So, how’s your church budget doing this year? It’s March now, which means it’s also a good time to look at church finances. You can probably already tell what kind of start the church is off too. Granted, January and February are not strong months for offerings, historically. However, you can take this into account as you look at what kind of January and February the church has had–and make some adjustments. If you’re off to a better year than anticipated, praise God. If you aren’t, praise God anyway, and make a small tweak or two now. It will save you much greater pain down the road.Continue Reading...
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And now, for our controversial post of the week
The subject of money is inappropriately taboo in some churches. Preachers feel awkward talking about it, Christians feel awkward listening to it, and often the result is a lack of teaching on this vital aspect of discipleship.
Jesus obviously speaks of it often. He says our heart will be where our treasure is and that we can’t serve both God and money. He praises the widow for her mite-size offering and warns the rich of the dangers of wealth. This is just the beginning. To sum it up, how a person handles what God entrusts to them matters a great deal to God. More important than supporting the ministry of the church (though that’s important) is opening ourselves to Jesus’ conforming of our greed, materialism, need to possess, and selfishness to the cross.
Yet, when choosing elders, ministry leaders, hiring staff, many churches find it offensive to suggest one’s giving be examined in a discussion of spiritual maturity. I believe it should. At New Vintage Church, staff is required to tithe, and any future elders we have probably will as well. This doesn’t mean they’ve reached the summit in this important area of discipleship. However, it does:
- Insure we can ask the church to tithe with integrity and without hypocrisy.
- Increase authentic investment of one’s whole life in the church–avoiding compartmentalization of physical and spiritual.
- While tithing doesn’t represent a summit, it creates a place-holder in our lives for the vital spiritual discipline of giving. Research shows tithers tend to be the most generous to causes outside the church as well.
- Regular giving is a sign of spiritual maturity. A person who claims spiritual maturity and doesn’t practice generosity toward their church is similar to a person who claims spiritual maturity and doesn’t show up on Sundays. Giving isn’t the complete measure. It is one measurement. Regular giving to the church is a sign that one understands the reign of God over their finances.
There are other reasons, as well.
Creating a culture of generosity in your church begins with cultivating generous leadership. Ask your elders to commit to it and be held accountable for it and do the same with staff. If you are paying staff so little it becomes a back-breaking burden–consider practicing generosity toward your staff by raising pay. Paying little and not expecting them to give holds back everyone involved. It’s better to pay them generously and expect them to give generously.
If Jesus where our treasure is, there our hearts will be, how can we ignore treasure in our efforts to touch and shape the heart into the likeness of Christ?
Generosity isn’t just for the rich. Preachers who encourage those who have less not to give do a a great disservice to the Kingdom. Of course God commands those who are rich to radical generosity. He does the same for those who have less. Generosity is the call of every Christian, and God uses it to transform every Christian.
Sacrificial generosity is that which is most pleasing to God. Jesus said as much in the story of the widow’s mite. Paul echoed it in his affirmation of the Macedonian churches.
Here is a modern-day example: The inspiring story of how generosity transformed this village in Uganda. Well, well worth the 6 minutes.
Sacrificial generosity transforms the giver, whether rich or poor.
The Barna Group has released a new study of the impact of recent economic events on giving and other behaviors. Click here to read the report. In summary, it says people have dramatically downsized their giving throughout the recent economic events–in some cases regardless of any real economic impact to them personally.
In their interpretation of the study, David Kinnaman writes:
“It is true that many Americans are living on less due to salary reductions, furlows, loss of jobs, or the inability to get a position that matched a previous salary. These are difficult circumstances for anyone to face and could have legitimate influence on donations. However, most of the Barna indicators focus less on the amount of dollars donated and more on the underlying attitudes and generosity of Americans. Most Americans think of their giving as secondary to their survival. Yet, from a biblical perspective, generosity should be part of Christians’ fundamental response to the downturn.”
Do you agree with him? If not, why?