Posts Tagged giving

Pastor for Hire

Luke 10: 7

The worker is deserving of his wage.

There is an emerging trend in pastoring/mentoring in the church today of which you should be aware.

The very fabric of pastoring has changed substantially. Once upon a time, most mentoring, counseling and pastoring came through one’s local church. The church hired ministers and paid their salaries. The congregation tithed (10% of their gross income) to the church, the church using those funds, in addition to offerings, to meet the needs of the budget, including salaries. Things are very different today. There are hosts of ministers who are not affiliated with a specific local congregation. Think of all of the preachers you know from television and books.

These ministers are also called upon in a pastoring capacity. Pastoring may be thought of as caring for the flock. That may mean teaching, as it so often does, but it may also include counseling, guidance, and responding to questions. Most of these are roles which were traditionally the purview of the local pastor.

The modern church, however, is less restricted to a church building. Many Christians are what I term “the great unchurched.” These are people who receive most of their teaching and guidance online, through television or other outlets rather than the traditional attendance of Sunday Services. These are not pagans. They are the faithful. It is simply that the modern church is the product of a more mobile society and wide-spread media opportunities. We can bounce a message off of a satellite and send it around the world now. And, so we do.

There are two factors which have serious impacts on these ministers as well as on the local church. First, we have not translated our tithing and offerings to the church to those ministers from whom we draw sustenance from television, the internet or other media outlets. Second, even in our home congregations, Christians are not substantially tithers. Per capita, we give less than Christians did during the Great Depression. Some sites report that only 5% of American Christians tithe. The charitable say that the number may be as high as 20%. Regardless, there is a trend towards not giving to the church. There may be any number of factors which contribute to this trend including that people carry little cash and rarely write checks. In any event, the church is not receiving as much support as it did. It seems to me, also, that we are becoming accustomed to receiving something for nothing. Certainly, this is not to say that no one ever gives to independent ministries. That absolutely is not a true depiction. Many ministries, my own included, are dependent on contributions and are blessed by people sending unsolicited donations. None the less, there are large groups of people who take a lot, but give little. The solution?

Ministers must begin to charge for their services. Where ministers could once rely on people to honor them with donations, that may be changing. Pastors have lived on faith; giving freely. Jesus lived by faith and that has been the model others have followed. That is the space every minister and every ministry wants to live in. However, I see it changing. As the demand on independent ministries increases, those organizations are increasingly having to charge a fee for what they do. I will not be surprised when the local congregation begins to charge for some of their services too. This is not the model most of us wish for but I believe it may be the new reality.

We have lost our way in our relationship to giving to the church and to ministries and this may be a simple realignment. Our thrust was once what our donation could do for others. Christians wanted other people to benefit from the good news they heard. So, our gifts were part of our evangelism and for the support of those who carry the good news. The focus of the current church may be more inwardly focused, both corporately and personally. Corporately we must ask if our desire is only for a bigger building of if there is something the collective donations can do for our congregation and beyond. What can we do in the community to bless God’s kids?

Individually, do we give only so that we can receive. Is there a private incentive to our giving? I completely agree with expecting a harvest from your seed. I want you to expect God to be true to His word and give you a return on your donation. However, as I mentioned last week, there seems to be an element of “What can God do for me” mentality in our present working theology. This may also impact our individual giving. If I believe I will get something out of it personally, will that belief influence my giving? Sure. I might, though, balance giving away my money with buying something I want and the donation suffer in the balance. Truly in this age of consumerism, that is an impactful dynamic.

What should we do about this? Whatever you choose to do. Nothing if that is your determination. In the main, the answer is both corporately and individually that we should turn that question into the Father and get His answer. Is this a trend we should even be concerned about and if it is, is there anything we should do about it? Do you believe in your heart of hearts that there is anything you should do about it personally? Should you write a letter? Make a speech? Ask your friends their thoughts? Should you start your own ministry the entire purpose of which is to encourage people to fight back against this emerging trend by giving more of their income to the church? Should you demand more services from the church and independent ministries and encourage ala carte pricing? Maybe you can find a way to make giving easier so that people who have a heart to give are not frustrated by the process.

If you think I came bearing the answers, you are wrong. I am not even convinced it is a problem. I do think, however, that it is wise to notice emerging trends and ask ourselves the important questions so that we augment the development of them rather than await their establishment and then complain about that which is becoming entrenched. Even more importantly, I think all wisdom resides in the Father and that you, yes you, have a direct pipeline to Him. I also think that you are every bit as responsible for what happens in the church as the pastors. YOU are the church. We are only employees of God first, and you second. You are the body. The body moves the fingers not the fingers moving the body. Although the pastors are leaders in many respects we are also instruments of the greater whole. How do you want the modern church to deal with finances? What model makes sense in this day and time? What does Yahweh say to You when you ask Him these questions? I will admit that I do not want to end up in a “Buy a prayer, rent a sermon” paradigm but I also do not want to minimize the important work that I believe these anointed people are doing for us and for the Kingdom of God. Please put in your quarter and receive a prayer.

I would have you know that our prayer line is open. There is a prayer request page on our website. The Word of the Day is free to everyone and you are encouraged to freely distribute it. These things are gratis and will remain so. They are not the subject of today’s devotional nor should this message be construed as a solicitation of funds. If it is a solicitation for anything, and I think it is, it is a solicitation for prayer and meditation; a request that you talk with the Father about church finances and a solicitation of your thoughts, which I whole heartedly desire. Let the body of Christ be heard.

Give a Little

Luke 6: 38

Give, and it will be given to you.

Sometimes I believe everything important can be learned from children’s shows. In fact, I am not sure why we don’t express the same life values in adult programming. I found this verse in Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It is the story of the Christmas Spirit, the story of giving.

Santa, Kris Kringle, is confronted by many ornery characters in the story. As he traverses the mountain between Kringle Village and Somber Town, where he intends to deliver toys, he is accosted by a mean wizard known as Winter Warlock. Santa, however, knows how to unlock even the coldest heart, with a gift. The simple act of giving a toy to the evil wizard melts his frozen heart. Winter then becomes good and a lifelong friend and companion of the Kringles.

In town, Santa explains to the children that whatever you wish to get, you must first give. If you want a little love, give a little love. He sings, “Whenever you take, give a little back.” Oh that we actually taught our children this important lesson. Even better, that we should not only be reminded of it ourselves but also embrace the philosophy. The Living Bible rendition of today’s verse is, “For if you give, you will get!” Pretty simple, huh?

Santa wins over Jessica with a gift and later she becomes Mrs. Santa Claus. He built a culture of giving but in his version, people give back. We live in a culture where people take and take. There seems to be little charity among us. We walk by the Salvation Army kettles like they are an annoyance to us rather than allowing ourselves to be motivated to support a group who is doing the work of helping others. This is not our essential nature though. It is not who we are. We are kind and generous in our union with Christ. We just allow the culture and our schedules to poison our attitudes.

So, here is my Christmas wish for you. Go get the collection of old-time Christmas animated classics. Get a big bowl of popcorn and watch them with your loved ones. Listen and watch for the message of Christ and let it melt you. Allow your love and generosity to bob to the surface. Let your tenderness show and let it have its say. I wish for you to receive greatly but I know that you must give if you want to get. Let Jesus fill your heart and bless you abundantly. That is my wish for you, immeasurable abundance of Christ in you and with you. Merry Christmas!

Invested Bread

Ecclesiastes 11: 1

Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.

This is such an archaic message. I wonder if it has lost its meaning. Let’s see if we can put a little modern spin on this for everyone.

The New Century Version says it this way, “Invest what you have, because after a while you will get a return.” There, that makes much more sense. I guess if you think of the term the way it was used in the 70’s it helps in understanding too. People back then called money “bread”. So cast your bread out there, invest it so that it can make a return for you. Several other versions agree with this idea even though they use the old language because they add that more will come back with the original. So you cast your bread, receiving it back and more besides.

The Living Bible reads, “Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later.” Here we learn that the investment is a gift. Is there a guarantee of a return when the invested bread is a gift? No, generally not, but then there is no guarantee in any investment. There is one giving that does guarantee you get your principle back along with earnings on it. It is the subject of today’s verse. When you cast your bread to God, or give to Him, then your investment is guaranteed. This is the Kingdom of God. “Do good wherever you go. After a while, the good you do will come back to you (ERV).” This is God’s investment strategy and He guarantees we will make money on it.

As you know, there are a lot of broke Christians. Many of them have never been taught God’s economic system, which is really sad. Then also, there are some who are just stingy. They don’t give because they want every dime to spend on their pleasures. They don’t believe God rewards giving or that He gives a return on investments made with Him. Perhaps, many of us just have no faith, while others always seem to see a conspiracy like someone, the church, the pastor, are after their money. I don’t see my giving to a ministry solely as a gift to that ministry, even though it is worthy of my gift. I see it as a gift to Dad, money for His Kingdom work here on earth. That alone is a good return but then our Father actually multiplies the money as well and returns it to us.

Don’t you want in on this deal? How can we lose as we invest in spreading the Good News of God? Well, cast your bread on the water. Send out money on every wave so that every wave will bring you return. I guarantee that the Kingdom of God is the best blue chip investment you will ever find.

Building the Temple

1 Chronicles 29: 9

Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

God has made us to be givers. We are in His image and He is the greatest giver of all time. One of the things that hangs us up, though, is that our offerings go to people. Truthfully, we do not always trust people and sometimes in our hearts we do not wish to bless people. If we could give right into God’s hands, we would joyfully give. We probably couldn’t give enough to satisfy the desire to bless the Lord.

In today’s story, David was at the end of his life and thus, his term as the king and leader of Israel. His son, Solomon, would be tasked with building the temple to the Lord. David, though, gave gold, silver, brass, etc. towards the building of the temple. He even gave gold so the walls could be covered in gold. It was in his heart to bless, the Lord, his God. As the people listened to his words and observed his example, they also dug deep into their resources and gave more gold, and other metals. It was a joy and a delight to these people to give to their God and they gave with a whole heart. I would like to go back in time and witness their joy.

We have a number of cultural issues which impede our giving. First, there is that keeping up with the Jones’ thing. If we give and give, then others will have more than we. What if we give so much directly to our pastors that their prosperity begins to eclipse our own? We seem to have a mentality which requires pastors to be broke. This is a thought pattern which strains my brain because it seems to me that in the world of logic, especially in Kingdom dynamics, those who serve God (including you) should be the most prosperous on earth. I don’t know where we got this poverty mentality, the Puritans perhaps, but it defies logic for me. Surely, you have noticed how wealthy preachers are criticized. I do know of some churches, though, who seem to consider it an insult to themselves if the pastors are not in nice clothes and driving the nicest cars. How would that go over in your church? What are the tapes running in our brains that would never allow that to happen.

Another problem our giving suffers is that we are living in a time when there is so much to spend money on. We can go on nice trips, drive nice cars, buy bigger homes and multiple homes. There is a new electronic gadget out almost every day that attracts our attention. What would the Israelites have done with all that gold anyway? If they did not give it to the temple would that have meant they could take a Caribbean cruise? I think they were not as distracted by a world full of pleasures as we are. I believe that is why we have to purpose in our hearts to be givers. There are many things we can give our money to, is the church the most attractive of these? I doubt it. God, likely is though. If you can get face to face with Him I think we would all want to give Him anything we could.

The Israelites received a revelation of the elation in giving. They gave to God with their whole hearts and rejoiced in the gifts. Maybe in our quiet time with the Lord, he can give us a revelation too showing us how giving will benefit us while it increases our joy. Let’s ask him about that, shall we?

Dams

Proverb 3: 9 – 10

Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce, so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

Sometimes humans are the dullest form of intelligent life. This verse couldn’t get much simpler, and yet there is tremendous resistance within the church to giving. God has told us how to have abundance. He wants us to experience overflow. Overflow is when you have more than enough. That is a typical God plan. He never stops at just filling a cup. He runs it over. So, if we are not experiencing overflow, what is damming the flow?

It turns out that we use our intelligence quotient to construct dams in our lives. We are blocking our own flow, in other words. The principle pointed to in today’s proverb is no different than what Jesus taught. It is the principle of sowing and reaping. God is a multiplier. He multiplies what we give Him and gives it back to us. In the old days they taught us that a hundred times zero was not a good yield. A hundred times one is better but if I understand God and His ways, I can use the kingdom principles He put in place thousands of years ago and receive whatever yield I need or want.

So how do we honor the Lord from our wealth and the first of our produce? One of the obstacles some people face is that they are happy to bless the Lord but they don’t like giving to person in order to accomplish that goal. Well, as I have said before, if you cannot trust your minister with your money then you probably want to look for another church home. Secondly, I find it hard to believe we can’t find one minister in all the world who we believe will use God’s money in the way He directs them. Third, pray over your giving. God will honor and multiply your gift without regard to what the person you give it to does with the money. Your part is just to give. When you let go of it, then the rest is up to God.

So, what I want to say to you is, “Don’t worry about it.” I want you in overflow. I want no financial stress on you whatsoever. Therefore, I encourage you to pour out your gifts to the Lord, even if they go through a person, so that God can overflow your cup. Tear down the dams in your life and let God bless you.

 Making it Easy

Deuteronomy 14: 12

“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.”

Hey, let’s make this easy on you and answer some questions about tithing and offerings. Well, first of all, yes, there are more gifts to the Lord than just tithes. There are times when you will want to give a gift which is above and beyond your tithe. Today, instead of the theology of tithes and offerings, though, I want to talk about the practical side of life. Let’s begin with some basics though.

Tithe, quite literally, means the tenth part, hence ten percent. The tithe is paid on gross income. You have probably heard it said that God gets the first ten percent. Paying on gross rather than net is what that refers to. So, if you are an employee that means you give God ten percent of your gross pay. You can do that each paycheck if you like and that certainly makes it easy. You can also do it monthly if you prefer. You could even give every week. Just find something that makes sense with your pay schedule and your life. If you own your own business, then you would give ten percent of your total income. Again, do that weekly or monthly.

Okay, now, how about the question, “Who do I send my tithe to?” Well, it should be sent to the one who is feeding you. Who do you rely on when you need help? Who is feeding you day in and day out. Are you a member of a church congregation? That church supports you by having regular weekly services and providing for your needs in other ways. When you give that church your tithe, you pay the electricity bill, the water bill and all of the other necessaries, including salaries, which allow that church to keep providing services.

This once was not to be a difficult question because we all simply gave our tithe to our local church. Today, however, we may be fed by any number of ministries through internet or television ministry. Do these ministries deserve a portion of your tithe too? Well, perhaps so. However, you can also reserve a gift for those ministries if you like. In other words, you could still give your whole tithe to the local church and send the other ministries that feed you a monthly gift. Some ministers teach not to split up your tithe. Personally, I am alright with it. I do feel we have a responsibility to the church we attend every week but I also think there is something fundamentally wrong with us feeding off of a ministry and never providing any substance back to that ministry. Take this question to the Lord in prayer but don’t be so bound by tradition that you cannot hear His leading.

What about setting up an auto payment? You have probably heard some ministers teach not to set up your tithe on auto payment. Their reasoning is very good but at the end of the day I have reasons which for me are more compelling for using an auto-payment function. One of the key reasons some folks don’t want you to use auto-pay is because your tithe and your gifts and offerings should always be purposeful. In other words, we should be engaged with God over our giving. Every time I give something to the work of the Lord I want to be engaged emotionally and intentionally in that transaction. That can be hard while using bill pay. Besides being purposeful, our giving should also always be done prayerfully. Again, this can be difficult if you use an auto payment feature. One thing you can do, though, is set up your bill pay so that it sends you an email when that payment is about to go out. Pray over that gift then. It might not be as perfect as sitting down and writing checks but I think it will work.

The real advantage to the auto-pay feature is that you don’t forget. This is a big deal for me because I travel a lot. I don’t want to get two months down the road and realize I have forgotten to send in my tithe. So whether I am on the road or in town, I know my tithe, gifts and offerings are going to be sent on time.

One other thought. I really do believe in tithes and offerings. I never give only ten percent. That doesn’t make me special. I am just more desperate for God’s blessing in my life than some other folks. Sometimes, though, when we set up our tithe on auto-pay, we disengage mentally from the whole process. That is the thing I would not have you do. I want us to all be conscious every day about what the Father is speaking to us about giving. He might have a gift He wants you to sow today that has nothing to do with your regular giving. So, my bottom line is this: first, whatever Dad tells you to do relative to who you give to, how much you give (above the tithe) or the delivery method, you should do. I strongly believe this should be something you do with the father. Secondly, if any of the technological conveniences cause you to be disengaged in this process, then I suggest abandoning them. I personally hate to miss a month, especially when I know some ministry is counting on my regular monthly contribution but you can make it up next month if you do make a mistake. Don’t mishear me. I am not saying it is okay to miss a month. I am just saying that if you do, send double next month or send a check the moment you realize. It is important for your giving to be done purposefully and prayerfully. I don’t want your bank account tithing. I want you tithing. So, if you set up your bill pay and then forget it, disengaging in an activity that should be done mindfully, then take it out of bill pay and go back to the old fashion ways.

Lastly, if you have more questions, you may use the comment function of this devotion to post your question or click here to go to our Ask Ivey webpage and ask your question there. We would love to hear from you and you will get a personal response from me. Your question might even inspire another Word of the Day because if you are thinking it, so are other folks.

Mite or Might

Mark 12: 42 – 44

And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, his poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

This is a familiar story to many of you. None the less, I am hoping we can allow this narrative, and its meaning, to sink deeper into our spirits today. This woman’s act certainly got Jesus’s attention. Why?

There was nothing to be criticized in what the other contributors did but there was something different about the donation of the widow. What was so special about what she did that it caused Jesus to stop and comment? Here is another question – why in the world did she give her last penny, what was it that caused her to give all that she had? That which she gave was all that she had to live on. Think about that for a moment. Better still, try to put yourself in her position. If you didn’t have much how would you feel about giving to anyone, even the Lord? What if all you had was your last dime? Could you, would you put your last farthing in the till? I confess that I would find that a difficult thing to do. Our natural impulse is to take care of ourselves first.

Let’s try to get into this woman’s head? What was it about this lady that caused her to toss her last centavo into the plate knowing she would have nothing later with which to buy bread? Wasn’t this almost like signing her own death warrant? Maybe she wasn’t absorbed with taking care of herself first because she knew that it was not her job to meet her needs. Could that possibly be the case? Could it possibly be that her love for the Lord was greater than her self-preservation instinct? How about this, was she, perhaps, trying to meet her need by sowing into the kingdom? Did this Jewish woman know, in her heart, something few modern day believers understand? That penny wasn’t worth much as provision but it was invaluable as seed. Jesus taught us that the entire kingdom of God is contained in the smallest of seeds (Mark 4: 30 – 32).

I do not know what inspired this woman but I do know that it was a significant enough event that Jesus called his disciples over to witness it. It certainly is a humbling passage. Although Jesus made a point of isolating the incident for his disciples and for us, he did little to explain it. Perhaps this is one of the points in our walk with Jesus which he designed as a “Selah” moment, a time to pause and reflect. Maybe the full account of this event is meant to be explained by the Lord himself in the still, quietness of our hearts. One thing is for sure, this woman and her unselfish gift live on in distinction and are a quiet testimony to each of us.