I worry about pastors who never talk to their people about stewardship. Whether they call it tithing or simply giving to the Lord, Scripture is saturated with teachings, admonitions, and instructions. This is not an optional subject for the faithful pastor.
Our people are often overwhelmed by financial bondage. We owe it to the Lord and to them to teach Scriptural principles which will free them, will honor the Lord, will support God’s work throughout the world, and will result in Heavenly treasures for the givers.
When a pastor begins to plan a series of messages on money, here are two major considerations to keep in the forefront…
“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; I Timothy 5:18). “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14).
The pastor deserves a decent income. That is a given. It is scriptural and reasonable.
In order to make that happen, some churches need to change their ways. And for that to occur, every pastor needs an advocate. At least one, and ideally several.
An advocate: Someone who will stand up for him, speak out for him, be his voice.
Yes, we have an advocate in Heaven’s throne room. “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1). So, in Heaven, One is speaking up for us. Are we blessed or what?
We thank God for Jesus, our Heavenly Advocate.
This is a work in the making. For some reason–don’t ask me to explain; I cannot–it occurred to me recently that the matter of giving to the Lord’s work could be labeled “the delicate art of giving to the Lord.” Here are some reasons for thinking of it in this way; you may think of others….
When we give to the Lord, so many things can go wrong. The world looks askance at it, even friends wonder about all the money we’re giving, and so many questions arise.
I call it a delicate art, this business of giving to the Lord. Here are some reasons for that.
One. It doesn’t look like what it is.
It may appear you are giving to poor people, to the needy, or to the gospel worker, or the church itself. Someone may even say you’re “paying the preacher.” One of my uncles said on one occasion, “I don’t figure I owe the preacher anything; I’ve not been to hear him preach in ages.”
In truth, I am laying up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), I am ministering to the saints (2 Corinthians 9:1), I am honoring my Lord by my faithfulness (see Mark 12:41-44), and I am honoring His name (see Hebrews 6:10).
Two. Outsiders will accuse you of wasting your money.
Judas said, “What a waste!”(see Mark 14:4). He was a thief, say the gospel writers, and cared little for the honor of the Lord.
Someone once told his pastor, “Give, give, give! That’s all I ever hear from you!” The preacher smiled and said, “Thank you for the best three-word description of the Christian life ever!”
Scripture does not simply command us to give. It does that, of course, but over and over God’s Word gives us great reasons for being generous to everyone around us, contributing to the needy and poor, and generously supporting the work of the Lord.
I imagine there are 500 reasons for giving. But here are ten of the best!
Many a pastor and/or staff member would still be in ministry today had they sought the counsel of church leaders on some practice they were contemplating.
Can the pastor start a business on the side and still receive full pay from the church? Is it all right if he markets something to the church? Or to the members?
May the pastor’s wife be paid for all the hard work she’s doing? How much should the pastor be reimbursed when the allotted money did not cover his expenses for a church mission trip? What if a company doing business with the church offers to build the pastor a swimming pool (or garage or bird house!) in appreciation?
Get advice, pastor.
“I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones. There I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry'” (Luke 12:18-19).
It happens more frequently than you might think.
A Christian brother or sister comes to a point in life when their bank account is fuller than it has ever been. Their investments have paid off beyond anything they ever expected. Someone in the family died and left their estate to them. Their stocks and bonds flourished in this booming economy. A business they owned has been sold and now they have all this money.
They are wealthy by anyone’s definition.
At this point they ask themselves–and the Lord, too, we trust–“What do I do now?”
Four or five years back, an old gentleman with that very problem decided to pay off the indebtedness of our Global Maritime Ministries in New Orleans. The fascinating thing to me was that he knew no one at GMM personally, but only that it had been begun by a Navy veteran of WW2. The man himself had been in the Navy during that great period, and he had a place in his heart for this ministry.
“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.