Last night I went 10 pin bowling. This is a rare event, it only happens about once a year. Once again it took me a while to start knocking down pins other than ones and twos. Occasionally I bowled straight but mostly it was a case of the ball going to the left, then I over compensated and bowled the next one down the right. So it went on for the first game, off track, over compensating and being off track again but in a different way. By the second game I had managed to bowl straight and was only one point away from winning!
I realise that this is a picture of how I have approached giving and stewardship in my leadership within the church. Fearful of bowling to the left I have over compensated and ended up bowling to the right. Let me explain.
For me bowling to the left in giving and stewardship is the error of putting unhealthy pressure on people to give. I have seen it happen too many times and reacted against it, which has resulted in bowling to the right.
Many years ago I was in a church service in Sierra Leone, it was the poorest congregation I have ever been amongst. The preacher was encouraging his flock to give in the midst of their poverty. He motivated them to give by comparing them to Christians in America. Christians in America tithed and as a consequence were rich, they were not tithing and so were poor. If only they would trust God and tithe they would become rich like the Americans.
This is an extreme case, but not untypical of what I considered to be an unhealthy and unbiblical pressure to give exerted by church leaders.
Perceived wisdom is that people give to vision, therefore churches and charities generally pump out grand visions and then ask people to give to it. It can feel that we are in a vision war, with a variety of visions competing for people’s money. I felt uncomfortable about playing that game.
In response to this I have emphasised the need to give not to need or vision or to become rich but to give to God. For many years at Hope Church we haven’t taken a weekly offering, instead allowing people to put money in an offering box at the back – if they could find it! I have spoken about the faithfulness of God in supplying our needs as a church, and He has. I can’t remember being accused of putting pressure on people to give.
However, in reaction to the error I see around me, I have come to realise that I over compensated and did not given the due emphasis to giving. To avoid bowling to the left I have ended up bowling to the right.
God spoke to me about this through a book I was recommended, ‘’Maximise’ by Searcy & Henson – Click To Buy From Amazon .
I was challenged by quotes such as…..
It is your responsibility to lead your people down the path of biblical stewardship so their resources can be released for both kingdom expansion and their own spiritual development—two things that clash with our enemy’s intentions.
Jesus was never afraid to talk about money. Outside of the kingdom of God, stewardship was his favorite subject. He talked more about money and possessions than about faith and prayer combined. He spent more time dealing with denari than with heaven or hell. In fact, if we were to teach about money as much as Jesus did, we would have to make it our topic every third Sunday. Why? Because Jesus knew that this issue of money and possessions has the power to consume and derail us more quickly than anything else.
When we as New Testament believers, living in a far more affluent society than ancient Israel, give only a fraction of that given by the poorest Old Testament believers, we surely must reevaluate our concept of ‘grace giving.’ And when you consider that we have the indwelling of the Spirit of God and they didn’t, the contrast becomes even more glaring.
Our people are not growing spiritually and are awash in the cultural mind-set of consumerism.
God changed my mind. I need to start bowling straight when it comes to giving, generosity and stewardship. Not doing so results in God’s people being vulnerable to the idol of greed and the worldly culture of consumerism. I don’t teach on giving to get more money but to get disciples of Jesus.
Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton. He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.