As a Pastor I see the weekly struggle our sluggish economy is feeding. As a Pastor I see the daily lives of Christians moving far away from living as a Christian Steward. I also work with Pastors and churches of all types across the country, and I see the same issues in every brand of church. It is tough in the trenches!
There are three key points in understanding today and tomorrow in church and ministry economics. These three points are currently at "critical mass" and little relief is seen - or is it?
Stewardship is more than generosity. Stewardship is a state of being and a way of living. God says we are stewards. I Corinthians Chapter 4 drives this point home. We may run from it or try to re-define it, but God says HE has entrusted to us the Gospel and the resources. And in this trust we are to be found faithful! Until we return to a Biblical view of personal stewardship, our ministries and churches will be hurting to a point of debilitating proportion. As theological structures weaken the clear teaching of tithing and grace giving, we are presented with a huge dilemma - how will we fund that which God has called us to?
Leadership is everything! I was slapped in the face with this a few years ago. I always give my tithes and offerings during the giving time in our services. I give as I ask others to also be obedient and give. But we had added a second service. God showed me that one of the services was missing out on seeing this modeled before them. So I now write two checks each week, and give in both. It was simple. It was no trouble. But it was noticed! Leaders are seen more than they are heard. Leaders must embrace the discipline of steward living and giving just as they do prayer and other dsciplines.
And leaders must also realize that teaching on stewardship is NOT the end of the world. I know that this is a scary subject for many Pastors. Why? So what if others have abused it. So what if others are not biblical. Lead by teaching the whole of the Bible and your people will be blessed by it. The promises of God toward faithful stewards are needed by every person in your services. Live it and teach it! As one church I know of does, celebrate the giving time in your services instead of hiding it. You and your people will find freedom and blessings!
We are in trouble with our structures. By structures I mean buildings, denominational, and educational. Allow me to break these down:
Buildings - many have old and worn out buildings. Trying to address this deferred maintenance is a nightmare. Our churches and our educational institutions are all seeing this problem swell before their eyes. Courage and change will be required to maneuver this mountain. Add to this, many churches have built too much and too costly. Banks are no longer allowing this. But debt will have to be eliminated. Many secular approaches to debt reduction are leading churches down a dangerous path while ignoring the Biblical teachings and promoting an approach that will leave Pastors in trouble for the long haul. Pastors be careful! We must lay the groundwork for many years to come. Only strong Biblical Stewardship will accomplish this.
And remember these two important things:
1. You must maintain what you build!
2. Having an empty building 6 days a week does NOT bring honor to God! Build smart and flexible!
Structure - There is much dissatisfaction with the bloated structures that are found in our religious circles. People in the chairs and pews today are NOT sold on much of what denominations, conventions, and fellowships do. Networking is easier today than ever. This presents a major issue for our current structures. Add deferred maintenance issues, lack of interest, and poor stewardship together and you will see what I am talking about. It is NOT going to be pretty. But remember, change is more often good than bad. We need major change in our structures. Follow the money and you will see this clearly.
Educational - Maintenance alone puts our religious institutions in jeopardy. Add to that a poor economy, student loan debt from under grad schools, online and alternative sources of education, and one discovers that we are in the middle of a major shift. We cannot sustain the current model for long. Change is coming and change must come.
But all is NOT over.
It is a great time to return to Biblical Stewardship and cast a new more effective model of how we do what we do, and prepare for it. We have the ability to shape a younger generation that is living in the struggles of material sin from their elders. Their mindset is different and we must make sure we provide the resources and vision to capture and lead them to a Biblical model of steward living. It is possible because God is still God! It is doable because the Word of God says so.
What will we do?