For Chapter 1 and 2:
Is Your Name Tithes?
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36
After that initial summer in Brooklyn, it was no surprise that first chance I got, I went back. Highschool was done and the opportunity to move to NY came up and off I went. I couldn’t be happier. Now I had a challenge. Where would I attend church services? My little “first church” as I will call it was still there. I would be welcomed back with open arms and familiar faces, but I knew I was hungry for more.
To be honest, I don’t exactly remember how I ended up at the church I finally decided upon. The church (we will call it the Brooklyn Church) happened to be the next block over from my apartment. They had two services, one early morning and one that was more late morning/early afternoon. The church wasn’t big but it wasn’t small. It was Spirit filled and the Pastor brought a “meaty” word every Sunday. I would eat the word as fast as he served it. He was more of a teacher than a preacher and I was in awe at how he navigated through scripture and delivered it. I never wanted services to end. There is something to be said about a service when even after it is over, you want to go home and re-digest all of the notes from that morning. I looked forward to those Sundays.
I received my very first prophetic word in that church. It was from a guest speaker and supposedly because of who he was that was a big deal, but I had no idea (couldn’t even tell you what his name was). I don’t even know if I truly understood what was taking place other than this guest minister was speaking to me about my life. But, my God, looking back now and having a better understanding and remembering the part of the word that I do…amazing!
There were so many great aspects of that Brooklyn Church. I learned so much during my time there. I cannot emphasize enough the deep teaching I received. There was one thing missing. Relationship. I lived by myself and was/am very independent so I went to church by myself. I tried filling out one of those visitor forms to connect to a small group, but for whatever reason, I never received any response. Nonetheless, I maintained a steady attendance hoping that at some point relationships would be made. I was however developing a different kind of relationship with someone I had met outside of the church.
I had entered into a dating relationship with someone whose parents were Pastors of a church and I began visiting their services (I will speak more in-depth of this in the next chapter). Because of this, attendance at my Brooklyn church lessened. I honestly didn’t think anyone would notice that I wasn’t around because after all, who had I really connected with? I was wrong. They did notice.
I came home one day to check my mailbox and to my surprise, I found a letter addressed to me from my Brooklyn Church. Maybe they did notice me after all! The letter started with just that, “We notice you haven’t been around as much…”. I was so excited. Not only had they noticed my absence, but they took time to write me a letter…wow! As I kept reading, I was about to say wow again. A few short sentences later, this is what I read (as best I remember) …
We know the summer time can mean traveling and time away, but please don’t forget to send in your tithes.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I didn’t get a response to my desire to join a small group, but I did get a response, not because I was missed, but because my tithes were missed. Wow! I just shook my head. I almost had to question if the letter was for real. I wasn’t angry, but I was disappointed and disheartened.
For some, this letter could have been a turning point in their walk with the Lord. That turning point could have very well led them right out of the church, any church, to never walk back in again. This letter could have been the flag in the ground for the place where bitterness would set in and grow root. This letter could have been the very thing that would undo every aspect of Christ learned up until that point. This letter could have caused destruction. Now that I think about it, I have to wonder how many other people received a letter just like mine. How did they react? How would you react?
Would you have thrown away everything that you learned and caused you to grow, up until that point? Would you have questioned God or even what it meant to serve Him? If you were my friend or a friend of yours received that same letter, would you be the one scoffing every time someone mentioned the name of that church or Pastor because of that letter? Would that letter be the thing that defined your opinion of that church regardless of the good and solid teaching that came out of it?
How did I respond? I could have easily gone down any of the above-mentioned paths and for all intent and purposes, would have been justified in my sentiments. I didn’t. Here is why. What if my initial contact card got lost before someone could reach out to me? I don’t know if that happened. I do know that I never pursued it. It may have appeared no one reached out to me or tried to even connect with me in services, but was that really the case? What I know for sure is that I only showed up on Sundays and I dipped out just as fast as I dipped in. I had not made any effort on my part to cultivate any relationship in my Brooklyn church.
How about the teaching? How could I still take from all the teaching I received during my time there and not throw it out the window after receiving this letter? One, I knew the teaching was biblically sound. Second, I was focused on Jesus the teacher not man the teacher. That Pastor taught Jesus and that is where my focus was. Jesus is perfect, man is not. So long as Jesus decides to do His work through earthly vessels, there will be some level of imperfection in any minister, church, fellowship, etc. If a man or woman of God or a church you attend can help you get your life and your family’s life together, but they do something that rubs you the wrong way or make a mistake (emphasis on mistake, not talking intentional), do you then completely disregard the validity of what God did through them? Maybe the problem is not the church or the overseer, maybe it’s our focus and where we position them. Are we placing the Pastor or leader of the church equal to where we esteem God? Are we giving our tithes to man or returning them to God? If we replaced the word tithe with obedience, would we look at it the same way? Are we more obedient to man than we are to God?