I have three children. Since Joey is the oldest one, when I imagine future conversations about things that my kids are too young to understand now, I imagine talking to him about those things first.
One day (Lord willing) Joey will turn 16 and get his first job. And somewhere around that time, I’m going to want to talk to him about how his finances intersect with his church life. I’ve already started laying the groundwork as you can tell by this photo:
We bought him three jars and labeled them “give”, “save”, and “spend” to remind him that there are three basic things that he can do with his money. (I am assuming that if we did not do this, he would only assume that there was one thing to do with money: spend.)
So, one day (and perhaps this will happen many times over many days and not just in one giant conversation) I want to give him my advice about money. Some of my advice will be straight from the Bible, and other things will simply be opinions that I have that I want to share with him.
In that same vein, I’d like to share some advice with you as your pastor. Some of these things are straight from the Bible. Others are my opinions. But I think that if I love and care about you, as a congregation, I would tell you this kind of thing.
Note: The reason I am doing this in a newsletter article and not in a sermon is two-fold. #1) Some of the things I am saying are personal advice and not Bible teachings. For that reason, I probably wouldn’t mention them during a sermon. #2) I don’t like talking about specifically donating to Good News Church on Sunday mornings, because that is when visitors are there. When I’m talking about donating to Good News Church, I’m not talking to visitors. I only want to say this kind of thing to people who consider me to be their pastor and/or consider Good News to be “their church.” So, Sunday morning is too broad an audience for this specific of a message.
So, I have 6 reasons that Church Giving is important, and 4 practical tips on how to do it.
#1. Generosity Is Important. This is something that is obvious to most everyone. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last summer? That wasn’t a specifically “Christian” thing. It seems to me that even people outside of the Christian church realize that giving money to people and organizations that need it is a good thing to do.
#2. The Bible Says That Generosity Is Important. The Bible talks about sharing what we have with others (see Hebrews 13:16, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Acts 2:44-45, and Proverbs 22:9.) Jesus even spoked about the dangers of storing up treasures for yourself while not being “rich toward God” (See Luke 12:13-21.) That little phrase, “rich toward God” makes me think that God is not simply interested in random generosity, but in specific generosity that is motivated by love for Him, and is directed toward the causes that He wants supported.
#3. Generosity Affects Your Heart. Jesus said, “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth’ but collect for yourselves treasures in heaven’ for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Several years back, a Sunday School teacher at a church I used to attend told me something like this: “When you put your money somewhere, you start to care about that thing. For instance, the average person doesn’t care about the Pepsi Corporation until they buy Pepsi stock. But once you buy some Pepsi stock, suddenly you care about that company. A television news segment about Pepsi that would have seemed irrelevant to you last year, is suddenly of interest to you. That’s because when Pepsi got some of your money, they also go some of your heart. And if you want your heart to be caught up in the things of heaven, you need to put money there.” The reverse of that coin is also true. I’ve heard it said, “As you loosen your grip on the stuff of this world, the stuff of this world loosens its grip on you.”
#4. Generosity Toward God’s Kingdom Is Important. I think that there are many people who give money away to help friends, family, and poor people, and that those people think to themselves: I am pretty generous. Why give to a church? Can’t I be generous without giving to my church?
Maybe. But I’m not sure that you can be the kind of generous that God wants you to be if you don’t include causes that advance the gospel. Jesus said, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you.” So, that’s the mission He gave us. And I’m under the assumption that the mission is supposed to be funded by the same people that it was given to. And I believe that gospel-preaching, bible-teaching, out-reaching churches like Good News are on the front line of that mission.
#5. Generosity Might Include Modern Conveniences To Reach Modern People. I can imagine someone thinking to themselves, “Why does the mission of Jesus have to cost money at all? Can’t we just go around and talk about Jesus for free?” Yes. But nowadays people are accustomed to doing things indoors. With lights on. In air conditioning. With a bathroom nearby.
Modern day churches spend money on things that Christians in the past wouldn’t have dreamed of. Websites. Parking lots. Microphones. Toilets. Carpeting. But those kinds of things have become the cost of living in 2015. Technically, we could cut costs by meeting in a field in the summer heat, while the pastor shouts from the top of a hay bale. But no one would think that was a good use of time.
But the stuff I mentioned in the previous paragraph costs money. Who will pay for it? I believe it needs to be the people Jesus gave his mission to: Christians.
#6. Generosity Might Include Paying The Person Who Teaches Us The Word of God. This particular reason feels self-serving, so I’m a little uncomfortable talking about it. But it’s a real part of this discussion, so here goes. In Galatians, Paul says, “The one who is taught the message must share all good things with his teacher.” I think this might mean that some sort of remuneration is appropriate for Bible teachers. Paul was even more clear in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18.
It seems to me that there is great value in having the church of Jesus Christ choose some people to be full-time preachers of His word, where they fund those people in such a way that they don’t have to hold down a “regular job” in order to provide for their families. This allows them time to pray, study, and prepare so that their teaching is high quality and effective.
FOUR PRACTICAL TIPS:
#1. I think you should choose a monthly amount and include it in your budget just like your bills. Most of us make monthly payments for things like rent, internet, electricity, phones, television, etc. And I think the mission of the church is more important than most of those things. So, setting aside a particular amount for church giving and paying it each month is good. This can be done by writing a check, by doing automatic bill pay with a checking account transfer, or putting cash in the box at church.
#2. But Isn’t It Better To Give Random Amounts Based On My Feelings? I think this is tempting for some of us. We might think things like, “Church giving is a spiritual act and is not just another bill! I can’t treat my God like that! He’s not a bill! I will give whenever I feel led.” So, every once in a while (like when the sermon is particularly good, or if I cry during a worship song, or if something special is happening in my life, or if it’s Christmas time) I’ll feel a spiritual zap in my soul and I’ll know just the right amount to give. Isn’t that a better way to do it?
My answer to that is: No. It’s not a better way to do it. You can actually evaluate this one by thinking through the lens of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If someone were supporting you financially, would you want them to give a stable monthly amount, or would you want them to give randomly in response to feelings and zaps?
#3. What If I Can’t Afford It? If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. I don’t think that God expects people who have no money to give money that they don’t have. But that’s not true for most of us. Pretty much anyone reading this has internet access and a computer or cell phone that they are reading it on. So, it’s probably not true that most of the people reading this can’t afford to give. What is more likely is that we are simply spending our money on other things.
But you can tell what’s important to you by what you choose to “afford.” For instance, let’s imagine that you have a child with lung issues that require monthly breathing treatments. And what if those treatments cost 5% or even 15% of your income? What would you do? Well, if you are like most people, you wouldn’t turn down the treatments because “you can’t afford it.” You’d cut your cable. You’d cancel magazine subscriptions. You’d go on less expensive vacations. You’d downsize your house or car. But you’d afford it because it’s important to you.
#4. Increase Your Giving As God Prospers You. This is something I would have never thought of on my own. But years ago, I heard a pastor suggest that you increase your giving over the course of your life. This is fairly easy to do whenever you get an increase in income.
For instance, let’s say you decide to give 8% of your income to your local church. (This is just a theoretical situation, so I picked a number.) And then after a year of doing that, you get a raise. Well, if you choose to spend all of raise without any thought to church giving, then your overall giving percentage will go down, to maybe 6 or 7%. If you choose to give the same proportion of the raise as you did your income before the raise, then you’d stay at 8% but since that is 8% of a bigger number, you’d be giving more.
Now, here’s the part that I don’t think most people even consider. Another option is to set aside even more than 8% of that raise for church giving. Maybe giving away 30% of the raise would mean you now give 11% of your total income. You can afford to do that, after all, you were just getting by without any of that extra money just before the raise.
I’ve said this to my wife before when I’ve gotten raises: “Hey, God has blessed us with some extra money each month. And we already know how much of this money we need in order to survive: 0% Because we were surviving without any of it last month! So, we could give even a large portion of it away, and still have a higher standard of living than we had last month.”
Now I know that sometimes expenses rise, so this will look different for each person/family. Also, this particular piece of advice isn’t a law. It isn’t a Bible command. I’m just giving you some advice. The same advice I will probably be giving to Joey and my other children one day. Because I want to shape them into generous people who support Christ’s mission in their locale. And I want the same for you.
P.S. Two last things: This is mostly unrelated to our church’s current building project. What I mean by that is, this is stuff that I could have easily said last year’ or I could have waited until next year to say it. I think this stuff would have been just as true in 2014 or 2016. This isn’t about some short-term fundraising project. I really want to make sure that the people of Good News are equipped to be generous givers, funding the mission of Jesus over the long haul, even including what you do with your money if you ever are a part of some other church someday. I would think that all of this would apply to that church as well.
P.P.S. I’ll never know if you actually take my advice or not. This is between you and God. I’ve told the treasurer of our church (her name is Janice Kemp) to never tell me what anyone gives. That’s been the policy since day one. I purposely stay out of all of that.