We view Covenant Membership as a commitment between Christians to care for one another, do life together, and unite under a particular church leadership. In our Covenant Membership course, we spend one whole session considering 8 expectations that we have for our members. This is part one in an eight part series that will look at each of these expectations individually. Click here for more information on what we believe about Covenant Membership.
I will generously give of my income to the cause of the Kingdom, and will prioritize Restore as my local church body.
Jesus teaching radically transformed the way that people saw the religious teachings that they had grown up with. Several times in the Gospel accounts of his life, he would say something to the effect of, hat you thought was one way, I'm telling you is actually another way. More often than not, what he meant was that the laws and the rules given to the Israelite people were really just supposed to function as an indicator of something deeper or greater. So murder was off limits, but not because killing people was the problem. The real problem was that you hated your brother to begin with. You could avoid the symptom (murder), but still suffer from the fundamental defect: hate.
We believe that one of the radically transformative teachings of Jesus, and the New Testament as a whole, relates to the area of financial giving. In the Old Testament, certain percentages were mandated for the Israelites that they had to give of their income. In the New Testament, we see that the law really pointed towards a greater reality: giving was good, but generosity was the real issue. The giving that was mandated to Israel was really just a guide that served to expose their true heart. Some people felt guilty, some people felt self-righteous; some people did their duty gladly, others did it with begrudging submission. You could hit the percentage-giving-mark, and not have a generous heart; the opposite was also true: there were no doubt generous people who simply didn't have much to give.
The New Testament teaching is not that there is a strict percentage that ought to be used to gauge financial giving, but actually reveals what was true all along. Everything we have is to be given back to God. Everything we have, all of our financial resources, have been given to us by God for the good of his kingdom. This is what we mean when we talk about "stewardship"; a steward is someone who serves his master by taking care of his business while he is away. In our case, we take care of the Master's resources to conduct the Master's business while he is away.
Practically speaking, if a person is a believer, then there should be an increase in the generosity of their hearts that will work itself out tangibly through greater financial giving. It won't happen all at once, and in many cases, our generosity and financial giving is the last stronghold that the Gospel begins to untangle! We believe, though, that radical generosity was a distinguishing mark of the early church as they grew to understand the implications of the good news of Jesus on the entirety of their lives.
Covenant Members not only agree to be generous with their finances, but they also agree to prioritize the local church. Our belief is not that Restore, per se, should come first in our giving practice, but that the local church where we have committed should come first. There are hundreds and thousands of organizations that are doing incredible work that could use our money, and don't hesitate to ask. We want our members to be generous to them, too! But at the end of the day, it is the local church that is the hope of the world, and if the church is not healthy, whether spiritually or financially, then it cannot survive; if the local church doesn't survive, neither will most of those other organizations.
We have been blessed as individuals and as a corporate body because of the grace of Jesus Christ. When we pour out blessing on others through financial giving, that grace is clearly seen!