Stewardship is the root canal of sermon topics. Every pastor dreads it, yet know that it is necessary, even essential, to teach foundational truth regarding stewardship in our overly-materialistic culture. In recent months the topic has taken on significance in many churches as economic conditions weigh on congregations. Many pastors have been caught flat-footed with tithes and offerings diminishing as unemployment rises. How do you approach stewardship in a meaningful, practical and impactful way to grow your congregation’s understanding of it?
Understand its importance. The Bible contains more than 2,300 verses related to money and possessions. In fact, God’s Word speaks about money more than faith, more than prayer, more than heaven and hell. God’s teaching on money is clear and confronts the reader when considering how we steward our resources. Do not apologize for teaching on stewardship. If it is that important to God, then it has much weight and importance for us. Conversely, many pastors owe their congregations an apology for failing to teach it.
Teach it intentionally. Simply put, stewardship enables the ministry of the church in a resource-driven culture. Conducting our lives in the context of the gospel costs money. A Christ-follower must have a mindset that constantly examines his wealth and asks, “How am I stewarding this for God’s glory?”
And using the word “wealth” is intentional. The average Christian in North America makes over $42,000, which puts you in the top 2.5% of all wage-earners worldwide. If you have a roof over your head, food more than once a day, clean water and clothes, then you are rich by the world’s standards. When we intentionally help our congregation step back and see the big picture in terms of world resources, we can begin to teach how stewarding our enormous wealth is of paramount importance.
Teach it regularly. Do not wait until a financial crisis to teach on stewardship. Plug it in to your teaching schedule. Don’t hide it on an “off week” like Memorial Day Weekend or Spring Break. Find a time that makes sense for your congregation and make it front-and-center. Like your church’s mission/vision and the Gospel, teaching on stewardship should surface regularly in your schedule.
Teaching also means giving regular examples of how financial resources are being used in your church. When you share ministry stories, reflect on youth camp, enjoy a great choir praise time, or dedicate preschool children, remind the church that their financial gifts enable these various ministries. They helped buy the airline tickets for the mission trips, funded the music for the choir, provided Bible learning activities for the preschoolers and supplemented the cost of youth going to camp. Connect the dots between funds and what they are being used for, and do this regularly.
Model it. You cannot take your church where you yourself are not doing—especially in the area of financial accountability. If you are not a practicing steward, get that straight before telling your congregation how to manage their possessions. Too many pastors are one paycheck from being underwater in their bills, yet don’t seek help in the area of managing their finances. Don’t be afraid to go to a good financial planner and get advice—you probably have one or two on your stewardship committee or deacon body.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some pastors also have to ask themselves, “Is my lifestyle reflective of humility and putting my possessions toward the Kingdom first?” Your car, house, wardrobe, jewelry—are these things in your own life sending a Christ-centered message to those around you?
There’s a thought circulating around church circles that “People don’t give to need, they give to vision.” Well, that’s just not true. People give for many reasons. People do indeed give to vision. But they also give to need. And they give out of obedience as mature believers. And they give out of love for the pastor or a staff member. And sometimes they give because of the pastor’s example. Do not let your own bad stewardship habits give your congregation an excuse to do the same.
Ask and hold accountable. Finally, as a God-ordained leader, you need to be willing to ask people to give to their church body in support of the ministry. There is a percentage of your congregation that doesn’t give because they are never asked. Clearly the biblical example of giving in the New Testament was generous and beyond the tithe (Acts 2:42-27). Accountability is important to growing believers in their stewardship. Most churches send out giving statements every few months to contributors for tax purposes. Have you ever thought about sending out statements to those who give nothing, remind them gently that stewardship is a part of the life of every believer?
Here’s a list of great books to get your sermon study on stewardship started:
- Craig Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
- Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity
- Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle
- Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
- Tim Keller, Ministries of Mercy
- John MacArthur, Whose Money Is It, Anyway? A Biblical Guide to Using God’s Wealth
- Ben Witherington, Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis
- Ron sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger
- Wesley Willmer, A Revolution in Generosity
- Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Ourselves
- Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels
- D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel: Biblical and Historical Insights into the Word of Faith Movement
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt