Blessing, giving, offering...
"If you want to encourage financial generosity in your church, you need to talk about giving, not money."
James Glass shares some tips for getting the conversation started...
Many church leaders find it hard to talk about money. There are often good reasons for this. Culturally, British people are reticent about doing so. Some are afraid of criticism.
"They’re always talking about money" is sometimes levelled at pastors who seldom do.
Others are concerned they might be seen to be advocating a prosperity gospel. I’m sure you could think of other reasons.
So how do we talk about money? We need to think more in terms of talking about giving than about money. I want to share with you what you might call 'eight dimensions of developing a giving conversation with your church’.
To begin with, we need to ask ourselves what God says in his Word about money and giving. Unless we have a conviction about what God says, at best we will end up passing on the ideas of others.
At worst, we will avoid the subject altogether.
You don’t have to look too far in the Bible to see what a crucial subject this is. How we use our money is a basic discipleship issue.
Jesus said we 'cannot serve both God and money' (Matthew 6:24), and 'the love of money', says Paul, is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Having a biblical foundation for our thinking and practice when it comes to giving is essential. This way, we will see giving as God’s idea.
We will see it as an opportunity and a privilege.
One thing I have noticed is that sometimes we have to explain the obvious when it comes to giving – or at least what we think is obvious.
People don’t always join the dots when it comes to money and church. It helps to explain what ministry costs in the UK in the 21st century.
We also need to explain how giving works. God has an economy that functions along different lines to the economies of this world.
God’s economy works with concepts like sacrifice, sowing and reaping, generosity and promise.
After an explanation, we must provide information. I know this sounds basic, but I have found people need to be re-minded over and over again about the ways they can give.
Some people feel awkward about this, but remember, you are helping people who want to give. Do all you can to provide people with the necessary information so that they can have the privilege of giving.
Again, this is biblical. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul instructed the Corinthians how they were to take up the offering. It was to be done on the first day of the week. It was to be appropriate to their level of income.
This was the same arrangement he had come to with the churches in Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, Paul is encouraging the Corinthian church in their giving. In so doing, he relates how the churches in Macedonia gave way beyond their ability, even though they were very poor.
As you read through these verses you find Paul associating giving with grace, generosity, love and sharing. He even relates this all to the ultimate act of giving; Christ giving his life for us.
We can elevate the value and worth of giving by including it when we talk about other Christian values.
In 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul says this: "But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving."
It’s as though Paul is saying, "You’re brilliant in these particular areas; how about being brilliant at giving?"
To exhort people to get better at giving is something positive. Especially if you’re doing it based on something at which they already excel.
Note that in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul openly celebrates the giving of the Macedonian churches. And he celebrates the areas of strength in the Corinthian church.
It’s easier to talk about giving in an atmosphere of a celebration than an atmosphere of desperation.
Showing appreciation is very important. I believe we need to affirm the church over and over again in its giving and generosity.
Even when things are tough, lines like "thank you for being so faithful in tithes and offerings" send out such a powerful message.
And it’s so important to acknowledge that God is our provider, and to give thanks for his provision. Paul does just that in Philippians 4:10-19.
When you read it slowly and think about the depth of connection he has with the church in Philippi, you begin to feel something of the impact giving has on those who give and on those who receive.
Paul is clearly expressing his gratitude both to them and to God for their generosity.
Finally, the expectation that God will bless us for our giving is part of the economics of the kingdom of God.
Many verses provide a basis for believing that God blesses givers.
One of the most powerful is 2 Corinthians 9:8, which says: “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
All things. At all times. Having all that you need. That’s three important ‘alls’.
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