In three-plus decades of pastoring, this Money has learned a bit about the significance of money in the life of a church. First fact is that ministries must be funded, and God’s way of doing that is primarily through the voluntary gifts of the people of the church. Second fact is that people have varied views on what is spiritually and biblically required of them. Or put differently, are the motives and opportunities to give to the Lord through the church uniquely theirs to own and claim? In a recent podcast, Thom Rainer discussed the radical difference between “church giving” and the perception of paying one’s “church dues. “ Here’s how he broke it down.
Church giving, he surmised, reflects a heart of great gratitude and never thinks of the gift as “my money.” This first fruit giving is joyful and is simply a part of one’s “walk of discipleship with Christ.” These givers seek no recognition or benefit. And if there is any regret about the funds, it is that they really want to do more. I am thankful that I pastor a lot of folks who look at their church giving through those lenses.
Dr. Rainer counters that ideal (wherein sweetness and light doth dwell) with the concept of “church dues”; a clearly understood cost of membership. Some good ministry can happen through it, but the giver is often more motivated by duty, recognition, or power. It is not hard to see which approach God calls us toward and desires to honor and bless.
His observations pretty much match my long-term experience. Now I don’t want to dwell too much on the dues end of things. While Rainer paints with a very broad stroke, he does cover a lot of walls. Let’s instead consider how the best gifts are always the ones where the heart releases a faithful flow, just like water rushing over a dam. Once it starts, it picks up speed it doesn’t tend to slow down. And like water on the move, it can be both powerful and life-giving. Dues just don’t feel like that. While compelled and conditional contributions might help a congregation accomplish some measure of mission, I’m pretty sure it’s not the means or motive God longs for. In fact, I’m right certain He has said as much.
Please hear me.
These are important, even pivotal days in the life of FBC St. Pete. Right now there is a real and present need for generous and faithful stewardship from our people. I could tell you how much that calls for or what our collective obligations might be. But right now I think I’d rather implore our people to pray hard, seek the Spirit’s prompting, look deep within and, as the Bible says, decide in your heart what you should give. That kind of generous giving invites God to bless both the gift and the giver. I know when I give I like the sound and feel of that. My guess, brothers and sisters, is that you do too. I thank you in advance for your gifts and the generous, faithful hearts from which they flow.