Is it possible to have a debt-free church?
Church—a safe and stable congregation in Roswell, Georgia, a bustling suburb of
Atlanta—would say yes.
At least they would today.
But there was a time when their answer might have been quite different.
When God speaks to us, there is a healthy amount of initial disbelief and double-checking.
But the message was clear and unwavering: “SELL EVERYTHING.”
In February of this year they did just that, and they became one of the few debt-free churches in the country.
When churches catch the vision of becoming debt-free, they develop some key characteristics.
A debt-free church: Trusts God completely and saves money consistently.
churches take a “use it or lose it” approach to their cash flow, but debt-free
churches have a spending plan in place that involves saving for future
Having cash saved up is vital for the church to survive and prosper.
Recognises God’s ownership.
recognise that God owns it all, it impacts the decisions we make with money.
Debt-free churches work to manage all of the resources God has entrusted to them in a way that honours Him.
Embraces its God-given mission.
Ministry takes money! Churches on the debt-free path are freer to fund the vision and mission God has given them because they aren’t shackled to debt-payments.
Commits to lifelong generosity.
Debt-free people and debt-free churches are more generous—because they are free to be!
OUR ATTITUDE TO DEBT.
All of our giving in the New Testament is… “Voluntary.”
You are free to give or not to give. Your money is yours to do with as you please.
The book of Acts has a great story regarding this topic.
Now a man
named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of
With his wife’s full knowledge,
he kept back part of the money for himself,
but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
This couple were making a big mistake.
No-one forced them to sell their property and they do not seem to have been pressured into doing what they were doing.
But they were acting as if they “HAD” to give this money.
It seemed like a rule was in place.
Maybe they had to at least tithe on the money they received.
Let us see what Peter says about their financial obligation to the church.
Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?
And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?
Peter points out to the husband that the money was theirs before they sold the property and it was still their money after the sale.
This couple did not realise the rules had changed.
They were unaware their giving was voluntary.
I try and
imagine how this way of thinking could influence the way I would run a church.
It depends on if you were starting a church or taking over an established congregation.
“If I was taking over an established church?”
I do not know if I would be brave enough to start telling everyone they were free to give or not to give.
established church would have financial obligations that have to be met.
The church board may have made commitments to purchase a property or given wage rises to the staff.
These are not gifts, they are obligations.
How could I
as the minister go in and release the people from any impression,
that they “have to give?”
If I told
them that their giving was voluntary, they might stop giving at their present
The income of the church may decline and I may not be paid.
It would be a lot safer if I said nothing.
But what about a new church!
“I could preach this message in the first morning service.”
I could tell everyone that ours would be a debt-free church.
And the theme of the church would be…. to get everyone in the church out of debt.
We could create an atmosphere in which no-one would feel any pressure to give.
I would tell the board not to take out any loans.
And to buy things…only when we had the money.
The church could lead by example.
The people in the congregation would see how it is done.
They would be inspired by what they saw and their faith would get a boost.
I would call it the “Debt-Free Church.”
Then I would turn the emphasis onto evangelism.
We would have such an advantage.
The media are always accusing the church of,
” Only wanting people’s money.”
Our congregation would be able to say that our church never asks for money and never talks about money.
So, everyone could invite their friends and workmates knowing the minister would not get up and talk about money.
If it needed
to be mentioned, that could happen at a mid-week meeting.
Then people could choose whether they wanted to go.
Sundays would become celebrations of our salvation, instead of celebrating a financial target being met.
We would shift the emphasis from money onto something far more important.