Few things disturb me more than hearing a pastor admit that he refuses to preach on money because so many preachers do that to manipulate people.
The main reason it disturbs me is that I do not believe that. The pastor is not being honest.
He fails to talk to his people on money because he does not want to be criticized. It’s a fear factor, and he has decided to cave in.
Consequently, he is failing his people in one of the most important areas of their lives. He is failing the Lord who expects His shepherds to lead the flock to be faithful stewards. He is failing every missionary whose support is growing weaker and weaker because of the lack of stewardship education back at home. And, therefore, he is failing every unsaved person who will not hear the gospel because of a lack of missionaries.
That pastor’s failure reverberates across the world like a tidal wave, bringing all kinds of bad consequences in its wake.
I wish such pastors could have heard my preacher, Dr. Mike Miller, last Sunday. Preaching in the First Baptist Church of Kenner, across the street from the New Orleans airport, and in his third year, Mike used the best common sense I’ve ever heard from the pulpit in this matter.
With the main points of his message projected onto the screen, here’s what Mike told our congregation:
A Look at Our Giving
We have over 900 resident members of this church. (Obviously, not all show up.)
We have about 200 giving units. (A family of four would be one giving unit. Probably, most members who come give something.)
Our current giving is 92 percent of the budget. (Not terrible, but not great.)
However, our spending is under control. (If we don’t have it, we don’t spend it. We have had some unexpected, unbudgeted costs for maintenance.)
The problem, though, is that our ministries are suffering. (If we had more money, we could do more to make disciples.)
A Look at Our Budget.
–Fixed costs get 36 percent. (This covers property and grounds, utilities, administration, insurance, workman’s comp. Our utilities this year are $100,000.)
–Salaries are 44 percent. Some of our staffers are part-time; pastor and two ministers are full-time. None of our office staff put in a 40 hour week.)
–The Great Commission gets 20 percent. Missions, ministries, education.
Question: Where do we cut? We can’t cut fixed costs. We can fire people, but we’re at a bare minimum already. The only truly flexible aspect of the budget is the Great Commission spending. But cutting that is counterintuitive.
A Vision for Stewardship.
This is the area in which Pastor Mike is challenging the people toward a greater vision for the church’s ministry.
1) Increased mission giving.
We’re going to give missions a higher percentage of the budget. But not by decreasing what the other areas are getting; we’re going to increase our giving.
2) Expanded ministries.
It takes money to reach people and make disciples.
3) Committed membership.
This is what it will take. Members walking with Jesus and being faithful in giving. According to our demographics, if only 200 households tithed (gave 10% of their income to the Lord through our church), giving would exceed our current budget. Commitment first to the Lord, but also to your church.
For the sake of the Great Commission, we’re asking you to see your financial stewardship as part of your Christian life. We’re asking you to pray about it and to give joyfully and freely exactly how the Lord would have you give.
Now, in the middle of all of this–mixed throughout–Pastor Mike brought a message from Scripture. We looked at passages throughout the New Testament, but mostly II Corinthians 8 and 9.
Some general thoughts about what he did…
–Mike repeatedly said, “If you are a first-timer here today, do not leave here saying ‘All they talk about down there is money’ or “All they want is my money.’ It’s not so. We want you to live for Jesus Christ.”
–He emphasized several times that we are not to give from compulsion (“do this or else”) and not begrudgingly (“they made me feel guilty”). We are to bring our offerings to the Lord Jesus and do so generously, cheerfully, and willfully.
An observation worth passing along to every pastor: People do not give to obligations. They give to a vision. Project the vision which God has for your church and they will give to that.
Every pastor has to learn this the hard way. Just across the street from our church is a large paved parking lot. I still recall, maybe 15 years ago when I was pastor here, and the heavy rainfall had turned the gravel, low-lying lot into a swimming pool. The water was knee-deep. That morning, I made the decision we had to pave that lot.
“Congregation,” I told them that day, “I have in my hand a check for $500 for a cartoon project I just finished. I am hereby starting a fund to pave this parking lot.”
People began giving and we received bids on building up the lot and paving it. Gradually, the gifts slowed down to a trickle. We had three-fourths of the money required. And that’s when I made a decision.
“People are tired of giving toward this parking lot offering without seeing results,” I told the staff. “Let’s go ahead and pave it and we’ll ask them to contribute toward paying off the balance afterward.”
We did, and the congregation handed us a lesson: After the parking lot is paved, the incentive to give generously evaporates.
Better to keep the vision before them–even finding ways to renew it and strengthen it if the project is dragging–but do not turn a spade of dirt until the money is in hand.
Common sense. Full information. The congregation will appreciate this from the pulpit instead of brow-beating and guilt-inducing sermons.