A self-published devotional becomes an inspiring best-seller with pastors and congregations.
By Raj Dayal
“Growing up, I was very materialistic; I was a taker, not a giver,” says Brian Kluth, author of the stewardship devotional 40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life. “Christ transformed my life when I became a Christian at the age of 21,” Kluth says. He has spent most of his time in ministry as a pastor and consultant speaking about generosity and stewardship, and more recently is a popular guest-speaker at churches throughout the country — and the world — on the subject of generosity.
This past January Kluth became the preaching pastor and pastor-at-large for First Evangelical Free Church in Colorado Springs, CO, after serving as senior pastor since 2000. He has conducted leadership training for pastors and administrators in more than 35 countries. His aim is to biblically inspire generosity. “There are capital campaigns that will generate giving, and money management and debt programs to help congregants, but to really get people inspired about giving, there wasn’t much out there,” Kluth says. “Getting people exposed to Scripture is what brings about life transformation — it’s not about budgets or building projects, it’s about the word of God and the realization that generosity is spiritual formation.”
Kluth’s experiences in ministry and consulting have left him with the feeling that people don’t truly understand the importance of giving to God and living a generous life. He wrote the generosity devotional as a response to help fill the void. The booklet has since taken off in sales and become a tool implemented by thousands of churches.
Nobody wanted it?
When he went to publishers he discovered that they weren’t interested in his generosity devotional. “I took the booklet to seven publishers and nobody wanted it. I was told time and time again that no one will buy a book about generosity,” Kluth recalls. “My wife Sandi and I decided to use some inheritance money and we self-published it.”
The initial run was 15,000 copies. Still, Kluth was met with doubt by naysayers. He was informed that on average, books rarely sell more than 500 copies. Currently, there are 300,000 copies of the devotional in print — in 29 different languages.
“I have partnered with a number of different denominations that have sent the book to every affiliated pastor,” Kluth says. “I have committed that 30 percent of the books should be given away to pastors as a teaching tool. My personal goal is to provide free copies to every pastor in America.” So far, copies of the book have been given to about 40,000 pastors.
Churches are maintained by the generosity of congregants, he says. “I don’t think that there’s a church in America that couldn’t benefit from becoming more generous,” says Kluth. “I don’t mean to be presumptuous or arrogant, but which of us don’t need to be more generous?”
Vital aspect of faith
Kluth encourages pastors to be mindful about teaching generosity for the first time. He maintains that teaching about generosity or personal finance has to be for the benefit of the people listening and not to increase budgets or simply to fund a new project. Kluth believes that pastors have to present generosity as a vital aspect of the Christian faith.
There are many communities, both in the U.S. and abroad, that are populated by people who are having trouble just making ends meet. Kluth contends that even in these situations generosity is essential. “Our pastor’s hearts leads us to feel that if someone is struggling, we shouldn’t encourage them to give because that’s just going to add to their struggle,” Kluth says. “What I’ve learned, especially through ministering in India and Africa, is that ultimately Scripture invites us to give from what we have. As you learn to give from what you have, you will experience God’s grace in your life.”
There are many accounts and media reports about the growing trend of what is called the “prosperity Gospel.” But for Kluth, being generous is not about getting wealth in return; it is about living an authentic Christian life and helping
leaders enable their congregations. “I don’t approach giving from a legalistic bent: You better give or else God’s going to get you. And I don’t believe in prosperity-based giving, in order to receive,” he says. “Scripture advises you to give because we have received grace. Even the poorest among us can give from what they have. If we don’t help people understand this concept we rob them of the opportunity to experience grace.”
When Kluth began giving he was in a great deal of debt. Out of his experience he believes that giving brings liberation and gratefulness for what we have. “So for the church or community that is struggling, it’s probably more vital to give and be generous,” Kluth says.
Through his booklet and speaking engagements Kluth encourages church leaders to embrace and teach that generosity is not simply about money. For Kluth generosity is about “living an open-handed life in a tight-fisted world.” He has given away clothes, books and even cars. He and his wife Sandi have also offered people a place to live in their home. Kluth asserts that generosity should flow through your entire life.
Even in churches, the concept of generosity can be difficult to understand. Kluth made the decision that worldwide, his devotional should be available for free. He was questioned and told that he was leaving money on the table. “Some people just don’t get it; they just don’t,” Kluth says. “I’ve had a few pastors tell me they won’t use the booklet because it encourages giving to God’s work throughout the world and they feel that their congregants should only give to support their [local] churches.”
Don’t stay in the starting block
When it comes to how congregants should give to churches and ministries, Kluth doesn’t believe in limitations. “I still don’t negate the idea of 10 percent; however, I don’t use the word tithe because it makes people uncomfortable and stirs up a lot of problems,” he says. “But I do talk about 10 percent or more, with 10 percent being the starting block and not the finish line.”
Kluth believes Christians excel through the grace of giving. But generous living is not easy and Kluth has made the decision to help church leaders teach it to their congregations. Since its initial printing in August 2006, the generosity devotional has made an impact in churches throughout the U.S. and the world including 25 Baptist megachurches. Kluth reports that churches have seen anywhere from a 10 to 50 percent increase in giving after using the book.
40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life is a result of Kluth’s desire to teach biblically-based generosity as a component of Christian formation. His goal is not to become financially wealthy. “I feel as though God has led me to be a generosity evangelist,” Kluth says. But some people still don’t get it. “My decision to give away 30 percent of the booklets printed to pastors is still met with confusion. I’ve been told that I have a brilliant marketing plan,” he says. “It’s not about marketing, it’s about being generous.”
The generosity devotional in use
- First Baptist Orlando, FL: 5,000 copies*
- Fellowship Bible Church, Little Rock, AR: 4,500 copies*
- New Faith Church, Matteson, IL: 3,000 copies*
- First North SC, Spartanburg, SC: 2,800 copies*
- Fairhaven Church, Dayton, OH: 2,000 copies
- Crossroads Fellowship, Charlotte, NC: 2,000 copies
- Fielder Road Baptist Church of Arlington, TX: 1,500 copies
- Kalamazoo Valley Family Church, Kalamazoo, MI: 1,500 copies*
- First Baptist of Millington, TN: 1,000 copies
*Ordered booklets with custom covers. For more information about the booklet and Kluth’s ministries visit kluth.org.