I came across this article at Dan Dick’s United Methodeviations blog and it got me thinking. I confess I did not read much of the post, but what I read was eye opening and got me going a little bit, and I would like to comment a bit on it.
So here goes a quick break from the gospel series. Giving is an action born out of obligation, just like every other act of the law. The law is only fulfilled when the fulfillment of the law, or righteousness becomes the desire of the person, not the duty of the person. Of course the only way to shed the duty of the law and have it replaced with a desire for the fulfillment of the law is by regeneration. Regeneration is the gracious work of Christ that converts our hearts from feeling the obligation to work, to the desire to work out of gratitude for what He has done. In other words, the righteous actions that were once laborious become our joy, and the sin which we once enjoyed has become a thorn.
What does this have to do with giving? Most churches spend so much time on convincing unconverted church members to fight against their unregenerate nature in order to fund and continue doing the various ministries of the church. Campaigns are set up to make people feel good about doing what they really do not want to do, and getting them excited to participate and commit to something they lack desire to participate in. The problem is not that people are stingy the problem is that they are unconverted. One of the marks of true belief is a generous spirit that feels a healthy indebtedness to Christ who has given all. Generosity is the natural outflow of the converted man. The generous man has no problem giving from his abundance and it takes little convincing to get him to participate in something when he is sure it is the Lord’s will. However for the unregenerate you must dangle some carrot of ‘what you get in return’ in order to get them to give. Whether it is a new building, the promise of great new ministries that they could us, a bigger and better staff, or something as simple as being able to run the AC in the summer, and clear the snow of the lot in the winter. The point is that the unregenerate must know what they are getting in return because they are giving out of obligation, their desire is not to give, but they may indeed give if they realize that their giving ultimately has personal benefit to them. It is the difference between someone who eats broccoli because they know they should, and someone who eats it because they love it. The regenerate man gives because it is in his nature, and is his desire to do so, the unregenerate gives because they believe somehow it is good for them.
So how does a church become financially healthy? Faithful proclamation of the Gospel... period! Regenerated people will be generous and support the Godly mission and vision of a church. If the members of your church never step up... maybe it is because they have yet to truly believe unto salvation. Now a word of caution, if your church is in the middle of all sorts of projects that may not be of the Lord, do not expect the people of the Lord to give generously to that which is not His will. If God indeed gives a real vision, He will also supply the means for that vision through His people... not by begging campaigning and coercing, but by bold proclamation of the vision and biblical support for the vision.
Ok that is enough of a rant for now. Back to the gospel series tomorrow.