Money and ministry don’t mix, or so we think.
Because of big name evangelists seeming consistent misuse of money, the front-line pastors of average-sized churches across the country avoid talking about money.
Sure, maybe once in a while, they may talk about tithing during a capital campaign. Perhaps they’ll throw in an example about money in a sermon illustration. Preaching about money is about more than filling the church coffers. Money impacts both how we receive and live the Gospel.
The Church needs its pastors to preach about money.
It’s the Number One Stressor for Americans
The American Association of Psychology rates money as the number one stressor of Americans. This is the seventh year in a row that money has been at the top of this list. And the worst part is that most Americans think the solution is to simply get more money.
The Gospel is good news. It’s good news for every culture, every context and every worry. Is it possible the church’s decline in America is linked to the church’s inability to communicate the good news of the Gospel as the solution to the bad news of our culture?
Churches frame their messaging about money around the church’s need, not the healing good news of the Gospel for its people and their money. No wonder less than 5% of Christians tithe.
The Gospel says that at one time we were “under a curse” separate from God “without hope”. Without hope describes how most Americans feel about their money.
The Good news is that Jesus was a curse for us, He died and restored us so that no longer must we live under the curse of “by the sweat of your brow you will eat” but we can live in the provision of a Father who feeds even the sparrows and dresses the lilies.
If pastors care about their church members they must present the Gospel that heals the wounds in their life. As the third leading cause of divorce and the number one stressor for American church-goers, money is easily the biggest pain-point of our culture.
It’s not that we must MAKE the Gospel address this pain, the Gospel DOES address it. Pastors just need to present it.
It’s How We Live Out the Gospel
We need to bring the Gospel to people in the life they live, but we also need to teach them how to live out the Gospel.
When churches frame the money conversation around meeting unmet needs or meeting the church budget, they cheat their congregants out of important heart work God wants to do in their lives.
The Gospel is a lived gospel. We live our life one money decision at a time. Where we go, what we do, what we buy are all driven by money.
Do we work 40 hours or 60 hours a week? Why?
Do our kids go to private, public or homeschool?
Do we vacation at the campground or Europe.
Money executes these decisions. The Gospel, the fact that Jesus Christ shouldered my sin, and died with it, rising again in victorious life for me, should make these decisions.
Pastors need to teach our people that it’s not OK to have “values” that you don’t put money behind. It’s not OK to receive a Gospel that you don’t live.
It’s not OK to keep all your money for yourself. That’s called selfish. It’s not “love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s not OK to not take risk. That’s self-preservation. It’s not “he who loses his life will find it.”
Pastors can’t, as spiritual shepherds, tolerate hoarding. Not because the church needs the money, but because people need to give it. If pastors want Jesus to be a central part of their congregant’s lives, they must preach what it looks like for Jesus to be a central part of their money.
Why Pastors Aren’t Preaching About Money
I’ve sat with lots of people and looked over their finances. If I can be frank (and this is my blog so I guess I get to be), ministers and missionaries are not categorically awesome with money. So, it makes sense why Pastors avoid the topic. They may not have things figured out for themselves, so they feel they have ‘no room to talk’.
But just as every pastor has trouble in their marriage, struggles with anger, and wrestles with their faith, we need to preach the Gospel in its entirety and be appropriately vulnerable with the places we struggle.
I get it. We don’t want to come across as the “prosperity gospel guy”, or the televangelist running off with the offerings, but in an attempt to “not make church a business” we ironically rob our congregants of the tools they need to live a life on mission and on faith. Instead, pastors reduce their spiritual relationship with our congregation to a transactional one, begging them for just a little support (when they’re desperate enough) in exchange for not addressing the number one idol of Americans.
If you were sending a missions team to a foreign country where the dominant religion was not Christianity, would you find ways to communicate Christianity in a way that incorporated the deity of the other religion?
Or would you systematically dismantle the religion, revealing how it has fallen short of giving its followers life and life abundantly, and present the Gospel as the solution?
Pastors are tolerating a ‘second lover’ for God’s church. We need to dismantle the number one idol of the American people and reveal how it has bound them. If you want to find the idol, look for the taskmaster. Money is a harsh slave driver but in Jesus we can gain our freedom.
Money decisions occupy our thoughts and worries. It is imperative that we teach God’s people to give, save, live simply and be content, not because we need their money to run our churches, but because they need rescued from the God of Mammon.
We as preachers and teachers have a duty to be ‘above reproach’ in this area, and lead our people out of the worry and bondage of the love of money by bringing them to the foot of the cross.
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