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Can Church Offerings Be Used for Financial Investment ?

Can Church Offerings Be Used for Financial Investment ?

Money Money(Pixabay)
ByMu Sheng March 10, 2018
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Since last year, the Gospel Times, a Beijing-based Christian news website, heard from local churches that many were intruded by illegal fundraising and even pastoral workers were defrauded, tempted by high-interest returns out of trust in believers. This caused some laypeople to turn away from the faith and one or two churches to split.

One of the cases was that taking the advice of a believer who engaged in illegal fundraising, a rural church leader intended to put church offerings into investment for the sake of earning more money for God. Knowing this, other church pastors prohibited the investment. Then comes a question: can church offerings be used for financial investment?

The Gospel Times interviewed pastors, church leaders, and business fellowship members to share their insights on it. 

Below are the voices of those who opposed the investment:

A pastor from Liaoning:

 "Whatever consideration is to invest, I'm strongly against any financial investment with church offerings because offerings are believers' sacrifices to God which is holy and out of their gratitude that cannot be measured by money. 

So we must manage these donations in accordance with biblical teachings and principles and spend them on ministries favored by God. Private gathering funds from public is illegal according to the law in China and mainly involves elements of fraudulent practices. As a result, the church can't use endowments for investments."

A pastor from Guangzhou:

"Investing and financing has risks. There are earnings and also proportional risks. Expertise is necessary, but no investment is absolutely safe. Failed investment not only produces loss of money, but also, most horribly, the loss of believers' faith in and pureness to churches and pastors. Complaints result in a breach in the church and give birth to disunity. 

The most urgent thing for the church to do is to preach and nurture. Its focus is still evangelism rather than discussion on money. It is a spiritual crisis that a majority of churches concentrate on spending money. The church can be poor, but can't lose heavenly power or authority. Losing the connection with the source of life, a church that has a great deal of money can't be one God intends. "

Another pastor from Jiangsu also agrees that the church is a non-profit institute in society. Individual Christians can make investments and donate money to the church, but the latter should better not join in any investment. Extra money can be used to support ministries and aid the poor. 

A pastor from Inner Mongolia:

"Offerings are the expression of believers' love to God and the church, spent on church affairs and events. A church should keep expenditures within the limits of income rather than run into debt by establishing facilities. Currently, a large percentage of churches spend tens of millions of yuan constructing grand church buildings, blocks of offices and training centers. Equipment has to be high-end and modernized. Jokingly, they lack qualified preachers. Even when there are preachers, they are poorly paid.  

Offerings can't be invested for business or more money. Although the church needs funds, it must not make money, otherwise, the purpose of planting churches is changed. The Lord Jesus sent his disciples to build churches to witness for Him and shepherd His followers.

The church ought to pay preachers enough money so that they can serve the church without financial worries. Funds for training workers and distributing them for God's work should be increased. Church incomes are used to produce spiritual wealth and values rather than to make money through investments. If it fails to put enough money into these ministries, the financial investment with the extra money that is claimed for the church's benefits actually corrupts the church. A church that accumulates much money without carrying out any ministry 'hides his masters' money' and will be toughly punished by the Lord!"

A teacher from a seminary in Jiangsu:

"This comes down to complicated matters including whether religious funds can be used for business financing and the church's capacity to properly deal with endowment. Special funds are only limited for religious undertakings. Taking the present Chinese church's situation into account, priorities are to raise payment for preachers, strengthen personnel training, do theological studies, and conduct social service. Next, consider aiding churches in less developed regions. "

A Christian from Zhejiang:

"It's hard to tell the motivation behind church financial investment.Think over these questions: Is a richer church better? Is it a better way not to have faith in God's provision? Who is responsible for the usage of donations? Do a few persons represent the will of the congregation who donate funds? Financial conditions don't determine the status quo. Earnings from an investment may be not helpful to the church."

A pastor from Beijing:

"Church donations must not be used for financial investments. The funds originally donated not for financing should support church ministries concerning staff salary, evangelism, theological education, and charities."

A pastor from Henan:

"Based on my more than three-decade-long ministry experience in the church, the usefulness of church offerings are to support the life of the Levites and to cover church work and social service expenses. 

Except for the above usage, nobody has the power to use the money. As Psalm 15 claims, 'who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent', the Bible forbids church donations be used for investment. A church whose principle is to love never lacks enough money."

A chaplain of Henan Theological Seminary: 

"Church income is public funds that are not lent out or diverted in general. Lending money to brother churches for facility construction and other ministries is allowed. Church funds are consecrated and only used for holy work. The share of the Levites are from tithes of the other eleven tribes. Imagine this: could the donations in the temple of God be used for business investment? "

Below are the viewpoints of those who agree with the practice:

A mentor from a theological seminary in southern China:

"There were examples of failure and success in my province. A local church invested a fund in a project of China's largest state-owned investment holding company but ended up with the loss of every cent invested. In fact, earlier there came the news that a Buddist monastery pulled its investment out of the project. However, the church's ignorance of the market led to the huge loss. Plus that there was no perfect accountability mechanism, the incident ended inconclusively.

With a rich property management experience, another church gained considerable wealth from an investment (in that field). This was a successful case."

A pastor from Guangdong:

"The point was not whether the church should invest, but church disciplines and the wisdom of financial investment. "

A pastor from Hong Kong:

"Of course, the church in Hong Kong puts offerings in sound investments and doesn't invest in speculations because long-term investment in bonds and funds are more profitable than fixed time deposits. Churches in North America and Europe that are wealthy and powerful support environmental enterprises by investing. In the 1970s, the  Rhenish church in Hong Kong made a risky financial investment move but suffered a setback because the opponent was an international speculator. In recent years a seminary suffered a loss after purchasing minibonds of Leman Brothers and a general secretary of church council resigned for the accountability of a fall in an investment. 

The problem is that the church lacks financial talent. Imperfect financial administration mechanism and unclear authority and accountability in church organizational structure remain big issues in mainland China."

A pastor from Guangdong:

"We can't see the issue one-sidedly. In the early stage many church institutes from overseas, Hong Kong, and Taiwan who gave donations to Chinese mainland churches engaged in financial investments including bonds and buying properties for rental income. 

The first step the churches in mainland China should do is to strengthen their institutional system. Financial investment is possible if there is a specialist among the church staff. Build a professional team and make asset risks. If the above requirements are unmet, don't invest. " 

- Translated by Karen Luo

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