Money and the church. It’s an awkward relationship. Have you noticed that?
If I had to guess, I would say that there is no topic that is more on the minds of senior pastors on Monday mornings and less on their minds as they plan sermons. This is not a critique, just an observation.
The conversation about money and giving in the church has become taboo. We don’t talk about it; and yet, all of the church leaders I know want to see giving increase. They want their people to become more generous with their finances, loosen their grip on money, and give back to the One who has provided it all in the first place.
To add to the tension, a lot of pastors fear playing into the stereotype that the church is all about money. So they never talk about money or wait until they need it. That’s a mistake.
The reason you need to talk about money is more about what you want for people than what you want from them. People argue about money every day, and you can help them win with it.
In addition, without casting an authentic vision about money, many will never release the gift of generosity in their life. Giving is a discipleship issue that too many church leaders ignore.
If you truly want to see church members embrace biblical generosity, you have to talk about it openly. You need to normalize the giving conversation and take the awkward out of it.
It starts with the acknowledgement that giving is first and foremost a spiritual issue, not financial. Our giving back to God for the work He wants to do in this world is a reflection of who He is in our lives. It shows our worship and reverence.
That is why we give to God. It’s not to fund the church budget or advance projects. Those are merely secondary effects of what happens when we give to God’s work in and through the church.
This is where we often get it wrong and add to the awkwardness. We communicate that the main reason we want the people in our church to give is so that our church finances will flourish. That’s not it. That is not the primary reason we want our people to give. We want our people to give so that they can experience what it does for them when they give to God’s work. Our giving to God is meant to transform us!
When we treat the spiritual discipline of generosity as an exercise in fundraising – we end up nominalizing what God intended as a means to grow us.
Teaching About Giving Is An Integral Part Of Making Disciples.
All of the church leaders I know want to make more disciples. Therefore, we have to teach and equip our people on giving if we are really serious about making disciples.
Most of the people in our churches have no idea of the spiritual implication of managing (or not managing) well the money and possessions that have been entrusted to them. For us to take the awkwardness out of it, our focus must be on growing givers’ hearts.
A couple of leading voices in the American church have spoken to this and it bears mentioning here.
In the second message of the series Money Talks that Andy Stanley preached in February 2019, he says it this way. “Until Jesus is first in your finances, Jesus isn’t first. You’re not a follower. You’re a user. And Judas tried that.”
That sounds direct but it is hard to argue. If we have put Jesus first in other areas of our lives but we have not done so with our money and possessions, we have missed it. We have not fully put Jesus first.
The issue gets compounded because we are not good at self-assessing. We think we are more generous than we really are.
Tim Keller, in a talk he gave at a Generous Giving gathering some years ago, says it well in this excerpt. “…Nobody thinks they’re greedy. Nobody. In all my years as a minister, I have heard almost every kind of confession. Nobody has ever come to me and said, ‘I spend too much money on myself.’ Nobody has ever done that. But here is what I want you to consider. If Jesus talks about greed and materialism 10 or 20 times more than he talks about other sins, and he says that nobody ever thinks they’re doing it. Then we should start with a working hypothesis that it is probably a problem for me.”
Giving is a spiritual issue. If we want to develop cultures of generosity in our churches, we have to own this. We can’t just hope it will change. We have to do something if we want to see it change.
Today’s post is written by Jim Sheppard. Jim is CEO & Principal of Generis, a consulting firm passionate about helping churches accelerate generosity towards their God-inspired vision.