Thank you very much for your web site. I find it both educative and encouraging. Can I trouble you, my beloved brother, with some questions?
- Can a faithful congregation receive aid for the needy in the congregation from a non-believer or an organization?
- Can a faithful brother solicit relief aid for a church from non-believers or an organization?
When a congregation is in an area where a disaster has occurred, such a famine, earthquake, or the like, many of its members are likely to be suffering. In the New Testament, we read of famines that affected many brethren and the response other brethren made. "Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:28-30). Why was it sent to the elders? Because these men would know better than any other who was in need within the congregations they oversee. In essence, the relief aid was sent from individual to individual with the churches aiding in the transfer.
In modern times, various organizations have taken on the task of helping the needy in times of distress. There is nothing wrong with people desiring to do good, and concern about one's fellow man should be encouraged. There is nothing wrong with a needy Christian making use of the generosity of others. Some of these organizations, however, don't have good contacts with the poor in a given region. For the same reason the early churches sent aid to through the local church, these organizations would rather deal with a local church and ask it to distribute the aid on their behalf. So long as there are no strings attached to the aid and the church solely uses the funds for the purpose the organization requested, I do not see a violation of what is taught in the Bible.
The same argument can be made with an individual who wishes to help but who is not a Christian. There is precedence. Cornelius was a Gentile but was a well-known benefactor. "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:1-2). Though he wasn't a Jew, he aided the Jews and God took note of it. Another centurion was also generous to the Jews. "And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 'for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue'" (Luke 7:2-5). We don't see generosity being condemned just because the source was not a member of the local group.
Your second question changes from one where outsiders voluntarily offer aid to a member of the church specifically seeking out aid. It also changes the target of who benefits from individuals to the church. The church has only one way to raise funds for its operations -- from the voluntary offerings of its members (I Corinthians 16:1-2). Because of this, churches or its members should not be seeking out other means for a church to finance its obligations.