money and material, not God or His interests, which have nothing to do with indulging us in our worldly desires.
7. The Sermons Are Tailored To Fit You
With a consumer friendly atmosphere comes another feature that the money serving church excels at: tailoring every sermon and message to fit and please you.
Topical sermons are the trend of the times in Christian churches because they're like a well written book series. They put butts in the seats. For most people, the Bible is boring and too focused on God and Jesus.
"What about me? If the Bible was about me, I'd go to church every Sunday!"
Churches figured this out a long time ago. And once they did, church became a lot more about us than God. When did our desires become more important to our church than God's? Answer: When money did.
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These are topical sermon series from a few different churches. They sound intriguing, they make you curious, and that's exactly what they're designed to do. To hook and lure you in.
They make it all about you. As a result, the Bible is neglected in favor of topical sermons written by the pastors and churches so that the sermon will directly apply to people today. Doing this makes the selfish desires of the modern man more important than the Word of God, as well as God's truth.
Three or four Bible verses are cherry picked to support the topical sermon which focuses on you. Rather, in God serving churches, the sermon is all in the Word itself with comments and input added by the pastor along the way. This approach is not popular to the masses, and as a result these churches have less people, and less money.
8. The Worship Service Is Amazing
Tell me. When did worshiping God turn into such a popular, entertaining and lucrative endeavor?
It's not that there's anything really wrong with having good music accompany our worship to God at church, but why the fog machines? Why the light shows? Why the big performances and the expensive band equipment and the emotionalism?
Churches that turn their worship services into rock concerts are working to serve money rather than God. How? Again, by making it all about you. When worship becomes about us, more of us want to experience it.
"Whew! Worship service was amazing today! That Kelly can really SING! And they played my favorite songs too!"
What the...? I'm confused. Weren't you supposed to be worshiping God? What does worshiping God have to do with your favorite songs, and Kelly, and how well people performed some music? Where is God in all of that?
Thousands of dollars...tens of thousands of dollars. Heck, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on making worship services more enjoyable and entertaining for you and me as a part of making church a more consumer friendly experience.
And it's all aimed at one thing: money. Even if it's not, and it's just about making church more enjoyable for you, or whatever other excuse you can come up with. It's not about God.
It's not about God.
9. There Are a Lot of Groups and Activities That Cost You Money
In addition to opening businesses in the church like cafes and bookstores and so forth, in order to make more money, churches also throw events and create group activities to raise money.
Coming together for baptisms every year or a few times a year and having a BBQ is not what I'm talking about.
A Bible Study group that costs you nothing to meet with other Christians and read the Bible? No, that's all good.
A party to just come together every now and have a good time? That's not even what I mean either. Local churches love to get together and fellowship. This is not what I'm referring to.
I'm talking about charity events, building funds and other needs based crowdfunding campaigns, fundraisers, giving booths in the church lobby for special causes, and things like that.
I'm talking about a whole calendar of events centered around these kinds of things, and almost all of them cost you money in one way or another. It's what wealthy people do to get a break on their taxes. It's what churches and non-profits do to make money, and it's all under the guise of helping others and being charitable.
Don't you wonder how much money the church is making by doing these things though? I know I do.
These are just some of the signs you should look out for to make sure your church isn't serving money instead of God. Showing just one or two of the less serious signs, in my opinion, isn't that big of a deal. Churches do need money to sustain themselves, after all.
The problem is when money becomes more important than serving God. When preaching the Gospel, glorifying God and teaching the Word take a backseat to money-making endeavors that exhibit themselves through behaviors like preaching tithes, making church itself all about you rather than God and refusing to be financially transparent, there's a problem.