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Teaching Generosity in the Church

It is the pastor’s job not only to preach generosity from the pulpit but also to teach people all the Bible has to say about money (where it comes from, why we have it, what we ought to do with it, what God thinks of it) in Sunday School, Wednesday nights, small groups, etc. Below is a collection of articles on the pastor’s teaching role in promoting church giving. Questions about teaching generosity?

Articles and Papers

Teaching on Stewardship
Ron Blue. Speech delivered at Generous Giving’s joint regional conference for pastors with Servant Christian Community Foundation, Kansas City, Mo., April 5, 2005.
Many pastors are not sure how to approach their congregations about giving. Christian financial planner Ron Blue argues that people do not give because of (1) spiritual bondage due to a lack of biblical knowledge about giving, (2) financial bondage due to debt, (3) lack of vision for the money they possess, (4) lack of a relationship with an aid organization and (5) lack of a feasible giving plan. Blue also shows that family financial planners often discourage giving and that people often do not realize who owns the money: God. Since he owns everything already, we should “give while we live” to God’s children rather than stow away money in a will. Blue concludes by claiming that the greatest problem concerning giving is the American prosperity lifestyle. Since the spiritual life guides the financial, pastors play a key role in influencing people to give biblically. Note: No downloadable text or audio is available at this time.

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Generosity Needs More Than a Sermon: Ongoing Teaching Is the Key to a Lifestyle Shift
Andy Williams. Leadership Network Advance e-newsletter, no. 38 (November 28, 2006).
This article features leaders from numerous churches that strive to encourage their members to adopt a lifestyle of giving, rather than to be one-time givers. Two things must be done in order for the congregation to embrace this lifestyle: First, churches must realize that generous living starts with the leaders of the church. Church leaders must “get trained and model biblical stewardship and generosity.” If congregations are going to adopt this new lifestyle, they must see their leaders “buy into it and live it.” Being told to be generous without a visible model to follow, congregation members may feel lost and aggravated; they need to see generosity practically lived out so that they can know how to do the same. Second, churches must recognize that “Generous living is a topic that knows no age limit or economic status.” In other words, churches must recognize that different individuals are in varying levels of financial crisis or abundance and, therefore, stewardship teaching must reach people across the economic spectrum. Such a plan to help everyone in the congregation become a generous giver is “comprehensive, strategic and intentional;” it puts giving in the right perspective—front and center and part of one’s everyday life.

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Empty Plates, Empty Hearts? Practical Ways to Help Your Congregation Discover the Joy of Giving
Bruce Anderson. Your Church 46, no. 2 (March/April 2000).
Bruce Anderson, president of Donné Corp., a national church consulting and development firm, analyzes what has happened to church giving, why and how it can change. In order to reverse the decrease in giving, stewardship needs to be re-established as a foundational part of the Christian life. “In the typical church today, 25 percent of the congregation gives 90 percent of the weekly offering. Within that group, the top 5 percent gives 50 percent of the church’s income, and the remaining 20 percent gives the other 40 percent. That means a whopping 70 percent of the typical congregation contributes only 5 percent of the incoming dollars.” In light of these statistics, Anderson examines the problem and suggests several ways to encourage a congregation in giving with their whole heart: (1) Focus on how giving to the church brings joy to every aspect of life. (2) Teach people how to live with God’s money instead of how to give their money. (3) Meet church members where they are in their giving habits and help them toward where they need to go. (4) Teach people how to be financially healthy. (5) Model financial stewardship in church and home. (6) Train church staff and lay leadership to model financial stewardship in their personal and professional lives. (7) Communicate a strong vision for the church, which fosters a sense of ownership and provides a reason to give to the church.

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Generous Giving: Moving Christians from Tipping to Generosity
Daryl Heald. Interview by John Pierce. Baptists Today 22, no. 9 (September 2004).
How should we approach the subject of giving in the church? Jesus emphasized giving because He knew this would be an area where our hearts would struggle. The editor of this news journal for Baptists interviews Daryl Heald, president of Generous Giving, on how generosity must be taught in the church. “We’re reaping what we’ve sown. From our studies, I believe we have created and perpetuated a culture of tipping rather than generosity.” The church needs to teach that there are reasons to give beyond the usual reasons given (e.g., “It’s the right thing to do” ... “God commanded it” ... “We are Christians, therefore we should give.” Much more than this, Heald explains, we give “because Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). It is part of our worship, part of experiencing joy. It’s part of understanding eternal rewards.” Giving is not only a matter of law but also a matter of grace. Note: No downloadable text or audio is available at this time.

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Money and Theology in American Evangelicalism
John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Chap. in More Money, More Ministry: Money and Evangelicals in Recent North American History. Larry Eskridge and Mark A. Noll, eds. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000.
This essay shows that to adequately answer the complicated questions raised about money throughout the entire book, a better understanding of biblical theology is called for. “A well-formed theology should act as a sort of razor: properly honed, it should help Christians, whether individuals or institutions, make decisions about money.” Stackhouse shows that all questions about money require a foundational understanding of theological themes such as work (is it a necessary evil to be endured or a reflection of being created in God’s image?), vocation (a calling by God to a specific task), earnings (what is the relationship between labor and wages?), economics, ethical and theological method for arriving at financial priorities and spending behavior, tithing, the nature of the church, culture, and money itself, as well as how to respond to the influence of advertising (do they clarify your vocation or distract you from it by manipulating you though feelings of guilt or greed?). “Christians with a well-developed doctrine of sin (for example) will exercise an appropriate hermeneutic of suspicion toward theological justifications of any financial policies.” A biblical understanding of providence, mission, stewardship, and community will also provide a more solid foundation for approaching monetary considerations. In addition, “all of these themes need to be seen in light of the Christian Story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Where have we been, where are we now, and where are we going?” This concluding chapter reiterates the need for every believer, every organization and every generation of believers to engage in regular, healthy self-criticism and accountability in this potentially treacherous area of money for the purpose of bringing glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Money, Spirituality, and the Church
Christian Community/New Life Ministries.
The topic of money has to do with much more than the financial needs of the congregation. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with teachings about the use of material resources. There is a very direct connection between our use of money and the development of the spiritual life. With a short quiz this links affords pastors the opportunity of thinking their own priorities and beliefs about finances in the church.

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Cashing in on Church Giving
Brian Kluth. Rev. Magazine, 1999.
Biblical principles of Christian stewardship have not been taught in seminaries or Christian schools, leaving today’s Christian leaders ill-prepared to address the issue. Kluth addresses the Church’s silence on the subject, offering guidance to Christian leaders in their thinking and teaching on the subject. Of first importance, he says, is remembering that the ultimate goal of good stewardship is not the growth of church budgets but, rather, the transformation of lives. There are three characteristics of faithful giving: (1) faithful giving is encouraged by faithful communication as to the use of the gifts, (2) faithful giving is best accomplished with a plan for the giving, and (3) faithful giving increases with the Christian maturity of the giver.

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What Ministers Should Teach
Crown Financial Ministries.
Although many ministers shy away from the topic of money and stewardship, this important biblical matter ought to be addressed from the pulpit. First, we must see that all we have comes from God and that we are merely stewards of His possessions. Because of this, we must give back what he has given us through tithing of our time and our money. Contrary to what many think, “The principle of tithing is centered on the fact that God is looking for the right attitude in a person’s giving. If there is not willingness to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has entrusted, then giving tithes upon tithes would not make a difference.” Nevertheless, the issue of money is not a topic the Bible ignores, so neither should the pastor.

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Stewardship Is God’s Way of Raising People
Wesley K. Willmer. Christian Stewardship Courier, Winter 1993-94.
As our culture has advanced in recent generations, the subject of stewardship has claimed less and less attention. Most preachers avoid the topic, and many church-goers choose not to attend on Sundays when stewardship is the theme of discussion. As a result, the term stewardship has become blurred and undefined. Often it is used synonymously with philanthropy or development, and some feel in our “progressive era” that it is an antiquated term. So, the author asks, “Is stewardship relevant today?” and “How does an understanding of stewardship affect our giving and asking of funds?”

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Creating a Stewardship Culture: Three Critical Components
Andy Stanley. Speech delivered at the Exponential ’04 Conference for Pastors, Generous Giving’s joint conference with Crown Financial Ministries, Alpharetta, Ga., September 21, 2004.
As the pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., explains, there are three critical components to building a stewardship culture: preaching it, teaching it and celebrating it. Preaching stewardship provides the congregation with the motivation for giving. A pastor must emphasize what he wants for his people financially (freedom and joy) before he launches into what he wants from them financially. But the people also must be trained in stewardship. If church members are motivated to give but have not been taught how to manage their financial lives so that they can give, their enthusiasm for giving cannot bear fruit. Someone must come alongside them to help them get their finances in order and practically work out their desire to give. Finally, it is essential that we celebrate giving, for what we celebrate reinforces what we value. In celebrating giving, pastors both reward the good steward and teach others that financial stewardship is laudable. Building a stewardship culture must begin with the leadership of the church intentionally demonstrating the value of stewardship to their people as they as they preach, teach and celebrate biblical stewardship. Note: No downloadable text or audio is available at this time.

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Freely You Have Received, Freely Give: Toward a Post-Tithing, Post-Stewardship, Postmodern Theology of Receiving
Leonard Sweet. Morristown, N.J.: SpiritVentures Ministries, n.d.
In this essay on giving, pastor and cultural thinker Leonard Sweet argues that in order to correct today’s declining giving trends in the church, pastors must start teaching their people that as trustees of God’s money, they ought to give freely, as they are able, in grateful response to being the undeserved recipients of God’s grace. Sweet argues that the traditional approach used in teaching the doctrine of tithing (rather than the doctrine itself) has promoted misconceptions about how the Christian’s money relates to God. Sweet says that unduly emphasizing “the biblical tithe” inadvertently fosters a spirit of legalism, sets too low a standard for the rich and too high a standard for the poor, and advances the mindset of “tipping” God something like 10 percent for His grace in our lives. Sweet says that in order to correct such misconceptions, pastors must emphasize that the tithe is not the teaching on Christian giving but merely one part of the teaching. Pastors must teach that not only does the tithe belong to God but so does everything we possess. Whether we as Christians “give back” to God does not change the fact that He owns it all to begin with. Christians are essentially trustees who have been given the responsibility of allocating God’s money. Thus our motivation for giving isn’t one of legalism, fear or polite “tipping”. Rather, our motivation for giving is that we are recipients of God’s free grace who in grateful response act as trustees who freely give and distribute God’s resources for His glory.

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