Have you thought about what the cynical phrase "pray and pay" means? What are the true responsibilities of God's people in the Church?
Some decades ago, I heard for the first time a derisive comment about being in the Church to “just pray and pay.” Have you ever heard this saying?
It was meant to sting. Are we in the Church to “just pray and pay”? Have you ever thought what this demeaning statement was meant to provoke? It implies we are playing a largely passive role in God’s Church, and that’s what’s expected.
As we reflect on this saying, we should ask ourselves, is this truly what the Church thinks we should do? More importantly, is this what God expects of us?
Of course, this statement is not biblically true, and at its root, it is another of the adversary’s tactics—to foment a negative attitude toward God’s Church and work. We should never think belonging to the Church is “just praying and paying.”
This is why knowing the “Seven P’s” are helpful to understand all that is involved in being a part of God’s Church. As we will see, “praying and paying” are actually a good beginning, but there are so many other essential things to do.
1. The first P—Praying
When I came into the Church as a teenager, I learned that just repeating the Lord’s prayer, as I had been taught in my former church, was not correct. God the Father and Jesus Christ actually wanted a real relationship with me. Praying was not some high sounding phrases repeated endlessly, but an intimate conversation with God. I was to open my heart and share with both God the Father and Jesus Christ my goals, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. He is truly a loving, caring Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, at His right hand, is my loving older Brother, Mediator and coming servant King. I am to have true fellowship with both.
As John puts it beautifully, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ ” (1 John:1:3, emphasis added throughout). The word “fellowship” here means sharing what you have in common, and that is the intimate relationship God wants with us.
What is meant by “just” praying? It shouldn’t be viewed as a chore, but as a dynamic, active conversation with God. Our spiritual life largely depends on it! And part of doing God’s work is fervently praying that He will open the doors so we can get the gospel of the Kingdom to the world. We are to pray for those who are sick, for God’s Kingdom to come and to rescue us from this mostly evil and degenerate world. We are to pray for the Church leadership, so God will guide them to carry out His will on earth. We should pray for the strength to forgive those who offend us, as God forgives us. We need to pray daily for the physical and spiritual bread to sustain us. And finally, praying to God for the help to avoid falling into temptations and for Him to restrain the Evil One from all the damage he wants to do.
“Just pray”? It seems Satan wants us to think this is some boring, passive part of our Christian duties, when actually it is a very positive and privileged opportunity that pays great dividends!
2. The second P—Paying
Somehow, there is the notion that paying our tithe is also a passive, demeaning duty. It should never be viewed in this way. God tells us paying our tithe is a valuable, practical and active worship of Him—honoring Him in a concrete way for all He does for us.
As Proverbs:3:9-10 says: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase. So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Yes, we show God how earnest we are when we faithfully tithe, by putting our money where our mouth is. As Christ said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew:6:21).
What’s more, Satan wants us to think this is a passive, unreasonable request and a reluctant responsibility. God has never taught that, for He wants us to learn to be a “cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians:9:7), which is a trait stemming from His own divine nature. We have God’s promises that He will bless those that faithfully tithe to Him—and it’s not a suggestion, but a command (Leviticus:27:30; Deuteronomy:14:22).
Another biblical principle shows us how important it is to honor God with our possessions. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least, is unjust in much” (Luke:16:10).
If we don’t develop the habit of tithing—giving to God what is rightfully His so as not to rob Him (Malachi:3:8)—then with what moral authority can we teach others in our family and later in God’s Kingdom to do the same?
It is a privilege to tithe and not some burdensome chore. As John mentioned: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John:5:3). This includes giving of our tithes and offerings.
Finally, how can God’s work be done without those tithes and offerings? They are the mainstay of everything done in the Church to get the gospel out to the world and to feed God’s flock. Certainly, Satan would love to dissuade us from doing our part in God’s work by making us think tithing is “just paying.”
3. The third P—Participating
There have always been many opportunities to participate in God’s Church. In fact, God’s Church is designed to be an opportunity center for Christ-like service . As long as you don’t mind who gets the credit and are willing to do unglamorous chores, there are plenty of opportunities in the Church to serve Christ as we serve others.
Yet it’s fairly common for people to seek the duties that help them stand out. Perhaps part of the idea of “just pray and pay” came from people who were frustrated because they wanted to be seen and be recognized but weren’t able to do so. The Pharisees fell into this trap as Jesus noted: “…for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men” (Matthew:6:5).
Paul addressed the problem of wanting to be admired and coveting the “superior” positions when he said: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
For the person who wants to serve, it is not “just praying and paying” but also actively participating. Paul also explained the right motivation to participate: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians:3:17).
The new vision statement of the Church reflects this attitude of active participation by the membership: “A Church led by God’s Holy Spirit, joined and knit together by what every member supplies, with all doing their share and growing in love to fulfill God’s great purpose for humanity to bring many children to glory” (Ephesians:4:16; Hebrews:2:10).
4. The fourth P—Providing
Another great opportunity in the Church is helping to provide for others. There are many needs, and the Church can’t cover them all. It is necessary to count on our generosity, especially those blessed with more, to help those that are less fortunate than ourselves. It does not have to be with money, but with giving of our time, effort and encouragement.
God calls and places in the Church people who have considerable physical and emotional needs. He wants to see what we are willing to do about it. Do we just say that is a “church” problem to be taken care of by the ministry?
One of the spiritual gifts God gives some of the membership is their generous spirit to provide for others in the Church. Paul mentioned, “God has also given each of us different gifts to use...If we can give, we should be generous” (Romans:12:6-8, CEV).
5. The fifth P—Promoting
Another attribute to be developed is promoting the Church through our active example. Some people would rather be a trumpet than a light, but as Christ said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew:5:16).
Through the past 60 years, the average percentage of reasons given for why people come into the Church has remained fairly steady. Approximately 40 percent of those coming in to the Church do so through the example of a Church member. We should not underestimate the power of setting a good example for others. Perhaps it doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it is a key element before God.
We are part of the greatest work on earth! We should exude that enthusiasm. As Paul said in Colossians:4:5-6: “When you are with unbelievers, always make good use of the time.
Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions” (CEV).
6. The sixth P—Preparing
Yet another responsibility is preparing ourselves for God’s Kingdom. We can’t expect others to do our Bible study, meditation or fasting for us.
This is one of the most important duties before God—to spiritually prepare our lives to become better instruments for His glory and honor.
As 2 Timothy:2:15 tells us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
How well versed are we on doctrinal teachings and practical biblical wisdom? Do we really care and make an effort? Just as in a career, if you poorly understand in theory, you will also poorly perform in practice.
7. The seventh P—Persevering
Lastly, we have a responsibility to learn to persevere to the end. Developing perseverance is another duty God expects of us.
As Proverbs:24:10 tells us, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Anyone can begin strong in a race, but few finish that way. Athletes have to work long and hard to build up the endurance to come out a winner. We have to do the same as spiritual athletes.
As Paul said: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown . Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians:9:24-27).
Perseverance, then, is another key Christian attribute to develop.
As we have seen, there is much more to being in the Church than “just pray and pay.” It is part of our God-given duties, but by no means the only ones. God wants us to be active members who are producing abundant fruit according to the Holy Spirit working in us.
So don’t let anyone pawn off being in the Church as “just praying and paying.”
God will recompense us for all we do for Him. It is a great privilege to be called and to be allowed to pray, pay, participate, provide, promote, prepare and persevere in His Church.
As He said in Malachi: “‘Your words have been harsh against Me,’ says the Lord. Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free.’ Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them ; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’ Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him’ ” (Malachi:3:13-18).
One day, we will know praying, paying, participating, providing, promoting, preparing and perseverance will have truly paid off, not only in this present life, but more importantly, in God’s Kingdom!