Yes, You Have to Do Stewardship
Imagine a pastor preaching at his new church the first Sunday in July. The bulletin has the unison invocation written out word for word. At one point, the pastor prays for the sick and needy, for the missionaries, for the leaders of the church, and then leads the congregation in the Lord's Prayer. After the closing hymn, he offers the benediction.
The next morning, his lay leader calls him on the phone: "I know that a lot of churches do that praying thing, but we don't do that at this church. We used to, but it offended a lot of people; so we've just decided that it's not right for us. You can pray all you want at your next church, but we would all feel more comfortable if you didn't do that anymore at ours."
Few of us would expect the pastor to agree and promise to never have prayer again in worship. In fact, the example is ludicrous. But how many pastors have agreed to do exactly this when it comes to stewardship? Not that I'm biased or anything, but I find this almost as ludicrous.
If you have ever asked, "What Would Jesus Do?" The answer is: talk about money. Money was his favorite topic. In the church we have let a vocal minority decide whether or not we are allowed to talk about one of the most prominent topics in the gospels. And that needs to stop this year.
The culture of money in the church is dictated largely by people who are embarrassed about their giving, people who don't want to give, and people whose discipleship has not matured to the point where they are giving sacrificially. It's kind of like letting a philandering member of your church talk you into never preaching against adultery or having an out-of-control youth convince you to skip the "honor thy mother and father" part of what would become the Nine Commandments.
But they can only do that if we let them.
I implore you, challenge you, beg you, and otherwise insist that you have a stewardship campaign this year. Ignore the naysayers and the grumblers and decide that it has to happen, just as you would ignore the lay leader who says you shouldn't pray during worship.
Your campaign need not be elaborate. At the very least, preach on it for a couple of Sundays, have people, indicate their intentions on a card and follow-up with those who don't turn one in. Then announce the results.
If the heat gets too bad, tell your congregation it's my fault, or the fault of the district superintendent or the bishop. We have thick skin; we can take it. Seriously, if they're really angry, I will come to meet with your group and fall on the sword. I think it's that important.
If you "do stewardship" this year, I can almost guarantee a few things:
- This will open a discussion about the finances of not only the church, but of individuals' financial situations. Some of the discussion will inclde griping (it is the church, after all), but far more of the talk will be healthy and helpful in discipling your members.
- You will see more money in your collection plate next year. The people who complain the loudest will likely be the ones who give the least. The faithful stewards and the tithers will be glad to see you raise expectations for others in the pew.
- As members "buy in" financially, they may also do so more with their passions and their time. You may see attendance increase at committee meetings, or the climate may be right to get a group of volunteers together to get a chore accomplished.
Church culture, especially around money, turns around about as quickly as an aircraft carrier. But if you don't start turning that wheel now, that culture will never change. And as is always true in the church, all members deserve to be heard and respected. But let's make sure that those who are setting policy (officially or otherwise) are doing so out of love of the Lord and the church.