by Tommy Haynes
The aim and goal of every Christian should be to please God. Paul wrote, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9-11). However, we seem to have an unspoken taboo among the saints, and that is the subject of giving. Many Christians seem to believe that it is wrong for the leadership of the church to teach specific principles about stewardship. Yet, it is one of the most prevalent teachings of scripture, and a practice without which we cannot please God.
As Paul was helping the Corinthians prepare for the contribution that was to be given to the poor saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 9:1), he gave very clear guidelines. We are to give in a prepared way (2 Cor. 9:5). Our gifts we bring to God are to be liberal and not sparing (2 Cor. 9:6). We are to give purposefully and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). When we practice these principles, not only will the church always have all of the funds needed for the work, but God will abound in grace toward us (2 Cor. 9:8).
It is quite apparent that these principles are not always followed by members of the church. While the national average for giving among religious people in the United States is around 3%, the churches of Christ give about 4%. This may appear to be a matter of great joy for us, but it represents a far cry below what the Lord’s people gave under the Old Law. Malachi speaks of “tithes in the storehouse,” and we know that the Law required the giving of 10% (Mal. 3:8-10; Deut. 12:11). A great preacher once advised that because we are under the law of Christ and not the Old Law, we should be willing to give far more than 10% because we are more blessed. If we are going to please the Lord, we must give according to all that He has taught us, and the base starting point would likely be 10%.
The next hurdle that we must clear is that of the church budget. Almost all churches struggle to some degree with this due to the fact that there is no basis for setting a budget if we have no idea what God’s people are going to give. This is where planned giving comes in, and a very scriptural way of getting it done is called “purposing. ”
One method of accomplishing planned giving in order to set the church budget is to have a special day each year where all of these principles are employed. The elders should lead this in order to guide the sheep. They would speak about the “purposeful” giving that was taught to the Corinthians, and bring out the great attitude of the Macedonians (2 Cor. 8). It should be emphasized that we are not talking only about money, but the giving of ourselves to God (2 Cor. 8:5; Rom. 12:1). Israel set a good example of joyous giving when they were building the tabernacle, and the people brought far more than was needed (Ex. 35:29; 36:1-5). Then a “purpose card” could be utilized, emphasizing that this is not a contract or a promise, but the planned giving that each family has considered. It should also be emphasized that this is simply for the purpose of setting the budget so the eldership can have some idea about the giving the congregation plans for the next year. In order to be ethical about the use of the purpose cards, the elders can and should destroy the cards once the names of each family are checked off, and the amount planned written down. The elders should also promise that this information will not be used in any way other than the setting of the budget for the congregation. To insure this, the card could be perforated in such a way that the signatures could be separated from the purposed amounts. The amounts would be recorded, the names checked off of the church role, and then the cards destroyed. Even those who object to planned giving would have to admit that there is nothing denominational or unethical about the means being used to plan the church budget for the year.
The next component of this method of planning our stewardship involves getting the total of the planned giving of the congregation, and then planning the budget around it. Many churches consider this risky, but to date no congregation that has used this system has ever had less giving, but in fact, far more giving than ever before. The elders and deacons can take the figure, break it down into ministries, and know what is available to conduct that ministry for the next year. While no clear data exists, the churches of which we are aware that use planned giving average at least 5% or more per capita giving.
God is pleased when His people prepare, plan, and work hard toward meeting the goals and attitudes He has taught us. Not only is purposeful giving effective from a practical standpoint, it actually is far more scriptural since it obeys literally the wording used in scripture (2 Cor. 9). Just think of the additional mission work that could be done. Congregations could build a better facility and never neglect a single ministry in which they are involved. Needy families could be housed and fed, and countless souls could be reached by the gospel by means once thought unattainable due to their costs (city-wide mailings, network television, etc.). Not only should all of our congregations consider purposing as a way to prepare the church budget, we should see this as meeting the requirements of scripture, and doing things in a way that pleases God!
Tommy Haynes preaches for the Central congregation in Moore, Oklahoma. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.