Friday, January 1, 2010

The Sky is Falling Approach to Church.

Money is always an interesting part of church life. People tell me they get tired of us, in the church, talking about money...faithfulness with that stuff in our wallets and 401.k accounts. Truth is I have never -that I know of- had a tither (someone who gives at least 10% of their income/monetary resources to God) ever make that complaint! Givers don't mind being encouraged to give because they find joy in giving.

I remind them Jesus talked about money a lot. Because you'll find our heart where our treasure is. I'm told Martin Luther said the last part of a Christian to get wet, when they are baptized, is their wallet. If Luther didn't say it, he should have!

The week before Christmas and the week after Christmas I came across two email messages from pastors of mega-churches to their congregations. Both messages were rather strident challenges for people to give generously at the end of the year. Rick Warren, a really extraordinary pastor of a great church, sent a note to their people at Saddleback saying the weekend after Christmas the offerings were down and the church was $900,000 in the red.

I don't know all the details (I know...then stop before you say another word!), but something feels very wrong when the church runs close enough to financial disaster that one bad weekend can shove the whole operation into the red.

Jesus talks about counting the cost before we begin a construction project. In the book of Genesis Joseph helps the leader of Egypt anticipate the seven years of famine that will follow seven years of above-average harvests.

Churches shouldn't be financial storehouses. Piling up every dollar they can get their hands on. i tell our people that God wants them to give, and the church should spend nearly every dollar it can on ministry and mission outreach. However, I think maybe church leaders should plan more carefully. Not be pushing the financial "red line" -even when God is doing great and creative stuff.

Things work best when church leaders are faithful and reasonable in their planning. And when the people of God are faithful in their giving.

Oh, by the way, the weather report for this weekend looks scary. Attendance could be down in our services. Which means giving drops. So I'm just saying...


Ken Summerlin said...

Good word on tithing and giving! Like you, I suspect that the people who complain about a pastor's message on tithing are most likely not your tithers.

On the subject of "pushing the financial red line", I think the principle taught by Crown Financial Ministry calls this "getting ahead of God". That is when we say to God, "You don't understand my needs so I'm going to spend resources that you haven't yet entrusted to me." Some people call this faith, believing that God will provide after we take the action. I'm inclined to call this acting irresponsibly and endangering the reputation and integrity of our faith.

Anonymous said...

I heartily agree with "Things work best when church leaders are faithful and reasonable in their planning. And when the people of God are faithful in their giving", and it seems 3UMC has a good handle on things. But, it's worth noting that when Warren reminded folks to give, Saddleback's 900k shortfall turned into a $2.5 million windfall! Plan faithfully, remind God's people to give faithfully, then watch what great things He does with our offerings. Fishes and loaves, fishes and loaves.