God pays the bills for soul-winning churches.
I remember hearing Pastor Brad White make this statement at the C3 Conference in Dallas in 2015. It was music to my ears. We were facing financial pressure as a church and I felt like I was doing something wrong and that we were the only ones.
Pastor Brad expounded on the constant tension between growing numerically and growing financially. This tension is created by the fact that it typically takes new believers 9-18 months before they begin contributing financially. This means that as a soul-winning church, you are always growing faster numerically than you are financially.
What do we do with this tension? Do we stop pushing so hard for new souls, or do we focus on our financial needs first? The temptation for me was always to just preach more on finances. While I believe in teaching people about the biblical view of finances, constantly teaching on finances, especially under the pressure of “we need more as a church,” often causes the unchurched to stay away. If the unchurched don’t come anymore, you stop seeing salvations and you are no longer a soul-winning church, hence the tension.
God always pays the bills for soul-winning churches. Is this a faith statement? Do I need to just believe that God will take care of us? Well, yes. I determined to put my focus on soul-winning, no matter what. I would teach on finances and tithing but would come at it in such a way that the unchurched could understand. I wouldn’t beat the church over the head with giving messages, but I wouldn’t shy away from the topic either. I would be happy in the tension by realizing this is a tension to manage, not a problem to solve.
While we are not financially flush and free of the tension, here are some of the things I have learned in regard to finances in a soul-winning church:
No. 1 Teach why before what.
Instead of just telling people what they should do – tithe – I began teaching why. I would start my messages by talking about why God would require the people of Israel to give 10% of their income to Him. He didn’t need their money. So, why would he require them to give? I began focusing on why Jesus endorsed this practice and even encouraged people to give more on top of their law-required tithe. Understanding the why gives us perspective in carrying the practice on as believers today, moving past the common excuses of “that is Old Testament theology and is not applicable to me today.”
No 2. Lead with vision.
I came to understand that it is more effective to motivate people to give to the church with vision than it is with presenting the needs. In the past, it has been a common practice of church leaders to guilt their people into giving by presenting the prevailing needs in the church. “If you don’t give, we will have to shut this program down,” for example, became a regular mantra of leaders trying to receive offerings from their people. While it is good to inform your members of the current financial state of the church, I highly discourage using that information as motivation for giving. Instead, it is better to lead with vision. Inspire people with where you are planning to go, what you are trying to accomplish in the next year and how they can be a part of this great vision, both with their time and talents as well as with their finances.
No. 3 Teach your givers how to prosper.
Ultimately, our job as pastors, according to Paul in Ephesians 4, is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” The word equip literally translated means, “skill development.” What if we as pastors didn’t just expect things from our people, but what if we gave to them as well? What if we could use our giftings as teachers to teach our givers how to better their businesses and handle their personal finances. I realized that I was regularly reading books and educating myself on best business practices in order to manage a fast-growing church, but I was keeping that information to myself and applying it just to the church management. What if I took that knowledge and taught what I was learning to my best business leaders who were already giving regularly to the church? If I helped them prosper, in return, their giving would increase as well and the church would grow along with them. I’d encourage every pastor to consider starting a Kingdom Builders or Legacy team in their church. Gather your most faithful givers who are business people and teach them. Also, in these gatherings, present your ideas and vision for the church to this group first. They will give you incredible insight into your ideas from a business perspective that could save you from a lot of mistakes that could potentially cost you unnecessary time and money. Plus, they will be more bought into a vision they had a hand in creating. This can only be good for you and for the church.
No. 4 Get creative.
I recently read an amazing book by my friend, Pastor Tim Lucas of Liquid Church in New Jersey. In his book, Liquid Church, he spent an entire chapter on finances and generosity in a soul-winning church. He’s been very creative in the way he has presented the concept of tithing and giving to his church. One of his ideas was what he called the “reverse tithe.” One Sunday, he literally took the previous Sunday’s offering and gave it back to the congregation. He was teaching on the parable of the talents and so he divided the offering ($30,000) into 3 types of envelopes. The unmarked envelopes had either a $10 bill, a $20 bill or a $50 bill in them. Then he passed the buckets, full of envelopes, through the aisles and instructed the people to take one envelope out. He told them, “this is God’s money.” He is entrusting it to you. You can either keep the money for yourself and bury it just like the one servant did in the parable, or you can take that money and invest it and bring back a larger amount to God. Talk about being creative! And risky! But the results were amazing. Two single mom’s in the group combined their cash together. One had received a $10 bill and the other a $20 bill. They both like baking cakes, so they took their $30 and bought cake supplies and baked a wedding cake together and then sold it on online for $400 and invested that money back into Kingdom work. Amazing!
The tension is real for all of us who are leading soul-winning churches, but we don’t need to succumb to the pressure. Remember, God pays the bills for soul-winning churches.