This article is from CAD team member Randy Bloom. Randy serves as the Regional Pastor of the Eastern Region of GCI-USA.
This we know: Our God is generous! We know this because we see all that, by grace, the Father has generously done for us and shares with us in Christ, by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:1-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9). It’s reasonable, then, to consider generosity as one of the hallmark characteristics of a Christian. Generosity is one of our core values.
All we have (including our finances) belongs to God, yet he freely shares what is his with us so that we can live abundantly (John 10:10 NKJV)—a life that includes sharing in Jesus’ mission. We understand that grace and generosity go together. Generosity flows from grace and is motivated by love. First comes God’s love for us and for others; then (in grateful response) comes our love for God and others. It is through the generosity of people sharing in God’s generosity that the church is able to function as co-workers with Christ.
I’m sure most of our readers would agree with these thoughts, yet we often fall prey to the dualistic thinking that permeates our world. As it pertains to money, there is a false dichotomy between “money matters” and “spiritual matters.” For many, money resides in a place separate from the needs of Jesus’ mission as conducted by the church. This dualistic thinking is more than false perceptions about the church and money—it goes deeper, with money being viewed as something physical that is completely separate from the spiritual. From this false perspective, money is seen as “ours.” Yet the truth is that all things (including money) are God’s–they exist for his purposes and glory. Moreover, all things (physical and spiritual) are intimately united in Christ, and that includes money, mission and our everyday lives.
As pastoral leaders it’s important we understand this, and help our members rethink and renew their viewpoints concerning money (and their relationship with it). We need to help them realize that generosity (in all aspects of life, finances included), is integral to discipleship. We don’t do this teaching merely to meet budgetary needs. We do it to help people more fully experience the generous love and life that is theirs in Christ. Our goal is to help them participate more fully in Jesus’ mission to the world. How can we achieve that goal? By working to create within our congregations a culture of generosity. Here are three steps in that direction:
- Nurture hope and expectation in your members by finding and sharing a compelling vision from Jesus that includes actionable plans for participating in his mission in your context. Many pastors have learned the reality that money follows vision. This isn’t a crude marketing ploy—it’s a way to help God’s people participate in the generosity (including the generous mission) of the triune God.
- Preach the gospel—but not a gospel that is severed from what God has to say concerning the wise and generous use of money. To do that, you’ll need to overcome fears related to preaching about giving—especially as it pertains to the missional needs of the church. Abuses related to money in our denomination are behind us—it’s a new day, and we serve our members well by including in our worship services and discipleship classes regular teaching about money and its uses in fulfilling our calling as the people of God.
- Share real-life examples (including your own). Tell stories about lives changed by Christ as people have begun to share more fully in God’s generosity to the benefit of others (including the church).
To learn more about money and generosity from a Christ-centered, biblical perspective, we recommend these resources:
- Book: Contagious Generosity: the Key to Continuous Blessing by Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard
- Book: A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen
- Book: Church Giving Matters: More Money Really Does Mean More Ministry by Joel Mikell & Ben Stroup
- Book: The Ministry of Giving: Fund Your Vision by Developing Financial Leaders by Joel Mikell, Bill McMillan and Kimberly Stewart
- Book: Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving In a Culture Stripped of Grace by Miroslav Volf
- Article: How to Disciple Generous Givers by Chris McDaniel