The following article is longer than most, but it contains something that needs to be said.
Last week I was reminded that earlier this summer some of the largest and more prosperous mega-churches in the country received anywhere from $5 to $10 million from the Federal Government's Payment Protection Program. I also know of two churches - and am friends with the pastors - who received a little less than $100,000 from this program. I won't mention their names, as my aim is not to criticize them or to accuse them of sin. My aim is to explain why Midvalley Bible Church and I as your pastor along with our leaders chose not to avail ourselves of this government assistance. In fact, it never came up for discussion or consideration!
First, in the short epistle known as 3 John the author gives instructions on how the church should respond to Christian evangelists/missionaries, even those who are "strangers" (v. 5). He exhorts the church "to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God" (3 John 6). All commentators agree that this entails, at minimum, providing them with the financial support necessary to sustain their mission. The reason for this is because "they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth" (vv. 7-8).
John says clearly those who labored for the gospel refused to take monetary support from unbelievers (the "Gentiles"). John says the work of ministry is to be sustained and financed by believers. Indeed, he says we "ought to support people like these" and thereby become "fellow workers for the truth" of the gospel. The apostle Paul speaks of the Philippians' financial support of his ministry as their entering into "partnership" with him "in giving and receiving" (Phil. 4:15).
Does this apply to local churches taking money from the federal government to support its employees and ministries? I believe it does. It is our responsibility as believers to support other believers. We are the ones who are 'fellow-workers' with them for the truth of the gospel. Not unbelievers. The idea of asking unbelievers for money to support God's work is offensive and unbiblical! Additionally, Paul spoke often of how he would accept financial support from local churches that he had planted, once he left their presence. While with them he wouldn't take anything, choosing instead to work so as not to be a burden to those to whom he was presently ministering. Why didn't he go to the non-Christian community with a request for support? He never did, and never encouraged others to do so. He always trusted in God's provision through the churches that he planted.
Second, everywhere in the NT sacrificial giving in support of gospel ministry is portrayed as an act of worship. Paul described the financial support he received from the Philippians believers as "a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (Phil 4:18). Paul portrays sacrificial, generous giving of Christians as an expression of "grace" (2 Cor 8:4-7). The motivation for the kind of financial generosity that pleases God is the reality of the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who, though rich, yet for our sakes became poor" (2 Cor. 8:9). Financial support of believers in their time of need and for the sake of their ministry is always portrayed as something undertaken by other believers who have been richly blessed by the Father of the Son for our salvation.
If we at Midvalley were ever to find ourselves in financial need, it is the responsibility of our members to sacrifice so that the ministry of the local church can continue. It is not the responsibility of the "Gentiles" (unbelievers) or a governmental entity.
Can God be trusted to supply all our needs? Yes! If I may be allowed to expand on a famous statement, "God's work done in God's way for God's glory will never lack for God's supply" (2 Cor 9:8-15).
Third, one of the primary reasons for applying for and receiving this money is to cover salaries. The simple, inescapable and glorious fact is that Midvalley does not need the money. By God's grace throughout the pandemic and economic crisis, giving has continued strong and vibrant. We are not a wealthy mega-church. But there was simply no way that I or any other Elder in our church could sign a loan application which would require that we say, in good conscience, "Yes, we at Midvalley Bible Church 'need' the money." That simply isn't true. By God's grace and the marvelous generosity of his people, we don't need it.
I would much prefer to dissolve the church and find another job than to look to a secular, godless government to pay my salary.
Fourth, while the government has made clear that application for this loan will not impact our freedom to worship and conduct ministry according to Scripture, I don't believe them! Given the direction our nation is going, we may be required to violate our biblical and moral convictions concerning who we hire, as well as our stance on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, adultery and other related matters.
I am thankful for our government. It has been instituted by God for our good, to provide a social order in which we may freely worship in accordance with Scripture. But I don't trust our government (or any other government on earth). And I refuse to be beholden to any government for having accepted the offer of financial assistance in a time of crisis.
I am also very grateful for the PPP which is helping small businesses that are in need of help. Government has shut businesses down and they are hurting greatly and need all the help they can get!
With all that being said, I want to "thank you" for your faithful giving to MBC which makes a PPP loan not at all appealing!