This piece has been written by a ruling elder in the PCA who financially supports his local church as well as a number of PCA agencies, Christian ministries, and civic organizations. He is a businessman who takes his stewardship responsibilities seriously and prayerfully. His name is being withheld in order to give him a platform to edify others while also ensuring his “giving may be in secret” (Matt. 6:1-4).
I am “rich” by American standards. Yes, I have more money in my bank account than the average church member. However, Americans think of a rich life only in material terms. My money cannot reconcile me to God. By God’s grace, I’ve learned over the years money is powerless. It makes promises it cannot keep. I am learning day by day to trust more in my God and less in my portfolio.
I like giving money away to advance God’s Kingdom. The joy of generosity is not natural for me. It has been learned over decades under the tutelage of the Spirit. Giving money away is one way I make sure money does not hold me in its power. I prove it is powerless and worthless by giving it away.
Generosity is a craft developed over time, an acquired skill involving some self discovery and the Spirit’s direction. It involves dead ends and restarts. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my generosity. I’ve also experienced the joy of watching ministries grow their impact partly through the use of resources God has entrusted to me.
Giving can also be lonely. There are few people you can trust to talk openly about it without some sort of conflict of interest. I’ve never been mentored in this area of my life. I have spoken with my pastors about issues I’ve faced but it hardly felt natural. They likely have misperceptions of me as much as I do of them.
Materially wealthy people are a niche group inside every church. We face different temptations and opportunities than others. Here’s my counsel for pastors: intentionally develop a “bedside manner” with this particular segment in the congregation. When a pastor visits with a couple overwhelmed by infertility, he prepares ahead of time considering what to say, what not to say, and how to offer hope. Similarly, pastors need to prepare for ministering the materially affluent in the congregation.
With that in mind, here’s a few thoughts on wealth and generosity for pastors from my perspective:
#1 – I am much more than my money.
Yes, thoughts on investment, of financial risk and financial reward, consumes more of my time than perhaps it does for other people. But it is only a small part of who I am.
- I’m a father trying to raise kids.
- I’m a husband trying to love my wife.
- I’m a business owner trying to run a business.
- I’m a community member trying to love my neighbor.
I need you to pastor me and pray for me holistically. I am struggling and anxious about many things as other church members.
Having more money doesn’t mean I have less problems. Sadly, people tend to think I’m free from common concerns and problems. It just isn’t true. Please think of me first and foremost as a sinner saved by grace who needs the sanctifying ministry of the church. I need encouragement, accountability, and the hope of the gospel.
#2 – Challenge me and the rest of the congregation to increase our generosity.
I need God’s Word to challenge all aspects of my life, including my generosity and my relationship with money. You think preaching on money will drive me away. It’s not true. I understand the difference between manipulation and Christ-centered preaching on stewardship. Don’t preach on money because you need more money in the offering plate. Preach on money because it is often an idol keeping many, including myself, from going deeper with Christ!
As you preach through the Bible, there’s no lack of opportunity to address our relationship with material possessions. Be bold and be sincere. I need to feel the thunder of the law and hear the trumpet of the gospel when it comes to wealth!
#3 – My giving to ministries outside the church doesn’t detract from my giving to the church.
My giving begins in the church and to my local congregation. But it doesn’t end there. And the most efficient way I’ve found to participate in broader Kingdom work is through the use of donor-advised funds. We can receive the immediate tax deduction while pacing our giving over time.
I always give money to entities other than the local church. I believe the kingdom of God flourishes through ministries outside the local church and it is a blessing to give to them. I give to church-equipping agencies and organizations. I’m able to strengthen the church around the world by giving beyond the offering plate. When I give to other organizations, it doesn’t detract from the sum total I would give to my local church.
#4 – Money doesn’t solve my problems and it won’t solve the church’s problems.
Churches are as prone as people to think of money as the solution to its problems. An additional staff member and an additional building are not going to be “game changers” for the church. Rather, the faithful use of the ordinary means of grace are how God does extraordinary things.
A capital campaign never ushered in revival! Don’t get me wrong. I believe capital campaigns have a right place in the church and can help churches further their ministry. However, no amount of money or new facilities can change a community like the Spirit working through the Word.
I hope these comments are received as intended, from one poor wayfaring stranger to another. I pray for my pastors and know they do for me. They minister to a wide variety of people, those struggling with material poverty and others with material wealth. I write from my own limited perspective.