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Church Generosity and Why It’s Not More Today

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Every church relies on the generosity of its members to provide both financial and volunteer support. However, the concept of church generosity can sometimes take a back seat in people’s thoughts. Churches often grapple with reasons that prevent them from giving as much as they receive, and these reasons can be deeply challenging. There exists a timeless anecdote that illustrates the quest to comprehend the vastness of God’s existence.

In this tale, a man sought to test the magnitude of time and value in the eyes of the divine. He posed questions to God, asking, “How does a million years translate in your perspective?” To which God responded, “A million years is akin to a fleeting second.” The man further inquired, “And what is the value of a million dollars to you?” God’s reply was, “A million dollars holds the weight of a mere penny.” In response, the man grinned and playfully asked, “God, might you spare a penny?” With a gentle smile, God replied, “Certainly, just wait a second.”

This charming anecdote encapsulates the profound notion that our human comprehension of time and value is minute compared to the divine perspective. It also imparts a lesson on patience and trust in the divine’s timing.

Church Generosity is a Continuing Need

Throughout my extensive experience working with and being in the company of pastors, a consistent refrain stands out: “We have more money than we need right now” is a sentiment rarely voiced. I’m sure you’ve encountered this reality as well. Curiously, expressions of scarcity emerge from leaders spanning churches of all sizes. The need for increased resources extends beyond the realm of smaller congregations.

Should your vision transcend your financial means, take solace in the fact that you share this predicament with notable figures throughout biblical history. Countless men and women, summoned by God, have embarked on endeavors that surpassed their capacities. Moses faced a speech impediment when confronting Pharaoh. Gideon found his troops drastically reduced by divine intervention, and the disciples confronted the challenge of feeding 5,000 people with limited provisions.

If your aspirations align comfortably with your existing resources and capabilities, it’s a sign you’re not daring to dream on a grand scale. The account of the feeding of the 5,000 offers a candid portrayal of the disciples’ response. When tasked by Jesus to provide sustenance for the multitude, they were candid: “With what?” A justified query, as the means at hand were insufficient to meet the demand.

Nearly every pastor, at some juncture, experiences the sensation of having inadequate resources. This sentiment can arise from a genuine lack or from possessing an abundance that falls short of perceived necessities for fulfilling God’s calling. This underscores why comparisons are futile—resources are contextual. Your responsibility centers on fidelity to your divine calling, irrespective of others’ circumstances.

Don’t Fall Victim to Envy

I’ll admit, I often grapple with facility envy. I pastor a church from the 1970s with its distinctive “A-frame” sanctuary and a Sunday School area. Our Sunday School bell still works, if we chose to use it. While our church is blessedly free of debt and God’s goodness abounds, our building doesn’t quite capture the essence of our congregation. It wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t confess that the scent of a “new building” triggers a certain fascination whenever I step into a modern facility.

Yet, a curious twist unfolds. I have a friend who leads a church boasting a $6 million facility, and he admits to envying my setup due to the substantial mortgage looming over his congregation. The lesson: resources are relative. For every individual you might envy a step ahead, there’s someone behind you harboring similar sentiments about your position.

Every leader revels in the surge of divine inspiration. However, when resources fall short of the ambitions ignited by God, you find yourself echoing the disciples’ inquiry: “With what?” You perceive a need but struggle to perceive the means to fulfill it. If you’re navigating a season feeling under-resourced, allow me to present three probing questions about your leadership.

1. Model Extreme Church Generosity

Your church’s level of generosity won’t surpass your own. Read that statement once more. You establish the standard. While it’s not necessary for you to be the highest contributor in terms of numbers, you should certainly strive to be the greatest percentage giver among your congregation.

In my conversations with numerous pastors, I often encounter a sense of frustration concerning the perceived lack of generosity within their churches. However, when I inquire about their personal tithing or contributions, things tend to become uncomfortable, as many admit they do not. It’s essential that you practice what you preach; otherwise, your authenticity could be questioned. You should genuinely embrace the principles you espouse, or people will see right through any facade.

My focus on preaching about giving isn’t rooted in a desire for increased contributions. Instead, it stems from my own firsthand experience of the transformative impact of generosity and the blessings bestowed by God. I don’t seek anything from them; rather, I wish something remarkable for them. There’s a distinction between the two, one that resonates more through actions than words.

2. Focus on Your Motives

Your motives are uniquely known to you, and only you can address this inquiry: Why the pursuit of greater resources? Perhaps it’s to expand the reach of the gospel, but be alert – virtuous motives can sometimes mask self-centered intentions. Countless cost-effective methods exist for spreading the gospel, such as TV broadcasts or new facilities, yet their suitability may not align with the present.

Beware of yearning for positive outcomes driven by improper reasons. This risk is heightened when comparing your church to those with a 10-20-year head start. Many exceptional churches and pastors share stories of innovation born from desperation. Guard against a desire for more resources robbing you of joy in your current season, however meager it may seem. Embrace its intrinsic value, knowing that growth and contentment persist even in lean times.

3. Being a Good Steward

A significant fallacy permeates life and leadership, perpetuating the notion, “If I had more, I could accomplish more.” The belief is that with more time, productivity would soar. Additional staff would enable reaching more individuals. A superior facility would guarantee church growth. The “more myth” extends to money as well. It assumes that possessing greater funds would automatically amplify generosity. But reality proves otherwise.

Jesus illuminated that our actions with meager resources reflect how we handle abundance. Instead of fixating on figures in your church budget, shift your focus to percentages. Inquire, “Does our current financial allocation align with God’s values?” If doubt lingers or the answer is negative, stop making excuses and initiate change.

While there isn’t a guaranteed formula for God’s blessings, the Bible consistently suggests that blessings often follow behavior. Align your corporate actions with the individual principles you teach: craft a budget, embrace frugality, prioritize generosity, and nurture contentment.

The BIG Questions

It’s tempting to harbor bitterness towards non-contributors or even direct it towards God for not furnishing more resources. However, before allowing bitterness to taint your heart, introspect:

Am I exemplifying profound church generosity?
Are my intentions untainted?
Have I responsibly managed my present resources?

You might find that the answers are affirmative, and yet, for reasons beyond our comprehension, God has chosen to place you in a context marked by scarcity. In such a case, find solace. Recall how God supplied quail in the desert, sent a raven with sustenance for Elijah, and ensured oil continued to flow for a widow.

He multiplied two fish and a few loaves into an abundant feast. God will unfailingly provide the means required to fulfill His calling, even if His methods are beyond your grasp. Not comprehending His strategy doesn’t equate to His unawareness.

Refuse to let constrained resources restrict your vision; after all, you serve a boundless God.

About Jason

Leading Hope City Church in Louisville, KY, is Jason Isaacs. His most recent work, titled “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart,” offers a pathway to soul healing, reignites ministry passion, and empowers you to triumph over discouragement and setbacks. Secure your copy here.

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