By Richard Atwood
When I was a pastor in a Home Missions church, it never seemed to fail! Every time I would preach on stewardship, we would have visitors. I was afraid that I was only confirming their idea that the churches only want your money. This fear is magnified in a new church where you have only new people. But to be faithful to the Word and to build a stable congregation, stewardship must be taught.
What We Teach Home Missionaries
The pastor should tithe. A pastor who doesn’t tithe is like a bank robber who is president of the bank. Some pastors rationalize that they don’t get paid enough to tithe, or that they sacrifice their time rather than their money. While both may be true, they do not justify disobedience to God’s Word.
The pastor should make sure his personal finances are in order and obey biblical principles. Financial professional Larry Burkett says that the number of pastors in debt, going bankrupt, and having marital problems as a result of financial difficulty is roughly the same as the general population. He cites financial problems as the number one reason pastors leave their ministry. The average Christian pays 450% more in interest each year than tithes.
Pastors should consider the follow practical suggestions for developing stewardship in a young church:
- Teach and preach openly about finances without shame.
- Teach the congregation about giving, but don’t overdo it. Teach on all of stewardship, not just giving money.
- Include a lesson on giving in new convert and membership classes.
- Preach an annual stewardship message or series.
- Use humor when preaching about a serious subject like money.
- Don’t apologize when teaching about giving or when taking an offering. Make it a joyful event. Tithing is a privilege, not a chore.
- Sponsor an annual stewardship banquet to celebrate the victories of the last year and to provide vision for the New Year.
In The Dynamics of Church Finance, James D. Berkley sums up the stewardship challenges that face pastors. “Most pastors don’t enter the ministry for the delightful opportunity to raise money, or really to think about it much, for that matter. Pastors want to preach, teach, counsel, and pray. Conducting the annual stewardship campaign ranks way down on the list for most pastors, somewhere near cleaning up after junior high banana split night and handling irate phone calls. Yet, the financial strength of a congregation determines much about its spiritual life and effectiveness. Like it or not, the pastor plays a leading role in the general financial tenor of the congregation.”
Howard Dayton, Jr. says about church finance, “Jesus talked much about money. Sixteen of the 38 parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of 10 verses (288 in all) deals directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.”
In Letters to Scattered Pilgrims, Gordon Cosby described an impoverished widow whose small offering concerned the deacons, who felt it was too much of a burden for her. “I went and told her of the concern of the deacons. I told her as graciously and as supportively as I knew how that she was relieved of the responsibility of giving. As I talked with her…tears came to her eyes. ‘I want to tell you,’ she said, ‘that you are taking away the last thing that gives my life dignity and meaning.’” People need to give.
The missionary, whether planting churches at home or abroad, has the privilege of sharing the blessing of giving to those who come into their churches. At the same time, the missionary must always be able to bring in and maintain funds for their individual accounts that enable them to stay on the field of service.
This may seem to be an insurmountable task at times, but in serving the Lord through His guidance, more and more recognize and embrace the blessing of giving to the Lord through the work here on earth.
Article adapted from ONE Magazine, February-March 2008.