Is fund-raising appropriate for a church?
There is no single answer to this question because of the different ways churches approach fund-raising. Some don't do fund-raising at all, but quietly collect offerings to pay the bills; others embark on huge "firstfruits" campaigns to raise millions. The Bible does give examples of church fund-raising, but they are always for a specific need.
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Fund-Raising in the Bible
Donations for the Tabernacle: In Exodus 25, God begins His detailed commission for the Tabernacle where the priests will perform sacrifices and the Ark of the Covenant will be held. In Exodus 25:2-7, He tells Moses:
Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats' hair, tanned rams' skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
The Israelites left Egypt with extensive treasures (Exodus 12:35-36); God expected them to use some of those treasures to worship He Who saved them from slavery. But while the people gave generously, it was understood that the priests were asking for the purpose of building the Tabernacle; not for the priests, themselves.
Donations for the Temple: David gathered much of the materials his son Solomon would use to build the more permanent temple (1 Chronicles 29:1-5), but 1 Chronicles 29:6-8 explain that he had help:
Then the leaders of fathers' houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king's work. They gave for the service of the house of God 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron. And whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the LORD, in the care of Jehiel the Gershonite.
When the Israelites were settled and the Tabernacle became insufficient for worship, Solomon built the Temple. In a similar way, churches around the world are raising money for their building fund.
Donations for the Poor: The church did embark in fundraisers in the New Testament—but as far as specific campaigns, the only one mentioned was for the poor and persecuted of other churches, specifically Jerusalem. Paul explained the procedure in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4:
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
Although Paul is adamant that those who work in the church should be paid by the regular offerings of church members (1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:14), the New Testament gives no example of mass fund-raising other than to support other needy Christians.
Fund-Raising by the Church Today
Using the examples from the Bible, it's reasonable to deduce that a church may participate in fund-raising, but only for certain causes. In the Old Testament, it was for a facility that God ordained—not a huge, decadent monstrosity that speaks more of pride and worldly stature than worshiping God. In the New Testament, the church raised money for others in need—not for ministers who already lived in mansions. If a church needs to pay down a debt, expand the facilities, or cover someone's medical expenses, that's great.
Most disturbing today are churches that pressure their members to give "seed money" or "firstfruits" for the sole purpose of raising money. There must be a biblical purpose for the money. If a church wishes to use offerings as a way of building the members' faith, it would be better to identify a church or para-church organization in need to raise the money for.
Finally, when fund-raising, leadership should not force, coerce, guilt, or badger members about giving. The needs should be clearly expressed, and the donations given freely. About the supplies David collected for the Temple, 1 Chronicles 29:9 says, "Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly."
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