In the work of the church, projects that cost money are inevitable. It is not if we require funds to undertake a certain work or project, it is when we will be called upon to give towards a special need or renovation project. Buildings need repair and renovation; new opportunities for mission work come before us; as the church family grows so does the need for various programs or additional staff. I mention all of this as an introduction to the theme of this short book which is, Successful Stewardship.
1Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
- I Corinthians 4:1-2
The word "steward" in the Greek (original language of the New Testament) refers to one who manages or administers, and the term "stewardship" refers to the thing managed. In this passage, Paul sees himself as a manager in charge of the gospel message and its proclamation throughout the Roman Empire. In the church we are also tasked as stewards of the gospel and its preaching to our community and the world. This is where the idea of money comes into play because the preaching of the gospel to the lost, and the teaching of Jesus' words unto obedience to the church has, among other things, a financial requirement.
For this reason, our stewardship of the gospel is closely tied to our stewardship of money. I believe that good financial stewardship is necessary for effective church work because most church work requires money. This, then, is the guiding principle behind this material on Successful Stewardship because stewardship begins with giving and successful stewardship requires not only generosity but giving with a right attitude.
Motivation for Giving
If you were to ask coaches in professional sports what their main job was, they would tell you that providing motivation was probably their most important task. Pro athletes know the basics, the rules, the game; the assistant coaches and special coaches continue to work with them on these things. The pros are already in top physical condition and there are other trainers and personnel who help them stay that way. Their lawyers, agents and accountants keep track of the money and career moves.
However, the head coach is the one who sustains the motivation for a millionaire player (who probably does not need the money or attention as he once did as a rookie) to give his best, beyond his best, game after game after game. With the right motivation a mediocre player can be a great player, a great player can become star and star can become a legend.
When it comes to giving in the church, the same principles apply:
- It is not about how much money you have (many complain that it would be easier if we had a couple of millionaires as members in each local congregation).
- It is not how old you are in Christ (some say that when there are many young Christians in a congregation, it is hard to raise a large contribution because inexperienced believers are not usually very steady or generous in their giving).
- It is not how big the church is (others think that unless you are a mega-sized church you cannot aspire to raise a lot of money because you are too few in number).
Generous giving is not about wealth, experience or size, it is about motivation. If a group of believers give from the proper motivation, they can reach whatever goal the Lord puts before them. And make no mistake, if the growth the church experiences is provided by the Lord, the resources needed to provide and maintain this growth will also come from the Lord.
So the question becomes, "What is our motivation in giving?" We all give to a lesser or greater degree, but each is motivated differently when it comes to giving in a religious context. In answer to this question I want us to review some of the particular motivations outlined in a series on the subject of giving by Dr. Kregg Hood in a book entitled, "Giving that Feels Good."
Motivation #1 - Guilt
This is "have to" giving. People give because they have to give, the plate comes around, the special collection is announced and they give because they feel guilty if they do not. Of course, guilt is a strong motivator and draws money from those who would not otherwise give, however it is not a biblical motive that is listed in the Scriptures as an acceptable frame of mind for one to offer something to God.
Paul says in II Corinthians 9:7 that we should be cheerful givers, happy to give and not motivated to do so out of guilt or shame. Giving out of guilt may help the church raise money, but it does not help the individual mature spiritually away from materialism, selfishness or worldliness, and it does not provide him with the joy that normally accompanies the act of giving.
Motivation #2 - Responsibility
This is the "ought to" give syndrome. It is the legalist's or the perfectionist's approach to giving. For example, giving is good, biblical and so I ought to do this. It is my responsibility as a Christian.
Again, the church gets money, but usually not a whole lot because a legalist's approach is to give what is strictly necessary or basic. Studies on the giving patterns of the local congregation indicate that 80 percent of the regular Sunday collection/offering is contributed by approximately 20 percent of the church members (the cheerful givers), 18 percent of each Sunday's offering is contributed by 30 percent of its members (the legalists) and the last 2 percent of the collection amount is provided by the remaining 50 percent of the congregation (those whose words concerning their faith are not supported by their actions concerning that said faith).
The responsible motivation is better than the guilt motivation but again, it limits the amount of giving and the true rewards that come from properly motivated giving which is joy and satisfaction. Actually, the responsibility motivation may lead to pride and complacency because the thinking eventually becomes, "Well, I have done my part, no need to do more."
Motivation #3 - Need
I give because I want to give. God wants us to be concerned about meeting needs.
In II Corinthians 8:13-15 Paul says God provides us what we have so we can provide for the needs of others. Knowing that there is a need often kindles a desire in us to do something about it. This is the motivation level that most of us are at. We see a need, we want to take care of it. This type of giving is satisfying, feels good and does not rely on guilt or compulsion to act out, but rather flows from a genuine Christian spirit. It also leads to sacrificial giving and motivates others to give. It is also a way to raise money from those who do not normally give because some people do not give or do so generously unless they see a true need.
The downside of this motivation is that many times people do not see or agree with the need and thus will refuse to give. In the end, this type of motivation is not the most effective because it is primarily centered in self, "I will give for something I see or something I can relate to."
Motivation #4 - Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is the "outflow" type of giving. It is the "I give because I cannot help giving" attitude. This type of giving is a way of saying, "Thank you" to God for all He has done for you. Paul said that his ministry was a reaction to all that God had done for him (I Corinthians 15:10). What Jesus in the gospel has done for you, what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of you, what the church has done for you makes you feel grateful to the point where you are motivated to give back. This type of giving impresses people outside of the church, it is evangelistic giving. It also motivates and leads others in the church to not only give, but be thankful in their giving.
The only weakness with this motivation is that our giving is tied to our thankfulness. If we truly appreciate the Lord, our giving is right. If, on the other hand, we do not see or appreciate the nature of our blessings, our giving then reflects this lack of understanding.
Motivation #5 - Worship
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
- Romans 12:11
When one sees the giving of money in the same light as giving their confession of Christ, giving their trust in God, giving their lives over to His care; when our financial giving becomes a part of our spiritual relationship with God, then giving becomes worship. It is motivated by a desire to honor God. There are no downsides here. The motivation is God centered, it brings joy to the giver and the church is blessed by the sacrificial giving of one of its members.
There is one other motivation for giving not mentioned by Dr. Hood but included in the Bible. It is a motivation that we cannot provide for ourselves but is given to us as a gift.
Motivation #6 - Holy Spirit
Sometimes, if we are truly blessed, the Holy Spirit will grant us the gift of a liberality (Romans 12:6-8). This gift is one where the Spirit enables a person to give without fault; to seek out opportunities to give; to yearn for more resources with the sole purpose of having an opportunity of exercising this particular spiritual gift.
The Spirit as direct motivator enables one to give graciously, abundantly, regularly and without fear, pride or reservation. While for most of us giving is a struggle, a narrow road or a challenge to overcome our flesh, the one with the "gift" finds it natural, easy, joyful and exciting to reach new levels of giving. There are always a few people in each congregation who possess this gift but would genuinely be embarrassed if their names were mentioned in this context, and this only proves the genuineness of the special gift they possess from God.
I believe that God provides different gifts to different ones in order to inspire us all and to provide the church with spiritual goals to strive for in our maturation process. We would, therefore, do well to pray that the Lord bless us with this gift or bless the ones who have this gift with abundant resources so they can use them to the church's advantage.
- Determine what your giving motivation has been.
- Choose a motivational goal and ask God to lead you to it using whatever method that will succeed.
- Finish reading this book on Successful Stewardship with the view that you will become a better steward of the wealth God has provided for your management.