I think I may be taking a chance by putting this out there. I am not attempting to condemn any individual, church or denomination. I simply hope that we can rethink the traditions that have snuck their way into the way we finance the church especially in North America and its mission around the world.
The one sermon topic I never want to hear preached again.
Sermons on giving drive me nuts. They are usually Old Testament law combined with New Testament generosity to create a doctrine of giving that must be observed if you are to live out your true identity as a follower of Christ.
It isn’t the idea of giving or even the application of biblical principles addressing giving that cause me to want to plug my ears.
I have problems with preachers playing up being blessed when you give while ignoring the biblical premise of giving without expecting something in return, but that is not why I cringe every time I hear this topic preached.
Teaching on this topic does make me shudder but there is no way to get around the fact that giving is a part of being a Christ follower and funds the work of the church.
So what is it about this topic?
We need to learn the principal of giving based on the right reasons.
You can often tell how close the church’s fiscal yearend is because you usually hear sermons on giving. Either the church is falling short of their budget targets or the new budget is a stretch and an increase in giving is needed.
Leaders are often guilty of presenting the idea of giving as if it is directly linked to the current need of the church. Bible based teaching leads to a universal call for all Christ followers to give but very specific projects and budget targets are often in mind when a sermon on this topic is preached.
There is more than just budget based preaching leading to bad giving practices.
I must admit it is tempting. As a pastor it is a part of the church fundraising toolkit and has been for generations. It isn’t always a problem, but more often than not it changes the perception on giving in a bad way. “Something in exchange for something” fundraising may not be sinful but is it the right thing to do?
What is something for something fundraising? It is transactions that take place in the church and outside of the church to help fund projects (rummage sales and fundraising dinners etc). Any event where people exchange money for a product or service and the profit benefits the church is what I call “something for something fundraising.”
The application of the “something for something” fundraising model is no more than doing business.
Before I go any further, I believe there are times when this model is useful. For instance if youth are planning a trip (missions or a retreat ect), I think it is better to get them to raise funds by working instead of asking mommy and daddy for the cash. That being said we need to remember that when we get into the habit of supporting the work of God through a business model we seriously undermine the whole premise behind generous giving.
We wonder why the budget is tough to make and giving is down and yet we teach a get “something for something” way of giving. The Bible says that we should give to God but the actions of the collective of Christ followers suggests we should sell stuff and allow the profit to be given to God.
When we can no longer fully fund through a “something for something” fundraising model, we begin to look for other sources of revenue. We start to rent out the facilities so that budgetary targets can be met. This works for a while but when people see that the budget is being met/exceeded, their giving does not increase and possibly decreases.
The cycle has begun, “something for something” is now the main source of funding.
The facilities purchased to be used to reach the community and disciple the collective of Christ followers are now no more than an asset to be leveraged. Finding a time for the church to use the facilities other than Sunday mornings and the pre-scheduled annual fundraising dinner or bake sale is almost impossible.
The church is now a landlord and retailer that offers spiritual guidance when time permits. Still, with all the outside funds coming in, the cringe time of year still comes around; it’s time for the giving sermon.
I’m not sure I agree with everything I have said but is it that far off?
This isn’t about committing a sin but it is about figuring out if what we are doing is the right thing to do. Have we traded the Christ following principle of generous living for the worldly business model of selling and renting to meet budget? Have we asked people to give because we need to make budget instead of asking them to give because that is part of being a Christ follower?
I don’t know the answers but I must consider the Acts church:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47 View this passage and much more at BibleGateway.com
No fundraisers or asset leveraging, just generous followers of Christ.