Bible Question:

I just read the article on the responsibilities of the pastor. Recently I was in an awkward position concerning the books of the church. Financial decisions have been made independently by the bookkeeper and the pastor. This was discovered when a VISA bill arrived that was never reported. It was discovered because we cannot pay for it now. We are a very small congregation and this situation caught up with them. These are God's books as well as other people's tithes. The monies are not being properly managed. What shall we do?

Bible Answer:

It is amazing how may times Jesus spoke about money throughout His ministry. How one handles money reveals the spiritual condition of the heart of a man or woman. That is why God told us that one of the spiritual qualifications for a man to be an elder or pastor is that he does not love money.

. . . not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. (NASB) 1 Tim. 3:3

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil . . . (NASB) 1Tim. 6:10

The following statement was made by Jesus during His ministry.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (NASB) Luke 16:10-13

Here Jesus states that one who is unfaithful in “unrighteous wealth” should not be entrusted with spiritual wealth. That is why 1 Tim. 3:3 says that a leader or pastor is not qualified to be a leader if he loves money. Anyone who persistently has problems in their dealings with money is not qualified to be a pastor or leader in any spiritual ministry. This is a biblical principle that is frequently violated. Now, lets look at your question. You have a difficult situation. How you proceed depends on the character and spiritual maturity of the pastor and the leadership team of the church. You have several situations to consider.

Unauthorized Expenses

If the pastor never obtained authorization before the VISA expense was incurred, you and whoever else were present in the meeting should approach the pastor and ask why this occurred. It is possible that he simply made an error in judgment. It is also possible that he willfully made the purchase and knew what he was doing. Pastors can sin too! We have also been warned by God that some pastors, including false teachers (2 Pet. 2:3, 14), have a problem with the love of money. In order to determine what occurred, you will need to have a loving, gracious, objective heart-to-heart conversation with the pastor. That is the first step. If the pastor does not respond positively to a loving, gracious, objective inquiry, then you will need to have a follow-up meeting with him and include some other leaders. No one likes to be wrongly accused of misconduct and no one likes to get caught stealing out of the cookie jar either. The goal of the inquiry is to affirm the spiritual character of the pastor or discover if he is in sin. The second meeting should start with an inquiry and include a loving rebuke, if necessary. The goal is not to punish the pastor but to restore him to righteousness if the team determines that he has sinned. But if the pastor’s response is wrong during the second meeting, then the steps of church discipline should continue. If the pastor is guilty and repents of his actions at some point, then forgive him.

Failed To Report Expenses

If you determine that an error in judgment was made, then forgive him. God has called us to be at peace. Every one of us has failed to report something important at some time in our life. No one is perfect, even when it comes to money.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (NASB) Eph. 4:32

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (NASB) Rom. 12:18

Conclusion:

Finally, it appears that a new procedure or process needs to be imposed that requires approval before any expense over a certain amount can be incurred. Later when the church’s finances are better and the church is larger, this should be eliminated in favor of a budget with different categories. When the monies within a category are exceeded, no more expenditures or expenses should be incurred without approval of the church leadership. One common complaint to such an approach is the concern over excessive bureaucracy. Such complaints usually come from those who have the greatest problem with money. They want freedom. Unfortunately, budgets are necessary and provide accountability. No one within the church leadership should be allowed to spend the church’s funds as if the funds were his own monies. When church leaders irresponsibly spend the church’s funds, they are in sin and are disqualified from ministry.

Suggested Links:

What are the pastor's duties to a church?
Thoughts On Selecting A Pastor
What does a Christian do when their pastor is sinning and will not repent?
Chart outlining steps of church discipline