“Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyared and does not eat the fruit of it?” (I Corinthians 9:7)
“We’d like to invite you to speak to our church (or our seniors group or whatever). But we’re small and I’m not sure we could afford you. How much do you charge?”
I get this a lot.
In the first place, I’m excited (and more than a little relieved!) that any church would invite me to do anything–preach a sermon, teach a class, speak at a banquet, or sit in a room and sketch the children. So, I’m always honored. Always, no matter the size of the church.
God knows my heart.
But I’m always a little flummoxed when people ask about the fee. I reply, “I don’t charge anything.” But that is not the entire story.
I’m tempted to say, “Some of my best ideas for ministry came from other people.” Which is true, of course. Ask any pastor or staffer. And, just as equally true, some of my best ideas bombed and I wouldn’t want to tell you about them. Smiley-face here.
But here are a couple of things the Lord gave me (I know, I know. We should say that cautiously, lest we join the Name Above All Other Names to something unworthy) that not only worked out, but turned out to be some of the best things we did in my last pastorate…
First idea. An idea for stewardship. Purpose: To motivate people to tithe their incomes to the church over the difficult summer months
Summer is hard on churches which live from month to month financially. And yes, sometimes from week to week. People go on vacations or find distractions to take them away on weekends. A large segment of the Lord’s flock give only when they are in church. Sundays when they are out, the church goes lacking.
Once when our church was hurting financially–which seemed to be a constant for that congregation–the Lord gave me the idea which we were to name “SUMMER BLESSED.” (I have no memory of the moment the idea arrived or whether it was sparked by something another church was doing.)
In naming it “Summer Blessed,” the idea was to “make this a summer blessed of the Lord.” With the full support of the church leadership, I threw out this challenge to our congregation: “Tithe your income for the three months of the summer and do so faithfully. Then, at the end of August if you do not feel your life has been immeasurably blessed as a result, if you will request a refund, we will return all the money you gave to the church.”
“…see that you abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
We just finished raising $10,000+ to enable a retiring missionary couple to purchase a good used car, and already some are accusing me of knowing how to raise money.
A young friend who will be moving his family to a distant city to begin a church has asked me to advise him on raising support.
Someone suggested I write a book on fund-raising.
I smile at the absurdity of that compliment.
Expecting people to turn loose of a hefty portion of their hard-earned income, even for the greatest cause in the world, without their being taught how to do this and especially why–is not unlike pitching your kid in deep water and expecting him to swim for the simple reason that doing so is in his best interest.
God’s people must be taught to tithe.
Now, for those wishing to quibble about a) whether the Bible teaches tithing, b) whether it’s in the New Testament, or c) whether we’re being legalistic, may I suggest they skip this article.
This is for church leaders who believe that Jesus is Lord of everything, that He has given to the church–His body–the ministry of reconciliation, and that He expects His disciples to give regularly, generously, and proportionately to fund that work.
“Use it or lose it.” –If that’s not a Scripture, it should be. (Which means it’s probably in there, but stated otherwise. Anyone?)
(Several suggested the text should be the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. It begins: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and another one talent, each according to his ability.”)
When a pastor with whom I’d just connected on Facebook thanked me “for your unique ministry,” I replied:
I’m only doing the same thing you are–using what God has given me to do what He has told me in the place where He has sent me.
That’s what basic Christian ministry is all about, and it’s available to every child of God, whether we serve in the pulpit or from the pew.
“Help us, Lord! We’re perishing!” (Matthew 8:25)
A friend sent a packet of material to help me deal with the grief of my wife’s death. I appreciate his kindness and thoughtfulness. Included in the folder was his church bulletin and monthly mailout, which I enjoyed reading. That’s how I noticed something slightly odd.
The Sunday bulletin listed last week’s actual offering as, let’s say “$45,000.” Above it was the figure which the budget requires on a weekly basis, perhaps “$55,000.” Underneath it said, “Deficit: $10,000.”
Now, what we have here is a church showing that last Sunday’s offering, as generous as it was, amounted to a deficit, when all that happened was that on that particular Lord’s Day the contributions were low. They probably made up for it the next Sunday.
If I were their pastor, I would instruct the editor of the publication to delete the word “deficit” from the dictionary. “Use that word only when I tell you to do so.”
Some church members are automatically drawn to any bad report or negative slant they can find to attack or undermine the present pastor and church leadership. I’d just as soon not give them ammunitiion.
Oh man. When a friend suggested we ask Facebook friends what to do when a pastor or staff-member is not tithing–and not even giving anything to the Lord’s work–I went with it. And the fur flew, far more than I expected. Answers ranged from “Terminate the guy, immediately” (a large contingent said that) to “Tithe? That’s Old Testament law and has no place for New Testament believers!” to “Who are you to judge?” They argued back and forth, and some became rather unChristian in their comments. Then, one group accused the other of Pharisaism and condemned the condemners.
Amazing how this issue arouses the dander of some otherwise reasonably minded people. Even so, ever the one to charge hell with a water pistol, I thought I’d take on the subject. Here goes….
First, I write as a tither. But it was hard getting started, I will admit.
Giving one-tenth of my income to the Lord was never taught in the churches I grew up in. As a college student I joined a Southern Baptist church where tithing seemed to be a pillar of the faith. One day, the minister of education approached to ask if I would give my tithing testimony. I stared at him blankly and said, “What is that?” First time I’d heard of this thing called “tithing.” He was aghast. But then, Ron Palmer had come from a longtime Southern Baptist family where tithing had been ingrained in him since childhood. It was new to me.
Learning to tithe was slow and hard.
“Give and it shall be given unto you….” (Luke 6:38). “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
A cartoon shows a fellow in the cemetery holding flowers. The epitaph on the stone before him reads: “Eternally peeved at those who never showed me how to tithe.”
That may well happen.
Since our Lord said giving as He taught means laying up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21), it follows that some in Heaven are going to be poorer for not having done that.
What does it mean to “be poorer in Heaven”? I don’t have a clue.
But there it is.
The bottom line is simply that some spiritual leaders (pastors and teachers) are failing to teach stewardship and will be in trouble when they stand before the Lord. That should matter to us.
The ministries of the Lord Jesus here on earth are weaker and fewer because of the failure of the Lord’s people to give faithfully, generously, and regularly.
“And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple–I assure you, He will never lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).
I’m the only person I know who picks up stray pennies.
I add them to my coil cup which will eventually be given to missions.
Every little bit counts.
The gospel song goes….
“If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I command….”
What could be smaller than a cup of water? What gift could be less costly when given or more appreciated when received? What more insignificant act could the Heavenly Father possibly take note of and enter into His records for Judgment? And yet, there it is, from the mouth of the Savior Himself.
“Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30).
Two days ago, my wife and I were parked briefly at the rear of a local drive-in eatery, waiting for our orders. A man on a bike came onto the grounds and wheeled over to our car.
“Sir, I’m traveling and am broke and haven’t eaten all day.”
He might have said more, I forget. The backpack and his scruffiness indicated he probably was telling the truth.
No one enjoys being accosted like this. Later, I realized that parking in the rear of the establishment as we did is what drew him to us. He left after our little encounter without asking anyone else, even though 20 more cars ringed the diner. The reason, I realized, is that the management would have seen him and ordered him off or called the cops. That would indicate he has done this before.
I’ll tell you what I did and what I wish I’d done.