Whether whispered silently in our heads or energetically wrestled through in leadership meetings, economic fears challenge churches. We offer hope and meaning to our communities and a world growing more restless in finding truth. What a terrible price to miss authentic ministry because we lacked financial resources, especially when our neighbors may be driven to their most open spiritual moments in years because of their personal financial stress.
As we move toward 2009, the financial uncertainties force us to ask the most penetrating questions about stewardship that we have asked in decades. Churches can be abundantly resourced during the most challenging times. How can your church position itself to maximize financial resources even in troubled fiscal climates? Growing and courageous churches should consider these 10 issues in preparation for the coming year.
1. A bold vision with meaningful results will rarely be underfunded
Now is not the time to shrink back from pursuing your neighbors in need. Even in the midst of personally challenging time, donors still want to make a meaningful mark on others. Internally, there is always that personal drive to live beyond ourselves and influence others. The church that vividly tells its story and challenges Christ-followers to live beyond themselves attracts financial resources.
Evidence shows that in down economic times, many church members do not treat giving as an expendable luxury item. They are inclined, however, to become far more selective in their giving outlets. The church that consistently and creatively articulates a compelling vision and celebrates the successes will attract giving in hard times.
2. Conversations about giving must move beyond stewardship toward spiritual formation
Generosity is a spiritual issue of the heart. A person cannot move toward spiritual maturity until he or she understands that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our culture works overtime to convince us that there is no correlation between our faith and our finances. A first-time reader of the New Testament could not miss the plentiful teaching about our faith directly impacting how we live not only now, but also how we build our treasure in heaven.
In conversations with pastors, I am constantly amazed at how fearful these leaders are in shepherding people in the area of finances. Spiritual leaders yield far too easily to the myth that is it inappropriate as a pastor to interact with people about their possessions. Certainly, we would not give preference to the rich man as admonished in James 2. But we must not be passive about teaching how the incorrect image of money can prompt wanderings from the faith. (I Timothy 6:10)
The last frontier in American Christianity is the conversation about money. Spiritual transformation’s last obstacle is our wallet. Asking for money without the backdrop of spiritual formation will hit minimal financial results. The church that aligns spiritual formation and money will never lack. One cannot help but to give generously if there is a vibrant connection with their faith and finances.