What Eschatology Has to Do with Your Church’s Budget
Until my college years, my eschatological knowledge consisted of two things: binge reading the Left Behind series I had purchased in a Sam’s Club on a vacation and Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” The Left Behind books, if you somehow don’t already know, are a fictional portrayal of what the world could look like after a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture. The series has sold over 80 million copies.
In the last two decades, I’ve done a bit more reading and studying on what the Bible says about the future. While sitting in Tom Schreiner’s New Testament class in seminary, I learned that there’s much disagreement about the details of those future events, even among otherwise like-minded evangelicals.
Given Scripture’s clear language, there are several things, however, that we should all agree on. First, Jesus first came to establish a new covenant and rule a new kingdom as its King (Matthew 6:10; John 18:36; 1 Corinthians 15:20). Second, Jesus will return personally and bodily at a time that none of us knows (Matthew 24:44; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16). Upon this return, he will deliver the fully consummated kingdom to his Father (1 Corinthians 15:23–28). Third, until Jesus returns, Christians live as citizens of the kingdom (Phil. 1:27), and the church exercises his authority (Matthew 16:18,19; Matthew 18:15–20) and acts on his behalf. They have been commissioned to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and publicly identifying them as citizens of his kingdom, and teaching them how to live as his ambassadors (Matthew 28:18–20). In other words, churches gather as local embassies that declare the King’s judgment and terms of peace to a rebellious world.
Okay, so what? How should these three points of eschatological agreement shape your upcoming budget meeting and your church’s budget priorities? They tell us what we can’t and what we can do. We can’t change earth into heaven. Popular language for this ambition today is “transforming the city” or “redeeming the culture.” Yet we can’t “transform” or “redeem” anything. Only Christ will do this when he returns and removes the curse. So building a budget around activities that build up creation, while they serve their purposes for families and governments and even individual Christians, can’t be our primary focus.
Yet we can build one another up as citizens of his kingdom and call others to do the same while we await his return. We can call for the transformation and redeeming of hearts, which the Holy Spirit can do right now. Our budgets, therefore, should prioritize the discipleship of its members and the evangelism of the nations. Neither of these vital activities should be neglected.
Jesus is King. As our churches gather as local embassies of this King, our decisions should reflect his priorities.
DISCIPLING YOUR MEMBERS
God’s Word should be at the center of our gathering. Therefore, our budgets should facilitate and even prioritize what goes on during the regular gathering of your local church. In other words, if possible, significant budget funds should rightly be set aside to honor those who are regularly responsible for exposing the King’s words to your congregation (1 Corinthians 9:9–14).
In his book Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, Mark Dever writes, “The first place Christians should ordinarily look to be discipled and to disciple is through the fellowship of the local church both gathered and scattered” (19). It is good and right for Christians to be discipled by fellow church members, and it’s also good when churches can allocate funds to hire additional staff to facilitate the discipleship of the congregation. These hires aren’t absolutely necessary, but I’ve witnessed firsthand the blessing of a pastor who is dedicated to overseeing our church’s home group ministry, which consists of dozens of multigenerational small groups that discuss the most recent sermon, care for one another, and pray for one another.
If possible, seek to “grease the wheels” of discipleship in your local church by allocating budget funds to hiring staff who can dedicate considerable time and attention to various ministries that build up the church in love.
As fellow citizens of the kingdom and as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we are inclined to meet one another’s needs. We ought to do so for members of the same congregation (Acts 2:42–45) and for members of other congregations (Acts 11:29–30; 1 Corinthians 16:1). By being generous with the resources our King has entrusted to us, we are signaling to the world that what we have is His, not ours.
EVANGELIZING THE NATIONS
One of the most common conversations I have with individuals and churches surrounding missions funding centers around Matthew 24:14 in which Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Many well-meaning donors want to support ministries committed to reaching unreached and unengaged areas of the world. Their interpretation of Matthew 24:14 leads them to believe that funding missions work amongst the unreached will speed up the return of Christ.
I’m thankful for the challenge to look up from immediate needs and pay attention to the massive need to make Christ known among the approximately 3,180 language groups that currently don’t have access to the gospel. And yet, I bristle every time I hear Matthew 24:14 used as some kind of formula, as if a church planted amongst a previously unreached group somehow speeds up the clock on Christ’s return, a few seconds, minutes, or days at a time.
The faulty logic of “speeding up the return of Christ” has caused some to abandon their support of faithful missionaries laboring in the world’s most difficult places in order to fund schemes designed to maximize the “return on investment” in the shortest time possible. This is unfortunate. I’m convinced we should defund any missions’ efforts that function according to these presuppositions. They tend to be motivated by self-reliance, and overly prioritize perceived numerical successes, particularly when that “success” happens quickly. 
But there’s another problem worth mentioning. I’m concerned this faulty logic leads some churches to neglect opportunities in their immediate vicinity. There are rebellious humans in our communities who need to hear and believe the gospel of the King. To neglect budget funds to meet needs in our immediate vicinity misses out on opportunities to evangelize our neighbors. Students on university campuses, refugees recently placed in our cities, and the neediest of our neighbors need to be evangelized, so our budgets should also enable local evangelistic work.
Let me be clear. We should generously support the vital work of making sure the unreached get reached, and the unengaged get engaged. As the King’s ambassadors, we should “seek the expansion of his kingdom by making disciples from all nations, calling all to repentance and faith, and urging them to subject themselves to their rightful King and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 
A biblically balanced budget should balance the evangelistic needs of our communities with the evangelistic needs of the nations, many of which do not have a healthy church that can address those evangelistic opportunities. I don’t mean to say it should allocate funds in equal measure to the immediate and the global, but it should address the reality that there are lost people in our cities and lost people amongst the nations.
To understand Matthew 24:14 we need to hold it up beside Matthew 28:18–20 and Acts 1:8. Jesus definitively told the disciples that the gospel of the kingdom would be proclaimed throughout the world before the end would come. But he never instructed them to proclaim the gospel throughout the world so that the end would come. The gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world, and it will be effectual. There will be kingdom citizens from every tribe and language and people and nation. We have a commission from the King and we know it will be completed, so we should seek to be obedient to make disciples of all nations and let the Lord sort out the rest.
Let’s get practical for a moment.
Based on what I’ve said, we should support missionaries who understand the biblical command to evangelize those who don’t follow the King. But we should also prioritize supporting missionaries who understand that missions doesn’t just end with proclamation. As ambassadors sent out from embassies, missionaries declare the message of the King to rebels. But they don’t stop there. They encourage new kingdom citizens to be baptized into membership in local churches where they will be taught how to be faithful ambassadors for the King. Where there isn’t a local church, biblically faithful missionaries work to establish one and then train up local Christians to lead it. Over time, that embassy faithfully sends out ambassadors to evangelize rebellious neighbors and establish more embassies. And on and on it goes.
This is how the gospel of the King spreads to the ends of the earth. That’s how the ambassador Paul spread the gospel. It’s how ambassador Patrick in Ireland and ambassador Carey in India spread the gospel. For two thousand years, it’s how the gospel has spread—and it’s how it will spread until the last of the ransomed bend their knee in submission to their King. And then the end will come.
Eschatology should inform how we allocate funds in our church’s budget. We should prioritize our King’s priorities with his finances by discipling the members of our local churches and evangelizing the nations until he returns. He is coming soon (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).
* * * * *
Editor’s note: The photo a painting from Jean Cousin, The Last Judgment (1560).
 The Southgate Fellowship, “Affirmations and Denials Concerning World Mission,” 65(b), accessed on September 21, 2021: https://thesouthgatefellowship.org/#affirmations-and-denials
 The Southgate Fellowship, “Affirmations and Denials Concerning World Mission,” 64(a), accessed on September 21, 2021: https://thesouthgatefellowship.org/#affirmations-and-denials