Do you ever stress over ministry finances? Read on!
Now, more than ever, I'm convinced of a few things:
First, spiritual leaders are often the most afraid and paralyzed in ministry because of their fear of "financial provision." I know I am! Nothing causes us more stress or gives us greater reason to wait to move forward. The struggle unfolds within—we know we are called to ministry, but we don't feel like "good fundraisers." The good news is, God has placed that burden upon Himself, not me or you.
Second, gospel ministry does not go forward without financial resources. Buildings, hospitality, resources, and staffing needs all require financial provision. Again, we are tempted to immediately think, "How do I fund God's work?" But that's the wrong question, because…
Third, God provides for a church that chooses to move forward and seeks to follow His leading to accomplish His mission. The pressure is off, Leader. God really doesn't intend for you to stress over how to pay for gospel ministry. When a church family is growing in grace and is committed to faithful stewardship in gospel ministry, God is going to provide for it.
For the past six and a half years, I've been watching God blow my mind over and over with how He provides for His church. As we seek His face, hear His voice, and decide to follow, it isn't long before He provides the resources to pay for what He is leading. I could write a book with the stories. At times it was money, at others it was donated labor or materials, at others it was a new team member or a new ministry leader. Every time God says "Step forward" and we take the step, God very soon steps in with the funding.
(There's a caveat here: Every step was rational though the funding was not always visible. We've never taken a large financial risk. Our risk has been related to vision and initiative, but we've never overextended the church financially. That's not faith, that's foolish.)
So, back to my question: how does God provide for the funding of His mission? I believe He blesses seven conditions that exist in a healthy church.
Let's dive in:
Genuine Contentment—Am I ok with what God has already given me? Say this to yourself: "God has given me enough money today to do what He wants me to do." Yes, we have enough right now. Does that mean there isn’t more to do? No. Does that mean His people should not give? No.
This simply means we begin the forward advance with a firm footing in contentment where He has placed us with what He has given to us.
Maybe, like me, you have a long list of what you "wish" you could do. Personally, I keep that list, but I don't spend a lot of emotional energy or time on it. It's more valuable to look at what God has already given me and thank Him for it! Forward momentum begins with genuine love and gratitude for the "little" that God has given you right now.
If I cannot be content with what God has given me right now, I will never be content with more.
True Gratitude—Have I said "Thank you, Lord?" Before you look forward at what you don’t have, look around at what you do have. Say “Thank you, Lord!” Say “Thank you, church family! Thank you for engaging in yesterday. Thank you for giving today so that God could be glorified right where we are."
Give thanks for what you already have.
Loving Service—Am I focused on money or hearts? A leader’s first concern is not money. It is care, love, and nurture. Healthy leaders aren’t focused on the giving. They are focused on the reaching of and caring for people.
Giving is the overflow of health. Healthy Christians want to give. So, the goal is not giving; the goal is caring and cultivating spiritual health in God's sheep. Do you truly want your church family to flourish? Check your heart's desires.
Focus on what you give to them, not what they give to the church.
Excellent Stewardship—Are we fiscally responsible with God's resources? Are we properly and accountably stewarding what God has already provided? If not, why should we expect Him to provide more?
This past year, Emmanuel transitioned all of our financial accounting to an outside firm—both church and school. This firm has a heart for gospel ministry, operates at the highest level of industry-standard "best practices," and gives all of our leaders and church family (including me) a greater peace that we are stewarding the gifts of God's people with the highest standard of excellence and accountability.
This was one of the best decisions we've made in ministry. In part, it assures the generous hearts of our church family that we are stewarding to the best of our ability.
Respectful Acknowledgment—Am I expressively grateful, regularly to God's people? When is the last time you just stopped and said "thank you" to your church family for their generosity?
Some leaders perpetually lecture or berate the church for not giving "more." Some leaders cultivate a continual state of crisis, begging for sympathy giving. Some use coercion, guilt, shame, and pressure to motivate giving. All of this is bad practice that discourages God's people and restricts the flow of provision. Sadly, it's all so very common.
Has it occurred to you that God’s people not only want to give—they do give? Every single dollar contributed to your ministry had a hundred other priorities scratching and clawing for it in the heart of the giver. What a victory that they gave! Thank them; applaud them; celebrate the generosity that is already flowing freely in your ministry.
Biblical Teaching—Have I actually taught what the Bible says about generosity? Biblically literate Christians actually experience a growing heart of generosity. They want to give, and they want to grow to give more. This is the work that God does in their hearts.
Guilt, shame, obligation, pressure, or perpetual crises are really bad motivational tools. These are unbiblical and ineffective—not to mention that they discredit the leader.
The single resource God has given to stir the hearts of His people to grow in generosity is LOVE, and the resource to grow them in love is God's word and the gospel. The love of God compels us to love Him back generously.
The giving heart of any church family is cultivated through the sincere teaching and preaching of the gospel and the word of God. Man-made tactics and manipulation are counterproductive. We must teach God's word not for what we want it to say, but for what it actually says. God can work in the hearts of His followers if we allow Him to.
Gospel Vision—Am I leading my church forward to take next steps in mission and ministry? This is simple. What does God want you to do next? What area of development or what project will take the church forward? What are you waiting for?
God’s people love nothing more than to see their giving resulting in more of God’s newborn people! When we see fruit for our giving, we celebrate the investment we made.
A faithful man in our church said something very powerful to me recently: "Pastor, seven years ago I was giving to Emmanuel, but I didn't want to. I did it out of obedience. I knew it was right. Then I was just giving. Today, I'm investing! I'm celebrating every time I give that I can see the fruit of my giving all around me!"
My heart rejoiced! I love to see God's people celebrate the fruit of what God used them to provide.
Leader—lead forward. God will fund His work if we will lead biblically with pure hearts. Don't try to be a good fundraiser. Be a faithful steward—first of the gospel, second of the hearts of people, third of their gifts.
And every day say to yourself, "God has given us enough to do exactly what He wants us to do today!" Then celebrate His provision. Thank Him. And go do it.
“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”—1 Thessalonians 5:24