By Chuck Klein and Dean Byler
Our first of three articles in this series — in the September / October 2014 issue of Church Executive — explains how heart transformation sets the tone for church growth. In this issue, we take a closer look at the role of generosity in church growth, viewed in the context of “Big Picture” thinking.
To put this into perspective, we must first examine what motivates people to be generous.
Sacred vs. secular generosity
The more I talk to churches lately, the more I see concerned leaders endeavoring to nurture generous believers. At the same time, I see all manner of worldly agendas funded by benevolent folks who do not know God and disdain Biblical truth outright.
So, I pose the question: If both groups are being generous, what’s the difference? What’s the real end game? For the church, the focus remains on developing people who produce the fruitfulness of life rooted in Christ (John 15:5). All blessings — including money, along with the responsible stewardship thereof — directly stem from our connectedness to the Vine. Money is the fruit, not the root.
By contrast, a secular mindset puts focus on developing funding, in order to advance an agenda. American culture abounds with social and cultural programs whose “benefits” pale miserably, when viewed in the light of Biblical priorities and values. People end up hurt, not helped, when money serves as the root of (so-called) solutions.
So it follows that generosity alone will not build new sanctuaries, fund missions work or expand ministry. One can be generous without being a disciple of Jesus, but one can’t be a disciple of Jesus without being generous. When understood as the fruitful outworking of Christ’s character in us, our generosity helps to bring about “more than we could ask or imagine” (Eph 3.20).
It’s all connected
To bring about the long-term vision that God has stirred in your church, our giving must originate from an attitude of generosity as modeled by the selflessness of Christ (Phil 2.6). In a Big Picture framework, generosity sows seeds capable of reproducing incredible harvest and health in these four inter-related areas.
Budget: Generosity stems from honor.
The Biblical motivation for giving toward the function of the local church is obedience to God’s clear instruction to do so (2 Cor 9). Keeping the annual budget on track happens only when enough people honor God with their first fruits, their tithes and their offerings. Annual stewardship emphasis is met with excitement and anticipation, rather than a “here-we-go-again” reach for the wallet.
Close behind this comes honor for leadership (Heb 13.17). Where you see a lack of respect and honor for spiritual authority, you will find a church undermined by self-centeredness, disinterest, and eventually demise. By contrast, generous disciples who appreciate and lift up their leaders enjoy committing their resources to the work of the local church. They expect accountability and prayerful decisions from those leading the charge, and they trust God to multiply their faithful gifts to His purposes.
Campaigns: Generosity flows from a sacrificial heart. There’s always something else you could spend your money on. So, when the faith promise card makes its way down the row, where is your heart? Your treasure is already there. By definition, generosity isn’t just giving; it implies giving more than what’s needed, expected or even immediately available. It’s about going “over and above.”
Many factors contribute to the success of church capital campaigns, but chief among them is the eager willingness of the disciple of Jesus to deny himself / herself in the advancement the Father’s will — just like Jesus did.
Missions: Generosity focuses on others. This almost goes without saying — or does it? A cursory glance at today’s culture reveals grand “self-generosity.” By resisting the patterns of the world, while renewing our minds (Rom 8.29), we align our generosity with God’s will, not ours. And His No. 1 mandate to the church to “go and make disciples” (Matt 28.19) will only happen when generous disciples who “get it,” GIVE!
If virtually all churches today already support missions from their annual budget, what does “over and above” funding look like for that line item? It thrills us to know that many of our partner churches commit 10 percent or more of their campaign proceeds specifically toward their missions budget, thus connecting sacrificial campaign giving with ongoing emphasis on missions.
Legacy: Generosity shows a heart of purpose and vision. Whether sharing a meal with the homeless, supporting a teen’s summer mission trip, or setting aside college funds for your grandchildren, generosity happens when you envision a different, improved situation for the recipient than when you first encountered them. Romans 5.8 reveals how God demonstrates generous, forward-thinking love: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” He understood what was required of Himself in the now to produce something beautiful later. When we establish long-term priorities, and exercise the discipline to see them accomplished, we exhibit the ability to see beyond today — something Christ regularly modeled.
Chuck Klein leads Impact Stewardship, a capital stewardship ministry headquartered in Nashville, TN. Serving churches for more than 14 years, he offers mature insight into all aspects of church financial health, guiding churches to fulfill their vision through heart transformation and
radical participation. Dean Byler serves as Impact’s education coordinator and director of business development.
In the next installment in this series — in our January / February 2015 issue — Chuck Klein and Dean Byler will discuss how to create momentum for the generous heart.