“Money isn’t the most important thing, but it is reasonably close to oxygen on the gotta have it scale.”
– Zig Zigler
Church planters feel this truth on a daily basis. If you are like me, you more frequently feel it on a nightly basis, as you lay in bed. You pray and plan, desperately massaging numbers to keep pressing the mission without losing your house! There is a lot you can do to inspire generosity in the people you lead, but like most aspects of church planting, the first step is to consider your own heart.
God frequently walks planters into seasons of great financial need in order to work on the planter himself—shaping the man as he is into the man God needs him to be. Most church planters I know, including the one I see in the mirror, take great leaps of faith, but many times our faith is in our own ability as much as it is in God’s. Financial need is one of the sharpest scalpels God uses to remove the cancer of self-confidence from the heart of a planter.
Generosity, like salvation itself, is fundamentally a heart issue, and your role is to trust God to do the work you cannot. Much like an evangelist’s work in salvation, it is your role to prepare the soil, plant the seed and tend the fields—trusting God to bring the harvest. I want to give you three ways you can prepare the way for God to work in the hearts of your people to increase their generosity.
1. Be bold when discussing money.
No servant of God tiptoes through the garden of an idol. Money has enslaved your people, and it needs to be exposed for the terrible, deceptive, false god it is. People in your church, this week, are holding onto a desperate hope for money to do what it can never accomplish—define their worth, satisfy their heart and secure their future. Only God can do those things, so speak with boldness about how God succeeds when money fails.
2. Treat all of life as stewardship.
Money is nothing more or less than a tool given to us by God to be used for His glory. Just like your time, your relationships, your energy and your gifts, money has been given to you to be used for God. So tell your people the truth; Jesus doesn’t want their money—he wants everything! Everything they have and are is a gift from God to be used for His glory. If you only use stewardship as a code word for giving to the church, you have simultaneously stripped a crucial kingdom-building doctrine of its awe-inspiring power and robbed people of the chance to leverage everything they have for the glory of Jesus.
3. Focus on the mission, not the money.
I worked my way through college as a manager of a couple Jimmy John’s sandwich shops. Jimmy John’s creates a great product around a simple idea: get people their food faster than anyone else in town. Speed is the center of all they do. They have a sign in every store I think about often. It simply says, “Speed fixes a lot of errors.” So does mission. “Mission fixes a lot problems” might be an unofficial slogan for my life. Whatever problem you have in your church it probably started in the absence of, or can be ended by, a heartfelt, Jesus-centered, Bible-saturated commitment to a significant mission. Keep a God-sized, city-shaping, life-transforming mission before your people and you will be asked, “How do I give?” on a weekly basis. Focus on the mission, not the money.
From Principle to Practice
Now, these are principles that have to be put into practice, so I want to leave you with a final thought for how you apply these principles in your context. Do it personally. If you really want to raise the level of generosity in your church, sit down face-to-face with the people on your team and in your church and explain the mission to them. Tell them how money is allocated. Explain who provides accountability. Share with them what needs keep you up at night. Ask your people, face-to-face, how they are leveraging all God has given them for His glory, and encourage them to let Jesus’s rule spread to whatever areas they are trying to reign over themselves. You cannot shortcut authentic discipleship, but discipleship is undoubtedly the short cut to a generous people.
Published June 27, 2017