The Money in the Church
Who has control over monies coming into the church?
Thank you for the question. However, I have to admit that this is a difficult question from a "thus saith the Lord" vantage point. I know of no absolute statements on the control of money in the church in scripture. Much of the structure of our churches has been established by man. The Bible gives certain guidelines and then leaves many of the details of church organization to us. However, as in all things, the scripture has some precepts that should guide our decisions. That is where we will look.
Paul sent Titus to the churches of Crete to "set in order the things that are wanting" (Titus 1:5). Of the order of worship and the work of the ministry, Paul would have "all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40). This shows me that a church should have an established procedure for the control of monies in the church. The controls do not belong to whoever shows up first, has the most muscle, or bluffs his or her way through.
The church is a group of baptized believers who have joined together for the purpose of accomplishing the work of God on this earth. Traditionally, the church has been looked on as a covenanted body of people. That is, they have joined together in agreement and those who join them later are coming in agreement with earlier policies. Therefore, they should have established policies and procedures for the handling of monies. These procedures may differ from church to church since the Bible does not spell these things out in detail. But there is no excuse for no established procedures. That is not decent or in order.
The church is set up by God to have leaders. They are said to "rule" the church. Of the bishop or pastor, Paul said, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5). Hebrews 13:7 speaks of "them which have the rule over you." (Notice that this verse speaks of the rulers in the plural.) Peter commands the elders to "feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof" (1 Peter 5:2).
These verses teach that the leadership of the church has rule over the church. My father in the ministry, Luther Adkins, used to tell me that whoever controls the money in an organization controls the organization. Now, I am not advocating absolute, unchallenged control of the money by the pastor and other leaders without any safeguards. However, there is certainly nothing in the Bible that teaches any form of democracy in church spending. I have heard too many stories of the messes caused by everyone voting on practically every item. If the leadership is dishonest or foolish, it can mean much pain for the church. But churches that are run by vote are brought down to the vision of the average member. In most churches, that is dangerous as well. There must be a balance and this leads to the next two precepts.
I partially quoted 1Peter 5:2 above. Here are verses 2 and 3 in entirety: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." The pastor cannot oversee the church "for filthy lucre." That is, he must not do his work in any way for personal gain. Neither are the church leaders to act as "lords over God's heritage." They are not to enjoy bossing people around for the joy of being in charge. They are not to get a kick out of calling the shots. Their desire is the good of the people.
This is similar to the relationship of the husband and the wife. It is true that the husband can make final decisions in the household and the wife is commanded to submit. However, the godly husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church. Therefore, he should put her first in all his decisions. So, although he is given the authority to make the decision, it is not to be made for his own benefit, but for the primary benefit of his wife and family.
The pastor is in a similar situation. He is given much authority in the leadership of the church. However, he is never to be led by his own ambitions or needs. The needs of the church should always be first. That is why one of the qualification of a pastor is that he be "not greedy of filthy lucre" (1Timothy 3:3) and "not given to filthy lucre" (Titus 1:7). If he has any serious problems with money, he should never be put in as pastor of a church.
2 Corinthians, chapters eight and nine, deals with an offering being taken up for the needs of the believers in other parts. Right in the midst of these instructions about money, Paul states, "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Corinthians 8:21). Here, Paul emphasizes the importance of dealing with church money in a way that is appears honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. The handling of monies must be open and aboveboard. There must be accountability for the funds. If this is not done, it will result in distrust and anger--even if nothing specifically wrong has been done. We need honest accountability in our churches.
If the precepts defined above are followed, there can still be variations from one church to another. Some churches give greater control to the pastor and leadership; some balance the control with frequent votes on expenditures. The Bible does not give answers to all of these questions. Remember, the church covenants together. These things should be settled before the questions arise. At least, I hope it helps to see some of the biblical precepts involved.