II CORINTHIANS 8:16-21: “But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us— providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: “The reason I don’t go to church is that all they ever talk about is money!” This is the statement I heard someone make at a movie theatre before the movie started. At that time I was preparing to plant a church and was thinking through what this new church would look like. This statement stuck with me as I prayed and planned.
I NEVER WANTED PEOPLE TO THINK WE WERE FOCUSED ON MONEY!
The ministry is supposed to be about the formation of people. We are called to make disciples. Of course, this takes money. However, how we approach the subject of money in the church will speak volumes to those who are earnestly seeking, when they visit our church. I never wanted to be timid concerning the subject of money but I wanted everyone to know that our focus was on people and not the offering plate.
I think this is what Paul was speaking of when he said,
- “…Avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us— providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.”
Paul was stating that he intended to handle the offering to the poor saints in Jerusalem with integrity and transparency. Their offering was being carefully stewarded by chosen men and their handling of this offering was accessible and visible to everyone – “…both in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”
As a church planting pastor, I determined two things. I wanted to trust God for our finances and I wanted everyone to know how we stewarded these gifts to God. My personal decision was to place an offering basket at the exit of the sanctuary. We would refer to it in our announcements but we made a conscious choice not to pass an offering plate. This was the first decision.
Our second decision was to give full visibility to how we used these offerings in the ministry and life of our church. Each year we would publish a detailed financial statement that was available to anyone in the congregation and that was fully reviewed and open for input during our annual congregational meeting. We also would report the use of special offerings, both how much was received and how we used these offerings.
In over 15 years of ministry, we never had to beg for an offering. I would teach on stewardship, but only as it came up in the text as we were going through a series or book of the Bible. We would publicly thank people for their faithfulness in their tithes and offerings but we would never put pressure on them to give. What we found is that God always moved through His people and supplied all of our needs as we worked at being good stewards of the Gospel and the offerings.
AS WE DID THIS WE DISCOVERED A SPIRIT OF CHEERFULNESS, FAITHFULNESS, AND GENEROSITY IN THE CHURCH TOWARD GIVING!
How many ministries have been damaged by an over-emphasis on offerings or the mismanagement of them? How many churches steward their offerings behind closed doors and do not share any detail of how they are used with the general body? How many people in the process have gained one more reason to avoid going to church?
Paul chose to be a tentmaker rather than receive financial support for his ministry. He did this so that no one could accuse him of proclaiming the Gospel for profit. Yet, it was Paul who taught that a minister of the Gospel should be paid for his laboring in the Gospel. The balance between these two points is stewardship. There is nothing inherently evil with money or receiving a salary for being a pastor or Christian worker. The issue is how our handling of these funds appears to both the Lord and those inside and outside the church.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF MONEY IN THE CHURCH SHOULD BE MARKED BY INTEGRITY AND TRANSPARENCY – TO ALL!
Lord, this morning I pray for all those who are leading a congregation and have the oversight of the ministry and the administration of the offerings of God’s people. I pray that You will give them the wisdom to do both in a way that is pleasing to You and will enable them to maintain a good report both inside the church and without. I pray that You will guard all of our hearts from anything that would tempt us to handle the resources You place in our hands in any way that would not be pleasing to You.
Help us all be good stewards of the resources of Your Kingdom!
In Jesus’ Name!