[Interview] Pastor Says Virtuous Cycle of Giving Is Possible in the Church

An offering box
An offering box
By Zhang MengyueNovember 30th, 2021

Editor's note: Among the pastors and believers of grassroots churches in China today, tithing seems to be a somewhat complex but very important topic. Many grassroots churches have been suffering from the lack of giving all year round, making it difficult for them to carry out their ministries. And the enthusiasm of some believers for tithing gradually fades because of “giving much but seeing no evident difference”.

But one pastor seemed to manage to strike a perfect balance. In his church, more than 90% of believers adhere to tithe, and the donations are under open supervision to better promote the development of the church. He then encourages the members to continue to bear the burden of participation in the offering, achieving a virtuous cycle of giving and making progress in ministries.

The Gospel Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, recently interviewed Pastor Li about tithing.

Gospel Times: Do you emphasize tithing in your daily ministry? What do you think about tithing in the church?

Pastor Li: The pastors of our church do not always stress too much about tithing to the believers. Instead, they imperceptibly instill the truth to the believers in their daily scripture interpretation and help them establish correct understanding.

In my opinion, whether believers are zealous in their offering depends on their correct cognition of God and the nature of their offering. If there is a misunderstanding between the two, it is easy to form a biased concept, which then affects their enthusiasm to participate in tithing. Therefore, correcting the cognitive concept of believers depends on the correct preaching based on biblical truth by the church pastor.

As for the opinion of some believers that “tithing is to donate your money to the church, which means that each time you donate your money, you will have less money”, I think this idea is the manifestation of believers’ secularization and simple understanding of tithing.

The Bible never teaches us to take. Rather, it teaches that Christians should seek spiritual, not physical, blessings from God. As for the blessings of the flesh, God has voluntarily given us, so we Christians should learn from God to actively give, and tithing is also giving. The Bible also says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Therefore, in our church, both pastors and believers have a correct understanding of tithing, so everyone’s enthusiasm to participate in tithing is also guaranteed.

Gospel Times: How do you think grassroots pastors should lead their believers to actively participate in the offering?

Pastor Li: At the beginning of leading the Saddleback Church, Pastor Rick Warren gave a vision to all the believers that he would build a church for 10,000 people, send thousands of Christians to preach the Gospel, and increase the number of believers by tens of thousands within ten years. At that time the present believers were in an uproar. They thought that it was just the priest’s wishful thinking. They laughed it off. Undaunted, however, Pastor Rick kept on delivering his vision to everyone at every meeting, once, twice, and so forth. After more than ten times of preaching, the congregation was moved by the pastor’s firm faith and fiery hope and responded to the vision of the pastor one after another, and actively engaged in the church building and missionary work. A few years later, his vision really came true, the church really built a church for ten thousand people, and the mission goal was also successfully achieved.

This shows that if the pastor of a church wants to motivate believers to actively participate in tithing, he (she) needs to convey visions to believers with strong confidence. As long as the faith is strong enough, the vision can be planted in the heart of the believer. Then the believers will contribute to the offering of the church, and finally, the vision will be realized.

Secondly, the church pastor should act as a solid backing for believers. Whether at the level of belief or reality, the pastor should actively assume responsibilities, lead and encourage believers to stick to the path of offering and dedicating.

When our church was founded, we didn’t even have a bench, so we encouraged believers to contribute to the church. Many old people could not afford to give financially, so they could only give away their old clothes. Although the clothes are not used in the church, they are a part of the believer’s heart. So, we used the old clothes and filled them with straw to make cushions. In this way, we not only supplemented the insufficiency of the church cushions, but also did not discourage the enthusiasm of believers’ dedication, and it was a good start.

With the gradual development of the church, we pastoral workers will spontaneously take the lead in the tithing. Families with good harvests can contribute food, while skilled workers can contribute tables, chairs, benches, and other homemade furniture for the church. Whatever the form or the amount of each offering, as long as it’s the wholehearted giving to God, it will be remembered by God.

In this way, led by the long-term example set by the pastoral workers, the enthusiasm of believers’ dedication has also been slowly mobilized. As time goes by, giving has become the default behavior in our church, and it has become a rare thing to fail to do offerings here.

Gospel Times: How do you think tithing can be used to help the church better?

Pastor Li: In my opinion, for the church and the pastor, preaching about tithes and offerings and leading people to tithing are just the foundation. What is more important is to make good use of their offerings, so as to form a positive double-stream channel in the church.

On the one hand, through correct preaching and leadership, believers have a correct cognition of tithing from the heart, so that they are willing to actively contribute, and the church can continue to receive tithes.

In my opinion, it is unhealthy for the church to accumulate offerings. Over the years that I have pastored the church, I have heard many stories of grassroots churches fighting over financial issues within the church, which is a sign of not getting the money flowing.

Nowadays, many grassroots churches in China regard church construction as the most important ministry within the church, and the vast majority of offerings are spent on the cost of building churches. The church construction itself is fault-free, but some churches clearly missed the focus and began to blindly compare with each other, seeking innovation and greatness. The actual cost of building churches far exceeded the actual needs of the church itself.

For example, a town church that used to hold only a few dozen people was built to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people. In spite of the improved appearance of the church, the actual congregation turned out to be the same few dozen, and the other rooms were empty. Is this not a waste of tithing? Apart from the cost of building the church, the subsequent maintenance and repair of the new church are all economic pressures that the church will face in the actual operation. Where will the money come from?

So, I think blindly pursuing the establishment of the big church is just meaningless. Rather than the pursuit of spacious tangible architecture, we should let tithing flow. The money should be spent on promoting the Gospel and saving souls, so as to inject more living water into the church, thus enhancing the sense of participation of the pastors, stimulating their activity and enthusiasm, and really helping the church grow into a healthy and dynamic whole.

In our church, for example, we spend more of our funds on promoting the Gospel, such as encouraging charity and supporting grassroots evangelists. Over the years, we have devoted a large part of our tithes to supporting rural poverty alleviation, education assistance and emergency relief in remote areas and ethnic minorities. At the same time, within the church, we regularly share our public service work with believers.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

related articles
LATEST FROM Church & Ministries