Money and Faith

Richard Rohr, from The Center for Action and Contemplation, shared last week about the power of money.  Rohr refers to Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money.  She states that we have made money more important than humans. We have even given money more meaning than human life.

Rohr writes that we often find our behavior around money at odds with our deeply held values and ideals.  He goes on to say that he truly believes that we really long for the well-being of the people we love, ourselves and the world. The problem is that money often takes over our best selves.

We become willing to sacrifice our health, our relationships, our world and so much more for the sake of money.  No wonder Jesus talked about money and possessions over and over.  Jesus calls us to love God and love one another. And he warns against loving money.  How easy it becomes to confuse what is eternal with something as temporary as money.

This is why we need to help our folks with the discussion of money, when we are not asking them for money. Preaching and teaching on money and possessions does not always need to end with an ask.

2017 Charitable Giving Numbers

The latest report from Giving USA is out. The numbers from 2017 report a record high of $410.02 billion given to charitable causes. Religion still receives the largest share at 31% of all gifts, but the number is well below what it was 20 years ago.  And religious giving continues to shrink as a percentage of income. The reality is that as the Builder/Greatest Generation fades away, their giving goes away. And new givers are not making up the difference.

70% of all giving is still done by individuals. And the vast majority of that is done by ordinary folks. There are mega-gifts being made by the Gates and Buffets of the world, but these generally come from their charitable foundations. This tells me that people have money to give, but they are choosing to give in many places besides religious organizations.

Folks, we cannot keep kicking financial support for the mission and ministry of the church to the bottom of our concerns. Our local churches and conference will not last long without strong financial support.  And it will not happen without clergy and lay leadership ensuring that generosity is always integrated with any teaching on discipleship.

Your Investors

Horizons Stewardship published an article by Mick Tune last month about investors.  He begins, “Think of me as a potential venture capitalist for your organization, or as a mission capitalist for your vision. I am not looking to make money back, but I am looking for a real return on my investment. I love my church and all, but you are not the only Godly gig around.”


What vision/mission is your church or ministry proposing for funding from potential investors?  By potential investors, I am referring to persons who put money in the offering plate every Sunday or send money to you monthly or quarterly.  How are you telling your story of making a difference in your community? Investors are looking for a return on investment. In ministry, the only return is changed lives.


Investors have many choices, when it comes to where their money goes. The church and ministry organizations can no longer just sit around and expect people to give. Our message and invitation to invest must be clear and compelling.

People of Faith Do Not Automatically Give

Many leaders in churches are Boomers, who think about giving to the church in the world of the Builder Generation. The Builders are more faithful in attending and in giving to the institutional church. The Builders generally did not need encouragement to give. But the Builders are disappearing from our churches because of death. And Boomers have not really learned or taught their generations and others about the spiritual discipline of giving. Thom Rainer had some reflections on this recently.

Rainer reminds us that Boomers and Gen X have high incomes, but do not give consistently or generously to the church. Millennials give, but they do not have the financial resources to give large amounts. The problem is that Builders are being replaced with Millennials. So the shift is from more generous to less generous givers. And there is more.

Millennials are more inclined to give to purposes rather than organizations. Churches must demonstrate how the funds are going to be used for a meaningful purpose. It is not enough to say, “Give to the church.” It needs to become give to the church so that we can continue to feed the hungry on Sunday afternoon, etc.

Folks, if we really expect our churches to be effective expressions of God’s Kingdom, it will require us to teach biblical generosity. It is not going to happen, if we do not engage in the process. Sitting around on our hands is not going to get it done.

Opportunity to Give

Easter is quickly approaching. This is an excellent time to receive a special Easter Offering. The use of the funds will depend upon your financial circumstances and goals for ministry. You may wish to simply invite people to make a gift for Easter. The money would then be available for the most pressing financial need. Or you may wish to connect the offering to a special church project.

The special project may be updating a part of the building, children’s ministry, youth ministry or senior adult ministry. It may be time for new stoles for the choir or new choir robes. Maybe you need some new paraments or offering plates.  It might be that you wish to support a mission group or Advance Special. I think you get the idea.

Be sure to have a special envelope for folks to use for the offering. People, who wish to give will give. But if you do not ask, no one will give.

Lenten Disciplines

One of the most talked about disciplines for Lent is that of fasting. People often choose to give up sweets, chocolate, soft drinks, etc. I suggest that we might also want to think about a fast from stuff for a portion of Lent.

In The 7 Experiment, staging your own mutiny against excess, Jen Hatmaker addresses possessions.  She specifically invites the reader to think about a couple of questions:
“How can you cultivate a sense of God’s presence in your home?”
“What can you do differently to be sure possessions don’t steer your heart?”

Hatmaker suggests the reader find a way to give away at least 7 things a day for seven days as a sign of freedom from possessions. The seven for one day may be items from one room or the whole house.  The seven could be kitchen items, home accessories, furniture or linens.  Clothes are a great way to produce seven items.

The whole idea is to realize that we do have a lot of stuff and that stuff does not equal worth and value.

Generosity Begins with Beginning

As a pastor I heard many people over the years say, “When I am in a better financial place in life, I will begin to tithe.”  What they were really saying is that they will begin to give. Tithing is generally considered to be 10% of one’s income. These folks usually were giving nothing or less than $200 per year.  The problem is that these folks never seem to reach some kind of financial mark in life to begin generosity. So many people make the mistake of equating generosity with the level of one’s financial resources.

Many believe they will give more when they have more. The problem is that a failure to be generous with a small income will never result in becoming generous with a larger income. Generosity is about making a conscious decision through the power of the Holy Spirit to give freely and sacrificially of one’s financial resources. It is not about the level of one’s financial resources. Generosity is about being generous.

Generosity really does begin with being generous.

Expressing Love

Today, we will see lots of red hearts and ash crosses on foreheads. Valentine’s Day is a great day for florists, restaurants, jewelers and candy makers. Today is also Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. On this day we are invited to give freely of cards, candy, jewels, etc. in order to express our love to another. We also begin to engage in spiritual disciplines as an expression of love for Jesus.

I remember many years ago that our children were in a school system that allowed florists to deliver items to students in classrooms on Valentine’s Day. You should have seen how many balloons and stuffed animals filled cars and buses at the end of the day. I guess we were bad parents, because we did not send balloons or stuffed animals to our children at school.  What we did notice over the next two or three years that it became a contest to see which children would get the most balloons and stuffed animals. Thankfully, the school ended the practice because it just disrupted the whole day. It is so easy to equate stuff with love.

This is a day that many will renounce eating chocolates and eating out as a spiritual discipline. What a confusing day of emotions for us all.  We give out of love and deny out of love. We acquire more and let go of more. What a perfect way to begin discerning the place of money and stuff in our life of faith.

Tell the Stories of Faith

Tell the Stories of Faith


Folks, we just need to get better at telling our stories. I know Jesus talked about not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, but we need to celebrate what we are doing as a faith community. People need to hear how their investment of prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness is making a difference.  We need to tell our stories because others are telling stories of their accomplishments.


Various hospitals are telling about changing and saving lives. Colleges and universities communicate about their facilities and students. Even dog shelters are telling their stories. I love animals, but I believe that connecting people to Jesus is more important. Yet, we just seem to assume that people are going to give because they are supposed to give. That world is going away quickly.


Right now is the time to craft your stories as a bulletin insert, a video or a witness for worship. Look at what you are doing for children, youth or older adults. Find out about the work of the church in Mississippi and around the world. If you do not have any stories to tell, it may be time to fall in love with Jesus again as the church.


A New Year

A New Year with the New Tax Law


It is true that many givers will no longer be able to itemize their charitable contributions to our churches, but I believe that people will continue to give. According to research by Crescendo, charitable estate gifts have continued even as the estate tax exemptions have risen. The reason is that people’s primary motivation for giving is to leave a legacy and support what they love.


The ministry of the church has not changed. The desire to bring new people into a relationship with Jesus Christ has not changed. Care for those in need in our communities and around the world has not changed. We are still called to be a light to all the world.


There are still some tax-wise ways to give. Those confronted with mandatory IRA distributions can still roll them over directly to the church and exclude them from income. Gifts of appreciated securities may still be given to the church, while avoiding capital gains taxes. In each case, the donor should consult an accountant or financial advisor in making these decisions.


We are called to celebrate new beginnings in this season of Christ’s light. Tell the stories of light, and people will respond in generosity.