The concept of benefactors in the church is kind of hard for us to grasp in America. We often have benefactors for non-profits or political campaigns, and the relationship usually consists of wooing the benefactor until they can give a large sum of money toward the cause.
But in the New Testament, things are quite different.
Paul’s team listed in all of the New Testament comprised of approximately 38 names. 1/3 of those people were ministers like himself, 1/3 of those people were women co-workers, and 1/3 were benefactors.
We see Lydia (Acts 16:13-15, 40), Jason (Acts 17:5-9), and Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2) as the most clear examples in the New Testament of benefactors. They provided finances for Paul and his team, and were hospital when the team was staying in their area. Lydia, Jason, and Phoebe were influential people in their cities and used their money, homes, and influence to help the team. There are also other examples of benefactors throughout the New Testament.
But how do we apply this today? Their culture was very different from ours. While we can’t always just say that we’re going to do things exactly how they did in the first century, we do always want to find what we call a 21st century equivalent.
The following is a list which is an outline of what benefactors need to do today to be that 21st century equivalent. As entrepreneurs and professionals today, we need to understand what we can do to benefit the church so that it displays “the manifold wisdom of God“.
Using Your Spiritual Gifts
Giving and leadership are legitimate spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8.
Some people are just wired to be able to create wealth and lead others. As a benefactor, you need to view your assets as spiritual gifts which should be used to edify the church. If you don’t, you’ll miss the opportunity to serve the church, and build up your rewards in heaven.
This is a very different mindset – if you view your skills in business as separate from what the church is doing, you will keep the benefits to yourself and to your company. But if you view them as a vital part of the success of the establishment and expansion of the church, then you will participate as a key leader.Some people are just wired to be able to create #wealth and #lead others. Click To Tweet
Becoming Well Established in the Faith
A major problem with people who would otherwise be benefactors is that they view themselves as second-class Christians. They believe that they are not really as spiritual as people who become pastors or elders.
But this could not be further from the truth.
Benefactors play a vital role, and as they have much influence and responsibility, they must understand their faith. They must be established in the first principles of Christ, and then move on to maturity.
They are leaders in the church whether they like it or not, and they cannot ignore their responsibility to handle the Scriptures well. With the resources at their fingertips, ignoring the call to a solid faith can cause them to waste their lives, and harm the church.Benefactors have much influence and responsibility, they must understand their #faith. Click To Tweet
Giving Toward Expansion
The churches should be raising money to fund the inner-workings of establishing believers in the faith. This should be done through collections and the encouragement of everyone to be generous.
But this is different from the focus of benefactors.
Think about it in terms of business (even though the church is structured as a family, not a business, so this analogy will not be perfect):
Those who work under the CEO – management teams and employees – they focus on the development of the business itself and creating a solid product or service, and it funds itself through sales. But the executive team, the CEO, and the board of directors all focus on expanding the business and generating a larger profit through investors, and outside means of revenue.
Likewise, those under Paul-like leaders – elders, deacons, church members – they work to establish the church in the faith and making individual connections to share Christ, and they fund themselves in this work.
But the Paul-like leader and his team all work on the 1000-foot view – planting churches, moving into strategic cities, expanding into new areas, changing people groups instead of being able to focus on individuals. They also gain their funding through outside means.
So the benefactor should give directly to the Pauline Team which is focused on expansion. Do this in 2 ways:
- Helping to fund the network of Pauline leaders in your city, so that they can expand the church.
- Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) investing is still considered progressive in many ways, but it is a major way benefactors can help the global church – Helping fund Paul-like leaders who are also self-enterprising entrepreneurs in places like India and China, and the rest of the Global South.
Check out this brochure from BILD, International, to see how you can participate in this second way.
Being Part of a Team
Another major shift in thinking needs to happen in terms of how the benefactor is related to the church.
They are not just rich people who should be bled of their bloated bank accounts. They are vital leaders who have spiritual gifts and expertise to offer –
They are part of the team.
They should strategize together, implement plans together, do the work of the church together. But they are as important as Paul-like leaders, even if their role is different.
This does not necessarily mean that benefactors will always have major decision-making power on a Pauline Team, but their advice and influence must, at the very least, be considered in all decisions. They didn’t get to where they are now by being idiots, after all.
Impacting the City
When a benefactor understands and embraces his/her role, it becomes a beautiful thing for the church.
Resources become available, and opportunities for expansion present themselves in ways that were simply not possible before. You get a robust team of strong men and women of God who can impact the cities, nations, and the world in powerful ways.
Check out this encyclical for further reading on the subject of benefactors and funding the expansion of the church.