A simple once-a-week action that will make this year a successful year.
The Bible instructs every one of us to be a fully functioning member of a local church, and to build up the Body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:12-16). This is not an optional command for some elite Christians. Rather, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith.. the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
So what does this building up the body of Christ by each individual part look like?
In my opinion, this true story best illustrates the non-negotiable ministry of every Christian: Mark 12:41-44 – 41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins (mites), which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
The Lord brought this story afresh to me as I attended a recent men’s meeting at RLCF. So I wanted to share a few things from this story as it relates to building the local church.
1. Building The Body of Christ = A Heart of Giving (Not Getting)
Building the body of Christ means a heart of giving.
Take a moment to think about the intent and purpose you had when attending recent church meetings. Fundamentally, was your heart desiring to give, or to get?
For many, many years, I attended church just to get. I wanted to get a word from the Lord, I wanted to hear something to pick me up, and so on. To be clear, there is nothing wrong in coming to the Lord and His church and seeking help. In fact, this is a necessary trait.
But our purpose in the Body of Christ is not to get and keep getting. And we cannot build up the body of Christ by getting, but only by giving. This is something that we all probably need to repeatedly remind ourselves of. I must make it a practice to remind myself as I join every single local church meeting, that the Lord wants me to bring something to give to others.
I missed this immense truth from Ephesians 4:11-16 for many years. And I don’t know if most Christians know (let alone seek to live out) that the whole body of Christ grows according to the proper working of each individual part. But we who now know this must seek to live it out too.
2. The church is not built up by money
What then should we give most of all to the New Covenant church? Is it money? No!
In the story, the woman gave money. But she lived in the Old Covenant, where giving money (known as the “tithe”) was required. Jesus lived in the intersection of the Old and New Covenant – at a time when the Old Covenant was still being observed, even as He was establishing the New Covenant first through His own life, and then for all of us through His blood and the Holy Spirit coming to live with us.
Tithing has now been completely dismantled in the New Covenant Church. Sadly, most Christians are ignorant of this. Most Christians still genuinely believe that giving at least 10% of their income is the primary giving that Christians must do. And most Christians believe that (and even many Christian leaders behave as if) what churches need most to survive is money.
What a tragedy. This is a clear sign that an earthly (money-driven) mindset has infiltrated the church. That is also the reason why the church at large today is deeply lacking in Divine power. And the fault for this lies primarily with us shepherds and teachers who have not studied and understood and explained God’s New Covenant clearly.
Also, we see that the poor widow gave two mites, which amount to just one cent - and yet, Jesus proclaimed that she gave MORE than all the others combined. Take a moment to let the meaning of this sink in, as this is so contrary to what we see in Christendom today. To me, this is a CRYSTAL-CLEAR statement from Jesus that the quantity of money is unimportant to Jesus in His Kingdom. And everything I read about the New Covenant backs this up.
(See the additional note at the end about New Covenant Giving)
3. The church is built up by courage
So what builds up the church of Jesus Christ, and what can every single member give?
It is not money. Rather, it is the spirit of COURAGE. Christ’s body is in dire need of those who can sustain and supply it with courage.
That is what an encourager is (1 Corinthians 14:3) – one who gives courage to others. And a truly Spirit-filled church is one that is filled with the Spirit of courage (2 Timothy 1:7; the opposite of cowardice is courage).
Many churches focus on Biblical teaching. And many sincere Christians also look most for a church that has solid teaching. To be sure, every local church needs Spirit-guided Bible teaching to be protected from false doctrines. But solid teaching is not what causes the church to grow. The local church grows from the proper working of each individual part. And so, the local church is sustained and grows and thrives only where there is ongoing mutual encouragement.
The true strength of any local church is the number of consistent courage-givers that the church has, not the amount of financial giving or number of attendees or so on.
4. Just give 2 mites of courage
I also love that in this story, the poor widow gave 2 mites. I love it because at NCCF, we have local mid-week church meetings where anyone who is part of the NCCF church family can take 2 minutes to encourage others. That is, 2 minutes to give others courage to keep enduring in the faith. We need our eyes to be opened to the reality that these 2 minutes can be as invaluable as the 2 mites the poor widow gave.
Can you imagine if in our mid-week meetings of our local church, every single member in the NCCF church family brought just 2 minutes of courage with them. I believe such mid-week meetings would be as richly Spirit-filled (in authority and essence) as the Day of Pentecost (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
We can very easily give into the thinking that 2 minutes of courage-giving is meaningless to the Lord. I’m sure the devil also tried to convince the poor widow that her two mites were meaningless to the Lord. But I’m glad she resisted that thought and is now an example to us. And not only is such thinking wrong, we must increasingly view it as heresy!
May God’s truth trump over every bit of our human logic wisdom (Romans 3:4). We must be ruthless to tear down the lies of our feelings (2 Corinthians 10:5) by boldly opening our mouths to give courage to others. This is building God’s Body in the way HE has prescribed it. No matter what value we think or feel about it, God values it immensely. Jesus called His disciples specifically to point out the poor widow’s courageous statement in bringing her 2 mites to God.
5. Give to God from out of my poverty
Jesus also says that this poor widow for gave "out of her poverty.”
I do not know what this poor widow’s life must have been like (I’ve never been in any situation close to that; I’m sure it was an incredibly difficult time for her). But I do know what it feels like to come to the church meeting in total poverty. I have so often come to the church meeting feeling empty, with nothing really to give to others in the local church.
What can I give when I am feeling that way?
Two words (like two mites) if spoken sincerely and genuinely to God is enough: “Thank you!”
Think of the poor Samaritan leper who had just been healed of his leprosy in Luke 17:11-19. He alone (out of 10) came back to say thank you. Jesus had told all 10 lepers to show themselves to the priests. When these lepers got healed, all they needed now was the priest’s certificate to see their loved ones once again and to get on with the rest of their lives. So even though they were healed, their lives were still stuck until they got the signoff from the priests. The rest of their lives were wide-open once again as soon as the priests certified their healing.
But for this one Samaritan leper, his heart of gratitude trumped all of his dreams and hopes and plans for the future. He was willing to remain “stuck” for a while longer. He set aside ALL of his thoughts and dreams and immense feelings about his loved ones and his future, to first go to Jesus and say, “Thank you!”
This is what we too can do in the local church meeting, even in our poverty and when we’re feeling stuck. We must set aside all of our track records (good or bad), as well as all of our cares and worries and dreams of this world. And we must remind ourselves of what the Lord has done for us already.
The devil will be eager to remind us of all the things that we have NOT done for the Lord. But let us not fear – this just makes us poor. Let us nonetheless come to Jesus and at least give Him our two mites of “Thank you,” out of our poverty. God blesses any giving that comes out of a place of need. Christ’s strength is activated when we bring our weakness to Him. Not all weak people get supernatural strength. But any weak person who comes to Christ, will surely get His supernatural strength.
So especially in times of great spiritual poverty, we must set aside and turn away from all our track records, and look at the track record of Jesus Christ and His love for us. We must renew and refresh (make fresh) our minds to the truths of thew immense love and sacrifice of Jesus for us when we were His enemies (Romans 5:8-10).
The words “Thank you!” have no power in and of itself. But if we are willing to recognize the SIMPLE REALITY of who God is, who we were (and still are), and what God has already done for us as demonstrated on Calvary, then this heart expressed with our lips WILL result in our salvation. The act of the Samaritan leper coming back and saying thank you is what brought him salvation (Luke 17:19), and it is what will also surely bring salvation to us as well (Romans 10:10).
6. Give from what I have to live on
Jesus said that she gave out of what she had to live on.
God doesn’t want me to encourage others with theories. He wants me to give that which I have to live on. So many Christians give massive amounts to God, but it is out of their surplus – out of their own human intelligence and creativity, and seeking to impress others. And the whole world might be impressed by this, but Jesus isn’t.
Jesus looks favorably at those who give from what has proved essential to their lives - what they have to live on. Life-strengthening words, even if spoken through stammers and tears and broken sentences, will transmit Divine courage to others. Meanwhile, rah-rah speeches, emotional pleas, and fanciful presentations will not give others Divine courage. So let us choose to bring what we “live on” – the life that we draw from Christ.
And here are two distinctives about the life of Christ that I draw from Him:
a. It is ordinary, but it nourishes:
Jesus reminded the devil (and us) that we must live on God’s Words. He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 – He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
The manna that fed the Israelites every day for 40 years tasted the same – every single day. It didn’t come in various flavors (e.g. vanilla-flavored or chocolate-flavored manna). It was the same size and texture and taste every day for 40 years. But it was fresh every day, and that’s what mattered!
So also, God’s truth doesn’t have to be anything that appeals to my senses (that could be the dangerous fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil). But God’s truth must nourish and sustain my spiritual life with God.
b. It may be old but it is ever-fresh (never stale):
The life of Christ that I draw is not novel "new" ideas about Christ, but the ETERNAL truths about the good news of Jesus but which are fresh.
How can these "same old" truths remain fresh? The same way in which the manna in the Old Testament remained fresh. If the Israelites saved up manna for more than a day, it became stale. But that exact same manna that was in the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle, remained fresh.
So also, God’s truths can remain fresh as I take them again and again into God’s presence and ask Him to bless it afresh. This is the only way for me to remain fresh and life-giving. Going to God with His truths and asking Him for freshness is absolutely essential transform the "same old" truths to "eternal" truths that will never fade away (John 5:39-40; Matthew 24:35).
A new year has just begun. So we can begin now. If we do this once a week in a local church meeting (approximately 50 weeks), this year will be a year of rich anointing over our lives.
Wouldn’t we have loved to be there on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first came to live within 120 saints. I pray that the Lord will open our eyes to see that this very same visitation of authority and power is available to us now, and in every single church meeting.
FOOTNOTE: Additional Note About New Covenant Giving:
We have felt that “the last thing that God wants folks to give to NCCF is money.” We do not say that God does not want our money at all, or that giving money to the church is bad. Not at all. But we personally feel that people should know that money is LAST in our priority at NCCF. In every single thing in this world, money is the first and top priority. But not in God’s church. God wants our lives and surrendered wills most of all (Romans 12:2). Then, as we seek to give every part of our lives (ambitions, plans, dreams, actions, etc), He will surely also direct us in how to use our money – primarily to care for those whom God has given us responsibility for and to help the poor around us (John 13:29). And each one obeys and gives to God here as He uniquely guides them.
Now if people use this guidance to keep the giant of “love of money” within themselves alive, they will only have themselves to blame. The New Covenant is clear about the deadly evil of the love of money (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19).