Buying sound equipment is an expensive business investment. Occasionally a band will make enough profit from gigs to buy some equipment, but most bands are finding it difficult just to break even these days. So, unfortunately, one of the first places many bands look to get money to buy equipment is from the band members. Christian bands often ask, expect, or even require band members to tithe to their band ministry. We spiritualize it in a variety of ways, with all kinds of reasons and rationalizations. But in the end, what matters is:
What does God think about using tithe money
from band members to buy band equipment?
Of course, it would be presumptuous of me to give a definitive answer to that question, since I am not God. But we can examine the possible answers in light of what we already know about God and His ways of looking at and doing things.
Within our band there is bound to be varying beliefs about money and giving. Not every Christian believes in tithing or even giving a percentage of our income to God. We all do not agree on where the gifts should be given. What we do all agree on is giving to benefit the kingdom, regardless of what we call the gift. Most Christian band members also agree that their band is a ministry unto the Lord and is a benefit to the kingdom. If we did not believe this we would simply be in a band, not a Christian music ministry. So, we do generally agree that giving to our band is good and acceptable in Gods eyes.
But, in our humanness we tend to make a mess of things from there…
The problems seem to be fourfold:
• Who determines how much money we are required to give?
• Who decides where we give?
• Who determines how to spend the money after it is given?
• Who owns whatever the money bought?
All the issues come back to one question:
Who is in control of our money?
Let’s look at each of the four problems separately.
Who determines how much money we are required to give?
All of us believe in giving, but we do not all share the same beliefs about how much is appropriate for us to give. Even our churches do not all agree on what the Bible says we should do. So, why should we as a band try to dictate doctrine for our band members? In every area, our Christian walk is based on starting where we are right now and moving forward to become more like Jesus each day. So, wouldn’t it be better for each of us to give according to what we feel is right in our own hearts and then encourage each other to stretch and grow in our giving as we grow in our faith walk? Some of us give 25%, some 10%, some only 5%. Still others do not give a percentage but do give a set amount from each paycheck. Some of us give only when we can, after the bills are paid. Many of us do not give money because we cannot afford it but we give what we can by going out of our way to help and encourage other people. The important thing is that we are giving and then that we are growing toward being more Christ-like in our giving.
When the band as a whole decides that it is mandatory for all members to tithe to the band we are taking a first step in attempting to control the lives and faith walk of our brothers in ministry. This is never a good idea. Control over each of our lives belongs to our Lord as led by His Holy Spirit. When the band starts mandating doctrine it will not take long until someone is offended and soon after the band will probably be looking for a new band member. So, the best option for bands to handle giving from band members is to make a way for the band members who want to donate to do so, without expecting, requiring, or pressuring gifts from any one. We simply need to encourage each other to grow in every area of our faith walk, including giving.
“You must each decide in your heart how much to give.
And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.
‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.'”
2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT
Who decides where we give?
Some people think all gifts should be given to the local church who then distributes the money as they see fit. Others believe in giving however they feel God leading including: missionaries, nonprofit organizations, or individual people. Some churches teach that all tithe money should be only given to the local church in which we attend. This is usually based on Malachi 3 which talks about bringing all the tithe into the storehouse. The church leadership believes that their church is Gods storehouse for their community. Other people disagree with the church being Gods storehouse based either on the storehouse being and Old Testament principle which we no longer follow or on their determination that the church has abdicated its position as a storehouse because the church does not allocate funds in the way that God originally set up storehouses. Still other people believe that the tithe goes to the local church and offerings (over and above the tithe) go other ministries. Even people who attend the same church hold varying beliefs. Obviously, not every Christian agrees on giving exclusively to their local church, but this disagreement does not necessarily make any of us wrong or more spiritual than the rest. We must each be convinced in our own hearts that we are doing what God wants us to do.
The varying beliefs are confusing. But does the variety of beliefs in where we should give mean that your band should determine where each band member gives? Probably not. Once again, when the band as a whole tries to dictate doctrine to each member by requiring them to give to the band we are attempting to usurp control over each other. Now of course we are not talking about confronting each other with sin issues here, dealing with sin is requires a different level of accountability. What we are talking about is allowing each other the freedom to grow in our individual faith walks at the same time as we are trusting in God to provide for our ministry. We are talking about loving each other through our growing processes. We are free to love like this because we are confident that God loves us and has provided what we need for our ministry.
“For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat.
In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources
and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”
2 Corinthians 9:10 NLT
Who determines how to spend the money after it is given?
When a band member decides to spend their personal money to purchase equipment and then retain ownership of the equipment while allowing the band to use that equipment, that band member gets to decide everything about the equipment. While that band member may ask the band for advice, the final decisions about which equipment to purchase, how much to spend, when to buy it, where to make the purchase, and how to pay for it all belong to the band member. The owner of the equipment even gets to decide if there will be times, places, or events for which the equipment will not be allowed to be used. The only thing the band has to decide is if they will accept the gift of the use of the equipment whenever the owner of the equipment allows it to be used. The downside is that this situation can set the band up to be controlled by one person. The person who owns the equipment has the potential to attempt to control band decisions by withholding the use of the equipment whenever they do not agree with a decision or by threatening to leave the band completely (taking all of their equipment with them) when band decisions are not made with their full support. Loaning the band equipment but not controlling the band with the loan requires the person who owns the equipment to be especially strong in the area of submitting to one another in love. Remember that submission does not begin until there is disagreement. Can you let the band use your equipment even when you do not agree with the band decisions? Can you do it without an attitude? Can you trust God to work through the band with your possessions? Can you trust God to redeem the situation even if the band is making a poor decision? These are the challenges of owning equipment and submitting your possessions to Gods control.
When money is donated to the band, no matter who donates it, who gets to decide how to spend it is determined by the band partnership agreement. In an equal partnership each band member has an equal say in that decision. So, even if one member donates money to the band, the entire band decides how to spend it. When equipment is donated to the band it is treated like any other band asset (including money), the entire band decides how to use it, including selling or donating it. Can you donate money or equipment to the band and then relinquish control of that money to the band? Can you allow the band to make a decision you do not agree with when they are spending the money you donated? Can you trust God to work through the band with your money? Can you trust God to redeem the situation even if the band is making a poor decision? These are the challenges of donating money to the band and submitting your money to Gods control.
Whichever path we choose,
we are challenged to submit our money to God
and then submit to one another in love.
Who owns whatever the money bought?
When tithes, gifts, and offerings are given to the Lord by donations to the band and are used to purchase assets for the band, those assets legally belong to the band and spiritually the band (including all its assets) belongs Lord.
Who legally owns band assets is determined by the business structure of your band. Most bands are an equal partnership, which means that each member owns an equal share of the band assets (part of which is band equipment). The way equipment is divided in the case of one band member leaving or the band breaking up is determined by your bands partnership agreement. In most equal partnerships, if the band breaks up equipment is sold to pay off all remaining band debts and then whatever is left is divided equally among band members. Usually, if one band member leaves the band that member is paid for their share of the bands assets either in cash or an equal value of equipment after their equal share of current band debts have been paid. So, for example, if your band has 4 members in an equal partnership and you donated 100% of the money to purchase equipment for the band only 1/4 of the current market value of the equipment minus 1/4 of the bands debts actually belongs to you. Legally, it does not matter who donated the money to buy the equipment unless your partnership agreement states otherwise.
Most of the problems that occur when band members donate money to the ministry, especially when purchasing equipment, stem from our desire to be in control. We want to give a gift, but we want to retain control of the gift and how it is used. Often, we expect the gift to be returned to us when it is no longer being used or to be repaid if it is damaged or stolen. Is this what God had in mind when He asked us to give? Probably not, since part of the reason He asks us to give is to grow our trust in Gods control of our lives.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning and buying equipment. We simply need to state clearly if we are donating it to the band or allowing the band to use our stuff. If you choose to let the band use your equipment do not call the dollar value of the equipment a gift or offering or tithe. Your tithing or financial giving would need to be done in addition to purchasing your personal equipment. Your gift is allowing the band to use your stuff, just the same as if a band member allowed the band to drive their vehicle to get to a gig. The band member with the vehicle does not claim the vehicle purchase as a tithe or donation and gives tithes, gifts, or offerings in addition to making their monthly vehicle payments. Both the owner of the equipment and the owner of the vehicle are free to use their possessions in any way you see fit in addition to loaning them to the band. Neither the equipment nor the vehicle belongs to the band, cannot be used as a band income tax deduction, and stays with the band member who purchased it in the event of a band break up or the member leaving the band. Retaining ownership of equipment by purchasing the equipment and then allowing the band to use it is not more or less spiritual than donating money to buy equipment. Both ways supply equipment to the band. Both ways require us to trust in God (and our band mates) to use the equipment wisely. But retaining ownership of the equipment while claiming it as a donation, especially on your taxes, is illegal. Attempting to control the band through money and equipment is unGodly.
Spiritually, your Christian music ministry belongs to the Lord. Although it is not legally required, unless you are a nonprofit corporation, you do not own your bands assets. Your ministries assets, including equipment, belong to the Lord. Therefore, if the band used donated money to buy band equipment and the band no longer does the work of the ministry, you should ask God if what should be done with the equipment. Should it either be donated to another ministry or sold and the money donated to another ministry? Is it right in Gods eyes that you should keep a share of what has been donated to Gods ministry? Perhaps God does want to return the equipment to the person who donated it or the money to buy it. We cannot automatically apply one cookie cutter answer to this situation. Again, this is not a legal requirement. Legally each band member (in an equal partnership) gets to keep an equal share of the bands assets after all debts have been paid. The most important thing is to be convinced in your own heart, to prayerfully work out our decisions with the whole band, and then be obedient to whatever God wants you to do with the equipment.
Donating equipment or money to buy equipment for our bands ministry is not wrong. It is actually not about the money or the assets—it is about our attitude, obedience and trust in God. Before we give, we must ask ourselves “Are we giving out of humble obedience to Gods plan for our ministry or are we giving in an attempt to provide for our ministry ourselves?” In other words, “Who are we trusting in to provide for our ministry—God or our own resources?”
If we are truly trusting God to provide for our ministry
we must relinquish control over both the gifts we give
and the gifts we expect others to give.