by Philip Goad
What if you awakened tomorrow and all of the non-profit organizations in our country had ceased to exist? Actually, since there are more than 1.5 million non-profits in the United States, allow me to be more specific with the question. What if you awakened tomorrow and all the non-profits affiliated with our brotherhood had ceased to exist? What would the ramifications be? What important Kingdom work would immediately be left undone? How much less effective would we be in fulfilling the great commission? How many precious souls would remain lost because of discontinued evangelism?
Perhaps it is an unusual way to stir up our thinking about the role that non-profits play in accomplishing God’s work, but the crucial work they do should be held in high regard. From our Christian schools, to the organizations helping the hurting, to those who care for orphans, and to the others who evangelize in a variety of ways, the great value of the work they do cannot be understated. It is also important to keep in mind what it is that allows these great ministries to accomplish so much. Christians who choose to give, combined with the Lord’s blessing, are what allow these ministries to thrive.
Recently, while presenting our work during a “missions emphasis” event, I recall being impressed by two important things. First, churches of Christ are making an amazing impact around the world! As a brotherhood, we should be greatly encouraged by the volume of life-changing work we are accomplishing. The other thing I noticed, though, is that every ministry represented spoke about hopes, goals, and dreams that simply need to be funded. That tells me that while we are accomplishing a great deal, God only knows how many more lives could be changed for the better as more of our brothers and sisters are convinced of the importance of giving -- not just to the local church but also to the non-profit ministries that do so much good.
The challenge that preachers and church leaders face in encouraging a mindset of generosity is one that extends beyond churches of Christ. In the book Revolution in Generosity, Wesley Willmer depicts a church landscape that has often prevented the growth of a generous mindset. He states,
“Christians are also uncomfortable discussing their possessions, even with other believers. (Preachers) worry that sermons on giving will sound self-serving or discourage people from attending church, so they often avoid the topic entirely, or only bring it up once a year or when there is a crisis. Similarly, seminaries seldom teach on biblical stewardship.”
How can we foster the growth of generosity in our congregations? What can we do, as preachers and church leaders, to encourage Christians to generously support the non-profits that do so much good for the Kingdom? Following are some suggestions that I believe can help.
1. We must be convinced that preaching and teaching on stewardship is an important aspect of preaching the word. As shepherds consider the flock feeding they sanction through the work of the preacher, hopefully they are requesting that lessons be preached on this important topic. It is powerful and liberating for the preacher when he can stand before the congregation and state that the shepherds have asked that a given lesson be preached. Either way, though, it must be preached!
2. We must help our congregations understand that being generous is an important aspect of being created in the image of God and being conformed to the image of Christ. We are created in the image of a God who gave and who continues to give. We are attempting to conform our lives to the image of the One who gave his very life.
3. We must convince our church families that passages of scripture addressing “the rich” deserve an extra measure of our attention. While we often are tempted to think that the rich person is someone who has more than we do, the reality is that we are the richest of the rich. Christians in our country must be taught to embrace not only this fact but also the spiritual responsibilities that come with it.
4. We would do well to help our congregations better know the ministries being supported by the church. It is also a blessing to introduce them to additional ministries. The stronger and more personal the relationship between member and ministry becomes, the more likely Christians are to give. How well do the members of your congregation know the ministries you support? As a preacher or leader, how well do you know them?
5. We can remind Christians that there are multiple ways to be generous. While we most readily think of giving monetarily, many non-profits can utilize the donation of a person’s time. In addition, a non-profit is highly appreciative when a current donor uses his influence to encourage someone else to give. Money, time, and influence are all important.
6. We can remind Christians that gifts to non-profit organizations can often be enhanced through the use of corporate matching gift programs. If the non-profit organization is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization, most people who work for a company with a matching gift program can utilize the program to double the amount of their donation. My grandmother is 98 years old and the company from which she retired many years ago still matches every gift she makes.
7. We can encourage Christians to leave a legacy by remembering the non-profit organizations that are important to them in an estate plan. More and more Christians are choosing to give through charitable bequests and many ministries are being blessed. Has your congregation conducted an estate planning seminar for your members? If not, many of them will appreciate it.
We are truly blessed to serve a generous God. We do well when we encourage Christians to grow in the grace of giving.
Philip Goad is the Vice President of Advancement at Heritage Christian University in Florence, Alabama. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.