why the megachurch is criticized

Why The Megachurch is Criticized

The Risk of Disengagement

Despite these efforts, the megachurch has been constantly criticized for the sheer number of attendees per service would mean that there will be people who won’t get engaged or given enough attention.

Additionally, the setup of the worship service with a high stage and a large number of congregants can give off the impression of a concert.

Consequently, the attendees are mere spectators and faces in a crowd. Thousands more choose to attend for the thousands of people who choose to commit to the megachurch and get involved. They do so simply because they get to live in some anonymity. They cannot do that if they join a smaller church.

A large number of attendees attend each service. Therefore, some locations can host more than 5,000 people at a time. The multiple services run each weekend.

The majority of the people are scrambling out of the venue even before the service has ended. There isn’t really time to talk with friends afterward, nor can people loiter inside the hall because everyone has to be cleared out, and the room must be re-done completely within 15 minutes.

 Some consider megachurches’ worship time as mere experiential performances. Similar to rock concerts, the music team leads worship with fog machines and synchronized lights.

We are guilty of pointing a lot of fingers in the way of megachurches for their strict programs. The traditional churches would claim that these megachurches leave no room for the Holy Spirit.

Moreover,  they would accuse the megachurch of the “specularization” of something that is supposed to be sacred.

Is it too personality-driven?

A harsher criticism is that megachurches follow a largely questionable ideology. 

For instance,  megachurches are largely leader-driven, with one specific point person that most churches look up to.

This can be the senior pastor or the president of an organization of ministries. But while this leader is almost certainly of ministerial position, this leader is a minister who cannot attend to everything. Most attendees have probably never met the leader in person.

The purpose then of the leader is to embody a vision and get the members to act on this. The criticism for Christian celebrities is present. It adds to the seemingly impersonal setup of megachurch services. 

Opening Doors for More People

At the end of the day, megachurches have done their part in making ministries and discipleship available for all who attend. To balance out the distance between the senior minister and the general attendee, they have employed small groups, also known as Bible studies, care groups, or fellowship groups.

As a solution to the increasing number of attendees, the megachurch has chosen to empower its leaders and allow them the authority to shepherd and disciple their communities within these groups. In this context, they really get to build relationships with each other and discuss their personal problems, along with Biblical truths. Those who attend small groups are active members. Most megachurches make it a foundational requirement for volunteers and leaders. In this scenario, the small group leader then takes on the role of being a minister to his or her members.  

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The Church Caters to the People

The Diverse Church 

Megachurch leaders designed today’s church ministries to cater to the needs of the particular context they are in.  As a result, they have a variety of congregations. The preaching style and the genre of worship music already vary within churches in a city.  For example, if we flesh out the details of their congregation, we will find stark differences in every church. However, megachurches have an advantage over other churches. They can cater to a wide array of needs due to their very nature.  

Social observers have time and again likened the megachurch to a shopping mall. The consumer-driven ministries are viewed as seasonal offerings. Consequently, you can liken them to specialized boutiques. People come in and out of the mall depending on what they need. 

On the other hand, people can think of the core ministries as anchor stores. Their existence continues to draw people to enter the church even if the need for seasonal offerings falls. This structure provides members a continuous supply of activities to suit their needs and tastes. Meanwhile, it also gives active volunteers the option to choose which particular ministry they want to serve. Therefore, in the megachurch, there is something for everyone. 

Ministries in the Traditional Church

The traditional church has a limited number of ministries, and perhaps the only art-based ministry they have is the choir. However, in the megachurch, people are given more opportunities to use their natural talents in the arts.

Aside from the music team, most megachurches also have dance troupes, video presentations, and interpretative dancing. Those gifted in making visual arts can use their talent to create posters for the weekly sermon and special events, and the painters create backdrops for the stage. Several churches are even known to do elaborate stage plays and musical performances during special events and holidays, involving the children doing Sunday school as they do. 

The weekly worship services held by the megachurch further prove the variety. While local churches only commonly hold a weekly Sunday service, megachurches conduct various services throughout the week to cater to different people and leanings. For instance, there will be Wednesday services for working young professionals, Friday evening services catered to the youth, Saturday prayer meetings, and Sunday services are separated by language for multi-racial congregations.

Worship styles can also differ as the worship team adjusts this based on the crowd they are serving. Overall gives people the option to choose a particular service and time that works best for them.  

Targetting Specific Groups

This also helps the megachurch narrow down their statistics and connect with their target groups of audience.

The youth attending Friday services will find it easier to know their crowd and make friends. In contrast, the internationals attending language-specific Sunday services will immediately feel a sense of belonging, thus making it easier for the leaders to reach out to them.

The singles ministry won’t have too much difficulty gathering people for relationship-themed training and events as most people are already together in one service.

In contrast, those who joined the dance troupe have an automatic set of acquaintances they have something in common with. 

Family-centered events such as Mothers’ Day Outs and game nights provide both parents and children the avenue to build relationships with their own age groups and life stages. Since the megachurch is large, the narrowed audiences per service and ministry provide the avenue not to make people feel as if the large overall congregation swallows them up. 

Interestingly enough, even with the apparent segregation of different cultures and life-stages to make people feel more like they belong, megachurches also excel in integrating these people and blending different social statuses, races, and life groups. As such, a megachurch experiences higher involvement and participation rates from its members than other churches.

There is the value given to volunteerism and social activity. Because the structure itself needs hundreds if not thousands of workers to function, even the non-committed members find themselves helping out. And eventually, it is through their volunteering that they become planted in the church even more. 

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The Problem with Megachurches

The Megachurch

What is it? A megachurch is a congregation with more than 2,000 attendees. The existence of megachurches has long been debated and argued over throughout modern church history.  It’s not just the ballooning number of church attendees. A megachurch has other elements such as contemporary worship and programmatic ministries. It also has charismatic leadership, membership relations, and integration of all the latest technological advancements.

 This kind of structure has seen a rise in modern Christianity. However, it goes against what traditional churches looked like in previous centuries. There may have been congregations with large numbers before, but never this much, all simultaneously. The megachurch completely took over the American Christian scene in the 1970s, and the numbers have since grown and multiplied.

In 1990, there were 300 megachurches in the United States, and by 2010, this number has grown to 1,600.

This unprecedented growth rate implies that the megachurch has, in fact, become a new organizational norm in Christianity as it supplies the needs of the modern culture and society. 

Is it just a trend?

The trend brought celebrities and notable influencers into the fold of Christianity. Nevertheless, others would digress that this is simply because being part of certain megachurches has been viewed as trendy. The sheer size alone would intrigue people. The megachurches are dabbling into television and social media. The church members would eventually become self-generating. Studies attest to this. Large gatherings of people create a social vortex. It can draw the interest of others. Interestingly enough, even the controversy surrounding megachurches causes people to attend and look at the cause of such social strain.  

Is it just the numbers?

For instance, the World Changers Ministries undertook an 800-seat dome in the 1990s for its Atlanta congregation. This drew much attention and concern from the local neighborhood associations. Eventually, the criticism ended up featured in newspapers and TV reports. This, in turn, qualified as free publicity for the ministry, and an increase in attendance was observed thereafter. However, while an 8000-attendee congregation appears controversial to some traditional churches and critics. There are plenty of other churches with larger numbers. America’s largest megachurch is that of Joel Osteen, with over 52,000 members. This may seem large, but it has nothing in number compared to South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, with over 800,000 members.

Consequently, this large number would make it difficult for the churches to keep track of all the members. Nearly all megachurches have organizational structures that aim to provide support and services to everyone involved. They employ what is known as the “seeker-sensitive approach,” that is, the practice of being deliberately welcoming to newcomers through informal set-ups and active engagements. Parking lot assistants begin the experience by courteously assisting everyone who comes along, and ushers take it a step further by heartily smiling and pouring attention to the people who walk into the sanctuary. More volunteers would accompany them to their seats and get to know them as they wait for the service to start. 

Is it effective to get people in the church?

Critics would say that this is a futile attempt and that the church is trying too hard to be welcoming. To a degree, they claim that such techniques together with the program prove to be an enchantment of sorts and the attendees go to chase an emotional high; however, reviewing its impact will show that even those who are normally uncomfortable with regular church settings will find themselves warming up and open because of these efforts.  

The merging of professional marketing strategies and the sacred word of God comes across as profanity for some, but against popular belief, most megachurches maintain a conservative theology. In a sense, the megachurch is simply employing what the apostle Paul modeled, which was to reach those who were lost,  

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22) 

Reaching the Youth

The intention is to do something new for a new generation.  This may be why megachurches appeal largely to professionals under the age of 45, with more than half of the attendees surveyed to at least be college graduates. If we place this information in economic tiers, it should come as no surprise that middle-class, well-educated families have been drawn to megachurches in hoards. The distinctive effort put in by megachurches to appeal to the current generation and the way they seamlessly utilize smart business practices and sound theology appeal have proven to bear fruit based on the continuous growth they reap.  

Several traditional churches do not like megachurches because they view them as threats. A common misconception is that megachurches steal the members of other churches with their modernity, but statistics show that this is not the case.vi Megachurches grow because they are encouraged to invite others as they have been invited. The overall experience they are given makes it easier for new church attendees to stay. 

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A Commandment for Generations

“The destiny of future generations depends on our action today.”

Sunday Adelaja

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

Exodus 20:5 NRSV

Number 15 opens up shortly after Israel’s defeat at Kadesh-Barnea. This failure shows that the people have not learned how to trust and obey (Num. 14). The Lord rejected the older generation and started a clean slate with the younger ones. On the other hand, God had a different message — a word of encouragement — for the younger generation: “You are going to enter the land I am giving you as a home” (Num. 15:1).

This younger generation faced 38 years of wandering, but the Lord guaranteed that they would enter the Promised Land and claim their inheritance. The children suffered because of the sins of their fathers. Their fathers did not believe and obey the Lord, and as a consequence, the blessing was delayed, even for the younger generation. It shows us that when we disobey God, even in withholding our tithes and offering, we are not only causing trouble upon ourselves but for the next generations.

It shows us that when we disobey God, even in withholding our tithes and offering, we are not only causing trouble upon ourselves but for the next generations.

The older generation of Israelites repeatedly refused to submit to God’s authority, and to the authority of God’s appointed leaders. In the present day, these are our spiritual fathers — the pastors and the church elders. Believers commit the same mistake. We see divided churches, dysfunctional families, and rebellious people judging and wandering away from the church, and never accomplishing much in the work of the Lord.

The thing is this, and we need to get it so as not to suffer the faith of the older generation of Israelites —  Unless we submit to God’s Word and His appointed leaders (Heb. 13:7-9,17), we cannot successfully claim our inheritance in Christ (Eph. 2:10), and do the work God set for us to do.

When it comes to the offering, when you fail to bring in your târumah because you don’t want it to go to your pastor, instead of keeping your wealth, you would lose it. It’s because you lose the blessing and the chance to step into your promised land because you willfully dishonored God and His appointed leaders.

The younger generation can only enjoy the blessings of entering the Promised Land if they obeyed God. It’s the same standard for them, as it was with their parents. Moses gave them four special instructions that the believers today would benefit from if they obeyed them.

First, please the Lord (Num. 15:1-21). When they do enter the Promised Land, they were to offer to the Lord. The offerings were designed to please the Lord. The sacrifices discussed in these verses were spontaneous expressions of love and gratitude to the Lord. Along with these sacrifices, the worshipper was instructed to offer two quarts of fine flour with about a quart of oil, a portion of which was given on the altar, while the rest are given to the priest.

The younger generation must heed this command to make an offering and give it to the priest in order to please the Lord.

When larger animals were sacrificed, the amounts of the meal, oil, and wine were increased proportionately. The offering to the priest was dependent on the tithe that was initially given to the altar.

Take note of this interesting point. The Jews would not become agricultural people unless they settled in the promised land, and cultivated vineyards, olive trees, and fields of grain. The Lord was already assuring them of the provision for the offering they would make. The Israelites have not even stepped into the Promised Land yet, the Lord already gave instructions for the offering. It means He is also assuring that they would be provided for in the land. God would not ask you to offer anything He has not given you.

The Israelites have not even stepped into the Promised Land yet, the Lord already gave instructions for the offering. It means He is also assuring that they would be provided for in the land.

 

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SACRIFICE

SACRIFICE

SACRIFICE: 

Restitution or reformation does not cancel out sin. It is only a substation sacrifice that can atone for our sins for us to be reconciled to God. Our submission to the Lord in confession and restitution must flow from the acceptability of the sacrifice. At the end of the day, Jesus was our substitute.

Our response to His sacrifice must be complete obedience.

The sinner must render acceptable obedience which is the evidence of a saving relationship with the Lord. Authentic faith is backed up by action. People who do not bring in their tithes and offering cannot back up their faith that God is the Source of everything, because they are not generous with whatever material wealth they have.

Suppose we say that we share life with God  but still walk in the darkness. Then we are lying. We are not living out the truth. 

But suppose we walk in the light, just as he is in the light. Then we share life with one another. And the blood of Jesus, his Son, makes us pure from all sin. (1 John 6-7)

 

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THE REQUIRED AMOUNT OF THE TÂRUMAH

THE REQUIRED AMOUNT OF THE TÂRUMAH:

When a person steals, restitution must be in full. The loss must be made good. The criminal must give back what was taken, or its equivalent. In today’s world, people go to jail as a means of “paying one’s debt to society.” However, it is the exact opposite or the avoidance of proper biblical restitution.

The principle of restitution is essential to the just resolution of the responsibility of criminals for their victims’ injuries. Return of victims by the guilty is the basic biblical principle, which dates back to ancient times.

Restitution is paid in full plus one-fifth (Num. 5:7). A fifth is given as târumah to the priest if the party is not alive. Târumah is legally a fifth; this is why the fair man (in the three kinds of givers) pays 2%. This is what is just. Someone who is generous pays more (2.5%), while someone who is stingy pays less.

They must pay in full for what they did wrong. And they must add a fifth of the value to it. (Numbers 5:7b, emphasis added)

Târumah is legally a fifth; this is why the fair man (in the three kinds of givers) pays 2%.

The 20% penalty is disciplinary, but it is neither excessive, greedy, nor destructive. Justice must be proportional and keep the emphasis on responsibility for the restoration and, ultimately, reconciliation. In this way, the righteousness of God is served.

 

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RESTITUTION

THE LEGAL RIGHT TO RECEIVE RESTITUTION

THE LEGAL RIGHT TO RECEIVE RESTITUTION:

Priests had a legal right to receive restitution. When it comes to this restitution payment in the Numbers 5 passage, it is an additional payment on top of their ram of atonement offering.

The ram offering is given to the injured party or his relatives. However, if the injured party died and has no near relative, the restitution is given to the priest. The restitution is in addition to the sacrificial ram that the priest performs a purification ritual for.

It’s not to add to what Jesus did on the cross. However, additional restitution is to make amends for something one has done to contribute to the liveliness of the priests.

In the modern-day, the blood of Jesus Christ is enough restitution for our sins.

However, as in Number 5, the penalty to be paid is in addition to the sacrificial lamb of Christ. It’s not to add to what Jesus did on the cross. However, additional restitution is to make amends for something one has done to contribute to the liveliness of the priests.

Numbers 5:9-10 underscore that the priests play a vital role in reestablishing the ceremonial purity of the people. In this way, the livelihood of the priests is also upheld. In the verse, special offerings to the Lord belong to the priest. Târumah or offering is translated as a gift or donation that goes to the priest. Holy things are holy in the sense that they are offered to the Lord. When they are offered to the Lord, they go to the priest for their provision and portion.

When they are offered to the Lord, they go to the priest for their provision and portion.

The Hebrew practice is this: “When someone makes an offering to the Lord, he hands it over to the priest. Whatever someone gives to a priest belongs to the priest.”

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RESTITUTION

THE OFFERING BECOMES THE PRIEST’S PROPERTY

THE OFFERING BECOMES THE PRIEST’S PROPERTY:

As mentioned, every contribution means “to lift off” and signifies elevated or set apart for holy purposes. It can be from the earth’s produce (Num. 15:19–21) or of plunder from war (Num. 31:29, 41, 52). People can use it of tithes (Num. 18:24, 26–29) or material for the Tabernacle (Exo. 35:5, 21, 24), and even of the half-shekel (Exo. 30:13–16).

In sacrifices, it is the shoulder of the peace offering (Exo. 29:27; Lev. 7:34; Num. 6:20).

These diverse items are all in some sense dedicated to Yahweh. So, the târumah is never offered “before” Yahweh, but always “to Yahweh.” It was a dedication without ritual outside the sanctuary, achieved by oral declaration (Jdg. 17:3) or physical activity (Lev. 27:32). In general, Numbers 5: 9-10 stressed that each gift becomes the personal property of the priest to whom it is given and does not, therefore, belong to the priestly community as a whole.

The passage’s context is about the righting of wrongs within the community, the kind of wrong in which damage has been done, and loss is persistent. Confession, full restitution, and an additional payment of 20% are required of the guilty party, in addition to the ram of atonement.

If the man is dead and no next of kin can pay, then the money, along with the ram and other offerings, automatically goes to the priest.

In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you can find how the neglect of the priesthood support hurt priestly practice and morale. There is still great relevance of such law in the post-exilic context. The degree to which the church could enforce the 20% norm was immaterial; the principle mattered.

In verses 9–10, there is a concern to protect individual priests’ rights and prevent favoritism. The author uses the compensation question to affirm the community’s principle of proper priestly support through the system of sacrifices and offerings. For the moment, the principle is sufficient.

 

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Confession and Restitution with the Tărūmāh

Confession and Restitution with the Tărūmāh:

“Believing and confessing go together, and you cannot be saved without you take them both. With the mouth of confession is made unto salvation. If you ever see the kingdom of heaven you have to take this way.”

-Dwight L. Moody

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 NRSV

Numbers 5:5-10 is a report of the proclamation of the Law. Yahweh pronounced a Law through the intermediary Moses. A law has to be spoken to Israel, which is what the purpose of the text is for. It functions as a legal instruction, in which the pronouncement of the law and the reference to its author is combined.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites. Say to them, ‘Suppose a man or woman does something wrong to someone else. Then that person is not being faithful to the Lord. People like that are guilty.

They must admit they have committed a sin. They must pay in full for what they did wrong. And they must add a fifth of the value to it. Then they must give all of it to the person they have sinned against.

But suppose that person has died. And suppose that person does not have a close relative who can be paid for the sin that was committed. Then what is paid belongs to the Lord. It must be given to the priest. A ram must be given along with it. The ram must be sacrificed to the Lord to pay for the sin.

All the sacred gifts the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him.

10 Sacred gifts belong to their owners. But what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’” (Numbers 5:5-10)

In verses 9-10, specific situations about how priests are becoming deprived of the târumah given to them.

The setting of this text is an instructional setting of the priestly writers, during the post-exilic time. In verse 8, the situation is the temptation of keeping property when the original owner or his next of kin was unavailable. For this situation,  the text institutes the law, and not just an ethical obligation, that restitution must be made nevertheless, now to Yahweh and hence to the priest, because the misuse of human property is also a violation of trust against Yahweh. The priestly body becomes under this condition the legal receiver of liable compensation. In verses 9-10, specific situations about how priests are becoming deprived of the târumah given to them.

By designating the priests as receivers of the restitution, also secures the livelihood of priests.

 

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PROTECTION

EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PROTECTION

EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PROTECTION: 

King Hezekiah began his independent reign when he broke the treaty which his father Ahaz made with the Assyrians (2 Kgs. 16:7), probably during the reign of Sargon II (722-705 B.C.). Sargon’s successor Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) decided to bring Judah into line, and he led a campaign against Hezekiah in the king’s 14th year (2 Kgs. 18:13). Hoping to prevent Jerusalem’s capture, Hezekiah hid the city by concealing the outside water supplies (2 Chron. 32:3-4).

He also repaired any weak spots in the wall and built towers around it (1 Kgs. 9:24), and added to the weapon supply. He also mobilized the people under army officers. He encouraged them not to feat, but to trust the Lord — a power far superior to a nation like Assyria. Hezekiah assured the people that the Lord was with them to help them.

What was Hezekiah doing in the previous chapter? (Protection)

He was securing the tithes of the people and also making sure the priests are provided for and encouraging people to be consistent about their giving.

He took care of the priests — God’s workers. As a result, God protected Hezekiah’s reign and gave him victory.

In 2 Chronicles 32:9-15, Sennacherib boasted that no other god had been able to protect his people from the Assyrians. He was mocking the God of the Israelites, saying He was just another God. After his taunting through letters and addresses through his messengers, he would send delegates to speak in Hebrew on the wall to demoralize the people about their God.

Hezekiah took care of the provision for the priest. In return, the Lord protected him and his kingdom.

Hezekiah turned to the Lord with the Prophet Isaiah. With the help of the prophet, they prayed for divine deliverance. God gave the king assurance through the prophet (2 Kgs. 19:20-34). God sent an angel to destroy the Assyrian host forcing Sennacherib to retreat in humility (2 Chron. 32:20-21a). Hezekiah took care of the provision for the priest. In return, the Lord protected him and his kingdom. He upheld Hezekiah’s throne against the Assyrian army. This protection only comes from God.

 

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PROTECTION

PLAGUE

THE PLAGUE

THE PLAGUE:  “Require each of the men to pay money to me in order to keep him safe from danger while you are doing this [counting].”

In Exodus 30, if a person does not give a ransom for himself to the Lord, thus declaring himself to be separate from God and putting oneself outside God’s protective care, this person becomes stricken by a plague. There will be no plague among them who would give an offering. The word plague means “blow” or “affliction.”

In any case, this word implies a disaster in the Today’s English Version (TEV), and danger in the Contemporary English Version (CEV) that God would bring upon people who do not bring in an offering. It is also possible to combine the final two sentences of the passage to get a better context of it. Doing so, we can read it like this.

“Require each of the men to pay money to me in order to keep him safe from danger while you are doing this [counting].

Are you experiencing disasters or turbulence in your life right now? May I ask how are you handling your finances? Are you bringing in your tithe? If so, maybe it’s because you are not bringing in your târumah. When you are failing to do any of these things, in your actions you are saying you do not belong to God, therefore His hedge of protection cannot be around you. God is a gentle God. He basically lets you be when you reject Him, along with that His protection and favor can also be withheld.

The money offering received served as a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord. In the Bible, there are different kinds of memorials. When the people gave as they were numbered, the children are a witness to this act. As the Israelites obeyed, they are also teaching their children to obey. The parents’ act of obedience also serves as a blessing and inheritance to the next generation.  The next generation would know that they also belong to the Almighty God.

The parents’ act of obedience also serves as a blessing and inheritance to the next generation. 

 

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PLAGUE

The-Tarumah-and-The-Protection-of-God

The Tărūmāh and The Protection of God

The Tărūmāh and The Protection of God: 

“With time you can learn where to go for nourishment, where to hide for protection, where to turn for guidance. Just as your earthly house is a place of refuge, so God’s house is a place of peace.”

– Max Lucado

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing, he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV

Exodus 30 shows us another interesting purpose for the offering and how it is made for atonement. It is an offering that is used to save people’s lives. First, let’s examine the passage below:

11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 12 “Make a list of the Israelites and count them. When you do, each one must pay the Lord for his life at the time he is counted. Then a plague will not come on them when you count them.

13 Each one counted must pay a fifth of an ounce of silver. It must be weighed out in keeping with the standard weights that are used in the sacred tent. The payment is an offering to the Lord.

14 Each one counted must be 20 years old or more. He must give an offering to the Lord.

15 When you make the offering, rich people must not give more than a fifth of an ounce of silver. And poor people must not give less. The offering you give to the Lord will pay for your lives.

16 Receive the money from the people of Israel. Use it for any purpose in the tent of meeting. It will remind the people that they are paying me for their lives.” (Exodus 30:11-16)

The context of the passage above took place at the numbering of people for the purpose of enrolling them in the arm of Jehovah (Num. 1:3, Exo. 7:4, 12:41). Everyone who passed over to those that were numbered was to pay half a shekel to the sanctuary as atonement money. Both the rich and the poor paid the same amount 1/5 of an ounce of silver.

Both the rich and the poor both paid the same amount 1/5 of an ounce of silver.

We are all equal in the sight of Jehovah. This payment was to be a târumah (Exo. 25:2) for Jehovah for the expiation of souls.

If we relate it to today’s context, the tithes are the same for both the rich and the poor, it is the first 10%. In terms of the târumah, it is 1/40th for the generous person.

The shekel of the sanctuary, which contained 20 s, can be considered as the original shekel of full weight. There was a lighter shekel which was currently in ordinary use. The sacred shekel, according to the present valuation is worth 26 groschens. One Euro is equivalent to 13.76 groschens. In dollar former, one sacred shekel is about $2.14.

During this time, it was a huge task to take a census. However, this is what Israel will undergo. If you have ever done an inventory, you know that the only one who can order this is the one in authority. Only the person who owns whatever is counted can order an inventory. We only have the authority to count things that are rightfully ours. We cannot put our numbers on other people’s stuff. The census declares that the Israelites who were numbered are God’s.

They were His people, and He alone had the authority to count them.

Who had the right to number the Israelites? It was only God who has the authority to do this. They were His people, and He alone had the authority to count them.  According to the commentary of A. W. Pink “When God numbers or orders anything to be numbered, taking the sum of them denotes that they belong to Him and that He has the sovereign right to do with them as He pleases. The action itself says of the things numbered, ‘These are Mine, and I assign them their place as I will.” The only way to properly count the Israelites was for God’s glory alone.

There is a risk that whenever the Israelites took a census, they are in danger of forgetting this. After all, they are the ones physically doing the counting. Thus, they would be tempted to think that their great numbers were a credit to them, rather than to God. They would be tempted to think that their great numbers were a credit to them, rather than to God. It’s not a sin to take a census, but it is a sin to rob God of His glory.

They would be tempted to think that their great numbers were a credit to them, rather than to God.

King David experienced this downfall. He started saying and feeling pride about how big his army was, without attributing its number to the Lord. David got caught up in the numbers game. This boasting can be a temptation for everyone, even a temptation for churches. Pastors always want to see the latest church attendance figures, especially based on the tithes and offering. This information is indeed useful since we want to measure if what we are doing is productive. However, we cannot use it to keep score and to compare our ministry with that of another senior pastor. We are not in a competition. We are on the same team, with the desire to advance God’s Kingdom.

In this context, to make sure the Israelites remembered that they did not belong to themselves but to God, God required a târumah. He required a ransom for every man in Israel. By paying half a shekel, they were acknowledging that they did not belong to themselves, but to God. In the same way, our tithes and offering declare that we belong to the Lord, and we (as well as our finances) are therefore protected.

In the same way, our tithes and offering declare that we belong to the Lord, and we (as well as our finances) are therefore protected.

 

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