Pastoral Care and Leadership - Lesson 20

Pastoral Leadership and Finances (Part 1)

If you manage your own finances well, it will be easier for people in the church to trust you to manage the finances of the church. Teach your congregation principles of how to manage money and how to give wisely.

John  Johnson
Pastoral Care and Leadership
Lesson 20
Watching Now
Pastoral Leadership and Finances (Part 1)

Pastoral Leadership and Finances (Part 1)

I. Introduction

II. Model Personal Financial Integrity

A. Establish and manage a budget

B. Know the difference between good debt and bad debt

C. Invest strategically

D. Health and life insurance

E. Buying and selling with wisdom

F. Sacrificial kingdom giving

G. Establishing a trust and a will

III. Teach Your Congregation About Money

A. Whenever stewardship or wealth appear in scripture, take the opportunity to preach about it

B. Preach confidently, without apology

C. Preach the following wealth themes

1. Money is dangerous

2. Money has limitations

3. Fragility of wealth

4. Ownership of wealth

5. Wealth indicators

D. Teach on giving

1. Giving should not be just convenient and comfortable

2. Giving should not be tied to an Old Testament system

3. Provide money management seminars

IV. Develop a Sound Structure for Giving

A. General offerings

B. Special offerings

V. Questions

A. What does it mean to give sacrificially?

B. How do you overcome the cynicism of people about giving?

C. Learning discipline with our finances will make a difference in how we give

Class Resources
  • Being a shepherd to a congregation includes the responsibility to protect, provide and lead. A church is a group of believers that is incorporated into one body and adopted into a family. The church has a mission to go after truth, respond to truth, love one another and share their faith. The pastor is called to care for and lead the congregation in the process. 

  • Convergence is where your greatest passion, giftedness and abilities line up with the greatest opportunity. When managing your time, don't measure your success only in how busy you are. God has not called to do, but to be. Be on a lifelong journey of becoming so you have a reservoir to give from in both your relationships and your preaching. 

  • Visiting people in their homes is an important part of your ministry as a shepherd. Keep track of who you visit and take notes. Have a plan for a meaningful conversation. As you know people personally, it will make a difference in how you preach and how you pray for people. Pray that the Lord will lead you in what to say and be aware that you may often experience something unexpected. 

  • Jesus devoted part of his ministry to the sick, so you as a pastor should, also. God's not interested in taking us back to where we were, but he's always interested in taking us where we need to go. Sometimes being sick and experiencing pain causes us to focus our attention on God. Call the elders to pray for physical and spiritual healing. Part of the misery of sickness is often solitude. When you visit people in the hospital, be timely, expectant and careful with your words. 

  • In your older years, letting go of life can be difficult if people are not realistic about accepting the inevitability of their own death. The process of dying often helps you sift out the trivial. As you approach death, life often seems to become a series of medical tests, interruptions and uncertainty. If someone begins to lose their sense of identity, remind them that God is good and perfectly wise in everything he does, and that he is powerful. In a Christian context, there is every place for grief but no place for despair. 

  • Help the family plan and carry out the services they want in a way that honors both the dead person and their relatives and friends. Help the family navigate the details regarding what kind of services, who should speak, whether the casket will be open or closed whether people should give flowers or donate to a charity, etc. When you are planning what you will say, take into account special circumstances like murder, suicide or someone who may not have assurance of their relationship to God.

  • With the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, there is something happening beyond the surface that is sacred and divine. In the act of communion, we should experience an empowering grace. We look back to the Passover when God led the nation of Israel out of Egypt. We look back to Jesus' death on the cross. We celebrate our present communion with God by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We look forward to the consummation of all things in the future. 

  • How often should you practice communion? Who should be allowed to participate? Should you use wine or grape juice? Should it be done at home or always at church? Should it always be with the whole corporate body? Should communion be part of a wedding ceremony? When should it be in the order of service? As a pastor, how do you deal with serving communion to people you know are struggling in their lives?

  • Baptism is a sacred ceremony so you as a pastor should treat it with care. People have different views on baptism as it relates to who should participate, the mode used and it’s function as a means of grace or ordinance. Dr. Johnson says that baptism doesn’t produce change, it announces change. As one way to prepare for their baptism, the person who is being baptized can write out their testimony in a way that people who aren’t believers can understand it.

  • There has been a disintegration of the institute of marriage in the American culture over the past 60 years. People in our culture today traditionally get married in a church. Meet with the couple before you agree to marry them. Have procedures and policies in place for use of the church building and your involvement. Suggest that the couple choose one of the following passages as the main focus of the wedding ceremony: Col 3:12-14; I Cor 13:4-7; Phil 2:1-4; Gen 2:24-25; Ecc 4:10-13.

  • Discipleship was an essential part of Jesus’s ministry and a significant part of the early church. Be deliberate about spending time with people that are leaders and potential leaders that are living their lives to follow after God. The heart of congregational accountability is being involved in soul care for each other. Admonition is rebuke and correction that calls people back. Part of admonition is corrective preaching that is done with the right motives and in the right way. Membership requires sacrifice to join others in a battle with others who see themselves as investors not consumers. You, as a pastor, are accountable to protect, guide, encourage, comfort and admonish. In the process of confrontation, it’s important to have a commitment to mutual understanding, to do everything in love, aim for reconciliation, to be proactive, do all for God’s glory, to be a peacemaker and for reconciliation and closure.

  • Attention to administration is critical to the health of a church. By administrating effectively, you will have more time for other activities. A certain amount of administration cannot be delegated. Historically, three models for church structure are the Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Congregationalist. Churches need to be led by effective leaders.

  • The organization should always serve the organism. In some churches, the pastoral responsibilities are carried out by one or more of the elders, and in some, the pastor position is distinct from the elders. It’s important for you to make sure that the elders are qualified and that they carry out the duties for which they are responsible.  Recognize the structure in your church and your place in it so you know how to relate to people in a way that helps you to lead effectively.

  • Create a culture with a fundamental value of training and becoming leaders. Establish clear qualifications of those who will lead. Create productive meetings that avoid intimidation and manipulation, avoidance of tough issues, personal attacks, digression from the agenda, hot button issues without proper preparation, too much time on money or people issues, leaving the vision and mission out of discussions, people who monopolize and dominate meetings and insistence on unanimity. Have a clear succession plan in place for board members. The staff has the role of daily managing and shepherding and the board focuses on mission and vision.  

  • Determine reporting relationships and a structure for accountability. Develop effective staff meetings. Meetings should be regular, clear agenda, predictable time frame, participation, encouragement, focus on the mission vision and operational plan, informational, innovation, nurturing, praying together, discerning and sensitive to cultures. Establish personnel policies including a staff assessment plan and a release plan. 

  • Assessments are important because God calls us to be fruitful as well as faithful.  Effective ministry requires metrics because it helps you address real needs. A church’s mission should include pursue truth, respond to truth, mature the saint, love one another and reach lost people. What is your expectation of outcomes? What would it look like if you gave a final exam each year to determine what people could remember and what they have put in practice from your sermons? The difference between an organization that is good, and one that is great, is discipline.

  • Conflict is part of our lives anytime we are interacting with other people. According to Alan Redpath, if you are a pastor you are always in crisis, either in the middle of one, coming out of one or going into one. Reasons for conflict include that it’s part of life, the role of a leader, your personal growth, change, style, staff, budgets, preaching and uninspiring results. People often don’t like change, but effective leaders require change to make improvements. Your style of leadership can create conflict because of the expectations of people in your congregation, or what they are accustomed to.

  • Accept notes from people about situations in the church, only if they are willing to sign them. Work to gain trust. Don’t assume that people being kind to you at first means they trust you. Help people become dissatisfied with the same things you are. What got you here won’t get you there. As you create a culture for change, demonstrate that you respect the past and leave some things the same if they are working. Encourage people to accept and value your strengths and be patient with your weaknesses. Develop and teach a clear theology of worship. Worship is response to revelation. If you can articulate a theology of worship, it helps reduce the conflict about styles of worship. Focus on the mission and vision of the church to help avoid conflicts about finances. Teach people how to disagree without making it personal.

  • The Pastor’s job is to equip people to do the work of the ministry. Decide on and communicate the mission and vision of the church that the people support. Create a process to assimilate people. Have a clear entry point and subsequent steps for maturity and involvement. There are 4 historical models for how the Church relates to the world. 1. The church separate from the world to stay pure, and attempting to attract outsiders. 2. The Church in the world to be relevant to people. 3. The Church over the world attempts to gain power and position to control the government structures. 4. The Church engaging the world is being salt and light in the world without separating, compromising or trying to control the structures.

  • If you manage your own finances well, it will be easier for people in the church to trust you to manage the finances of the church. Teach your congregation principles of how to manage money and how to give wisely.

  • Designated giving can undermine the budgeting process. Faith-promise offerings can sometimes be helpful practically, but they can also create a false hierarchy of giving categories. Create a budget driven by the mission and vision of your church. Establish procedures and check to make sure people are following them. Conduct periodic audits to avoid embezzlement. Make the salaries one line item in the budget but don’t discuss the salary of an individual in a public meeting.

  • What got you here won’t get you there. Read current publications to keep up on culture. People like Stuart Murray suggest strategies for connecting with people in this post-Christendom era. Balance the tension between tradition and innovation. Evaluate why people are coming to your church as well as why they leave. Engage the world but don’t become like the world.

  • How you manage transition is a critical aspect of leadership. Manage your present ministry by keeping in mind that, “Success is not measured by what you are leaving to go to, but by what you are leaving behind.” “Every congregation is a congregation of sinners and worst of all, they have pastors who are sinners.” When circumstances in your ministry are difficult, it may be the time to stay and learn important lessons about you and your congregation, not necessarily to leave right away.

Are you a pastor? Are you studying to be a pastor? Are you a leader in your church and you want to encourage your pastor? As a pastor, what does it mean to care for your congregation? How do you do it well? What does it mean to be a good leader? What character traits can you develop? What relational, motivational, spiritual and educational strategies can you use to become an effective leader and develop leaders in your church? 

In Pastoral Care and Leadership, you have the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Johnson as he relates what he has learned, experienced and taught over the past three decades. What a great opportunity you have to learn about how to lead and care for people in your congregation from someone like Dr. Johnson who is thoughtful, relational, highly trained, a talented communicator as a seminary professor and experienced as a pastor who served for more than a total of 30 years at three distinctly different churches. 

In this class you will learn how to:

Care for yourself and others;

Deal with sickness and death;

Celebrate the Lord's Supper and Baptism;

Lead a wedding service;

Relate to the board and staff;

Grow from conflict

Handle your own money wisely, and the church's;

Transition the church forward with innovation.

Learning to care for yourself is critical. Understanding who you are and how you apply your gifts, abilities and training is an important place to start. Getting enough rest, being deliberate about your relationship with God and responding to his leading, and nurturing your family and your friendships helps you to have the emotional and relational energy you need to encourage and comfort the people in your congregation. As a pastor, you are often invited to be a part of some of the most memorable and intimate events in peoples' lives. You are welcomed into their homes to get to know them and pray for them. You are in the "front row" for weddings, baptisms, baby dedications and funerals. Dr. Johnson gives you some specific direction based on his training and experiences to help you know what to say and to make these times meaningful and encourage people in their relationship with the Lord in the process. 


As you begin to lead a church, find out about the history, structure and culture of the church. Work with the governing board to determine mission and vision so that when you hire and work with staff members, you can all agree on a common direction. Choose strategies that are innovative and effective. Decide on metrics so that you can measure the results. Continue what works and make changes by learning from your failures. Remember that, "what got you here, won't get you there." Avoid unnecessary conflict by fostering an environment where you set clear expectations and goals, practice regular accountability and show care for people by expecting the best and listening well. When there is conflict, have the conversation with the people involved, focus on the issue at hand, avoid personal attacks and strive for reconciliation. In the area of finances, be a good example of handling your own finances by being disciplined, shrewd, wise and planning well. Manage the church finances by encouraging the budget priorities to match the mission and vision that the congregation, board and staff agree on. Set up procedures to prevent misuse of funds and be relentless to make sure they are followed. When it's time for a transition, leave well by having already mentored other leaders and by creating separation so the church can move on. 


Recommended Books

Pastoral Care and Leadership - Student Guide

Pastoral Care and Leadership - Student Guide

Are you a pastor? Are you studying to be a pastor? Are you a leader in your church and you want to encourage your pastor? As a pastor, what does it mean to care for your...

Pastoral Care and Leadership - Student Guide

I. Introduction

One of the areas of leadership that is a very leadership intensive part of ministry is when we talk about money, finances. What I would like to do in this session is talk a little bit about this issue that every church faces and questions get raised, and maybe I can answer some of them.

II. Model Personal Financial Integrity

If we are going to have a church that has a really sound fiduciary process to it, it starts with first of all, how we model. The first thing I have listed here is to say that we need to model personal financial integrity and sound management. Go back to 1 Timothy, chapter 3, verse 5 in terms of the qualifications. If we can’t manage our household, then how can it be assumed we can manage the household of God? If the church looks at us and sees us as kind of in a financial mess, why should they trust us?

Here are a few things I have written down that are important for us to do.

A. Establish and manage a budget

The first one is to put together a budget, if we have not done that. I’m going to be very basic here. Maybe not that we do it all the time, but every now and then we stop to say, Where are we spending our money? What are our assumptions? When was the last time, for example, let’s say you took a VISA statement and looked at all the things you paid through that or what your expenses are over here and add up. At the end of the month typically we baseline spend this much money. Then ask yourself the question, What is my intake? What is my income? Then see how those differ.

B. Know the difference between good debt and bad debt

It is basic things like knowing the difference between good debt and bad debt. People will disagree here, I’m sure, but I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it is good debt. We have a mortgage on our home and it is a debt, but I think it is good debt. Property mortgages can be good debt. Foolish debt would be depreciating debt, things that we use credit cards to buy that are not increasing in value, cars being one of them. So, there is good debt and bad debt. Avoid buying on credit unless you intend to pay without interest. This is a discussion I am having with my daughter, who has painfully learned that wow, this got out of control; and I needed to remind her again of this very basic principle: If you can’t afford it today, you can’t afford it tomorrow with interest. It is just a basic principle of life. You are not a good steward by spending what you don’t have on things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like. There is a fair amount of truth to that. So, knowing the difference between go

od and bad debt, which then the church has to sort out, what is good and bad debt. Is it okay to be in debt?

C. Invest strategically

The third In terms of personal financial integrity, investing strategically, having a good plan that will get you to old age, whatever that looks like. It is more than just saving, it is investing and diversifying. I think everyone should have a good financial planner. A lot of people say, I just don’t have the money to invest. I would say, actually you cannot afford not to invest, even if it is a small amount. Then sitting down with a good financial planner who says, Where do you want to be when you are 40? Where do you want to be when you are 50? And where do you need to be when you are 70? Then let’s work backwards. Let’s sit down when you do turn 35 and say, So how close are you to where you need to be when you are 40? And not just assume it is going to happen.

Pastors especially. I fear for how many pastors are really going to almost be literally on the streets because they have not prepared or they just assume the church is going to take care of them. It is part of their gift to the church not to be a burden to the church as they get older. Too many are burdens to the church because they didn’t do the careful steps of investing or spending wisely.

My two requirements of a good financial planner are

1. Impeccable integrity, would never want to turn my money just so they can make more money.

2. Somebody I can trust so much that I would never have to worry; but on the other side, the smartest money person I know that understands the principles, the economics, the trends, that understands why stock markets, at least to a certain extent, do what they do. Can look at cycles and investments and know where to invest and where not to invest because they are so super smart that way.

I work with a guy who is a Cornell graduate in economics, with whom I went to seminary. You can’t ask for a better combination. He always informs me of what he is going to do and we sit down periodically and he just says, Okay, John, here is where you are, here is where you and Heather need to get to. He has me pretty well prepared, thankfully. I’m not too worried about being a burden on the church because I have had really, really good counsel.

Too many people are in debt and they don’t think about these things. They get themselves in awful turns and places. Maybe not to this extreme, but I always remember this couple in one of my churches. They were spenders. They spent, they got in debt, they maxed out their cards. One day they called me and they said, “Our marriage is a mess. Can you come over and help us?” I said to the husband, “What is going on?” He said, “Well, we’ve maxed out everything. We’ve gotten so depressed; but I went out and bought a set of new speakers and a whole new system because I knew it would pick us up.” This is the mindlessness. This is what people do.

D. Health and life insurance

E. Buying and selling with wisdom

F. Sacrificial kingdom giving

G. Establishing a trust and a will

It is important that we, therefore, can model what will work. Let me tell you what I have learned. Having certain common sense when it comes to health issues, insurance issues, buying and selling with wisdom, modeling sacrificial kingdom investing, establishing a trust, sitting down with an attorney, knowing the plan you are leaving behind. These are just all basic things that every pastor especially needs to stand before the church and the board, and they know that this guy’s pretty smart when it comes to money. Therefore, when you stand in front of a church and say, Let me talk to you about money; or stand before a budget meeting (we don’t call them budget meetings, right?) but to say, Let’s talk about our spending as a church, you at least have some credibility.

III. Teach Your Congregation About Money

So, first requirement is, pay attention to yourself. Secondly, teach the congregation about money, about giving. I’ve been a pastor long enough to know, much as I would like to think otherwise, most people are not very smart when it comes to money. They have no idea, really, how to use it, how to give. How do I know that? Here is a test. Listen to a Christian radio station and listen to the commercials. I don’t listen to Christian radio very much; but when I do and listen to the commercials, almost inevitably I ask myself this question or at least I make this statement: They must think we are idiots. Of course, they do. Because Christians by and large are not known for being really prudent, shrewd investors.

This is probably not too far off in your church, here are some statistics I have read: 40%: the average percentage of people who overspend and are in significant debt are 40% of your congregation; 4 out of 10 people are in average credit card debt of $8,000. To $10,000.

As I recently said to my daughter, It is not just the crazy interest you are spending. This is what happens. It happened with my kids. I bet it happens with a lot of people. She stopped opening her bank statements. She went into denial. Have you looked at what late charges are? I will leave a person nameless that I know quite well who had a $73. item they charged, that by the time they paid it off, it was $450. when you add interest and late fees.

People sometimes mindlessly say, “I have to get it, it is 25% off.” Then they will spend 40% on interest and late charges to buy it. So, teach people 40% overspend, 20% are on the verge of divorce and the largest issue is because of money. According to this one survey, 34% give. But of the 34% who give, 40% of the 34% give less than 3% of their income. So, 34% give, but a significant percentage of those give less than 3%; and 26% of those in the church give virtually nothing.

One of the things that has shocked me over the years is to discover – we talked about this earlier, that a pastor should know – people with whom I was so impressed and their contribution to ministry and commitment to the church, who give zero, absolutely nothing. I think we would be shocked to know. Sometimes I have been afraid to know how many people on my board or on my staff are part of that.

So, teach your congregation. What are some steps? Again, I have alluded to this.

A. Whenever stewardship or wealth appear in Scripture, take the opportunity to preach about it.

Step #1: When you are preaching and whenever the subject comes up in the text, preach it. Don’t run around it. Teach whatever it says. Don’t avoid the text. Take every opportunity to unpack it. Be faithful to the text, don’t ice-igete, don’t milk it, and say things that the text is not saying. Don’t use it to manipulate people. Don’t induce guilt. By the way, I’ve discovered it does not lead to long-term giving. In a series on God, talk about His generosity. A series on seven deadly sins, talk about giving as a remedy to greed. A series on Christ, focus on the parables, many of which talk about money. Look at the core text, Proverbs 3:9 and 10; Luke 19; Matthew 6; Philippians 4: 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. There are these core texts we should understand.

I think one of the most intriguing texts when I think about these texts is Luke 16 where Jesus tells the story, you remember, of the man who was embezzling, was kind of taking money aside and the owner found out. So he went around and sort of did a final with each of the people who owed and he kind of cooked the books a little bit. He shrewdly went around and he got everyone to pay off. The owner found out. You remember, in that story the owner doesn’t go ballistic. The owner steps back and goes, “That was really smart.” Then Jesus makes a most interesting statement in the story. He says the people in a sense of the world are much more shrewd than the people of the light. It is not that Jesus was saying, “Yeh, so do things like that.” I think he was saying, “The children of the light are not so smart when it comes to money.” It is not smart in terms of “Let’s figure out how to be dishonest” but to just be shrewd when it comes to using resources. Why? So that we can do amazing things for the Kingdom of God.

B. Preach confidently, without apology

We need to unashamedly preach the text. We need to preach without apology. We need to reflect the heart of God. Fifteen percent of everything Jesus taught was on money. The statistics that I have read say that he spoke more about money than hell and heaven combined. That is pretty amazing. So when somebody says, “You know, I hate going to church because they talk about money.” So, they should. Money is a really important thing. When people say, “It is all they talk about,” I get that. It should not be all we talk about. But let’s start with this, it should be 15% of what we talk about, we’ll start with that.

We need to help people see that when we talk about it, our motivation is, we are helping them towards obedience. We are enabling them to experience blessing. We are liberating people from greed. We tend to get up in a very apologetic way and say, “We are going to talk today about money and I know we can get offended by this and I know you probably don’t want me to, but I need to.” What about an approach that says unashamedly, “I’m talking about money, not only because it is scriptural, but because I’m doing it for your good. I’m trying to prepare you for heaven and this is an important part of preparation for heaven. I’m preaching this because I fear some of you are into steep idolatry.” That is how Colossian 3 describes money, as an idol. “I’m doing this because I want to deepen your trust in God. I’m doing this because I want you to be rich in heaven.” Matthew 6:19-21. You might say, Hey! You know what? I didn’t do so great, but I did a lot better than other people. I earned like 12% on my investments t

his year. Jesus says, there will be a 10,000 percent return in heaven. So you tell me, where is the better place to invest?

C. Preach the following wealth themes

So we preach on it because it is important that people know some basic wealth themes. Here is the first one:

1. Money is dangerous. Too much can lead to self sufficiency. How do I know? Let’s start with Israel. Let’s start with just looking around us. Look at yourself. When you have more than enough, you begin to become self sufficient. That is deadly.

2. Money has limitations. Secondly, here is what I speak about as a wealth theme. Money has certain limitations. It does not necessarily buy you happiness. I’m not going to go too extreme on that because I think money does buy a certain amount of happiness. When I buy a new car, it makes me kind of happy. There are things that money does do that bring happiness. Obviously, it is not ultimate happiness. It only goes so far.

3. Here is something else to teach about wealth: Wealth’s fragility. Wealth really is fragile. Anybody in the stock market will tell you that. That is what Proverbs 23 says, that wealth makes itself wings like eagles and flies off. Sometimes at my cabin I will sit out on the deck and watch eagles. Sometimes I will see them soar ‘til I can’t see them anymore. The sage in Proverbs says, You know, money is a lot like that. There is a certain here today/gone tomorrow. There is a fragileness. It is not really truly safe, no matter what you do with it: stock market, investments, hide it in a mattress, store it in the bank. Everybody is out for our money, so we need to address that.

4. Ownership of wealth. We need to especially address this – ownership. Wealth ownership, it is not ours. It is not a personal, private issue,as I already talked about. We are not the owners, we are just stewards. We are just managing it for a season. There is only one owner in this world and it is God. So whatever I have, I have to stand before God. Ask this question: Am I aware that it is not mine? Am I investing it?

5. Wealth indicators. Here is another wealth theme I want to talk about. What we do with it reveals our spiritual temperature. Jesus talks about that in Luke 12:34 and Matthew 19:21. What we do with it indicates our loyalty. It reveals the condition of our heart. Some people I know, it is all they think about. That says something about the condition of their heart.

So we need to teach on money. Sometimes I have done things like, We are going to do a four-week seminar using the parables of Jesus because his parables, some of them, talk about money; and we are going to do a kind of mini-financial seminar. We are going to talk about investing. We are going to talk about debts. People are interested in those things. We tend to focus a lot on giving, but we don’t do a lot of teaching on just money itself. So people have crazy ideas about that. For example, they don’t know about leveraging. They don’t know about good debt and bad debt. If I go back to Luke 16, Jesus says that we ought to be the shrewdest. And I think, we should be the shrewdest people on earth when it comes to money. People should look at believers, I think anyway, and go, “Wow, one thing about money, they are really smart with it.” But a lot of times they are really foolish with it.

D. Teach on giving

I’m going to give you a few principles . First rule of thumb is that giving should not be convenient and comfortable. It should not just be, Hey, if I’m at church, which is once a month, I’ll give; or Hey, if I have something in my pocket. I grew up as a kid and my dad didn’t go to church very often. But I remember when he did, in a random way, on occasion he would reach into his wallet and the plate would go by and he’d find something there to give.

When I started giving, giving should not be convenient, should not be comfortable. It should be regular. It should have come out of a lot of careful thinking. This is a debatable issue. I do not think it should be tied to an Old Testament system. If you want to tithe to an Old Testament system, as we talked about, you should then truly tithe at 23%. I think grace has a different standard and we are under that standard, that has moved us off the training wheels of the law, where our giving is not measured by percentage. It can be a guide, not that percentage is wrong. The Old Testament gives us some guidelines. At least it gives us a starting point.

But here are some of the things. We should give to God as we prosper. We should give what is first and what is the best. We give beyond our ability, that pleases God. It is systematic, not erratic. This is something that is a very convicting statement. It is not how much we give. In the end, it is how much we keep. Someone can say, “I make 4 million dollars a year, but I give $400,000.” Yes, but you are keeping 3.6 million dollars. I think that is something that has to be sorted out as a family, as you think about it. But ask yourself, Are we being generous here, even sacrificial?

It is helpful to provide some occasional seminars and there are some good seminars out there, but please think those through. Some would use someone like Dave Ramsey, although Dave Ramsey has some pretty strict views regarding debt. You have to study the seminars and see how much they match up with your convictions.

IV. Develop a Sound Structure for Giving

I will close with this, at least in this part of finances, to talk about a sound structure for giving

A. There are different ways we give and one is general giving. Yes, that pays for the lights and the electric bills and all of that, but this should be treated with dignity. I find that a number of churches today go, You know, we don’t want to be offensive, so we will just put an offering box in the back, we won’t make a big deal about this. We don’t want to be offensive here.

I thought about that until one day I went to Africa and I was speaking in a church in _____(24:41.3) and I discovered an African culture. You know what the highlight of their worship service is, the pinnacle, the peak? It is not the worship music, though it was great; and the preaching, which was extraordinary. The high point was at the end of the service when everybody danced to the altar and gave. Then they went back and they did it again. Not out of guilt. It is not that these people had a lot of money, either. They were over the moon, over the top in terms of the joy of giving, declaring that part of the essential essence of worship is sacrifice. I look at that and I think of American culture. We are almost apologetic. Why don’t we say something like, “Now we come to one of the great moments of worship. We get to give, not because God needs our money. We need to give. It is so healthy to give. And we are going to give to our general budget.” Wow. It doesn’t get much better than that. Can you imagine if

we approached it like that? Most worship services are, Let’s just get through this, so we can get on to the bigger, better things.

I think this is where again, our theology needs to train us and teach us. So, we need to provide a sound structure for giving - general giving and special offerings.

B. Special offerings

There will be special offerings we will need to give here, that are going to arise with crises. It may be even our regular communion offering. We need as leadership to think through how many of those do we do and what are our guidelines and policies for doing them? Because you will have a lot of people say, “We should take an offering for this, and we should take an offering for this.” We better have some general standard here, or you are just going to be reactive.

V. Questions

Let’s stop here for a moment in terms of asking questions about personal use of wealth and then teaching on money and teaching on giving.

A. What does it mean to give sacrificially?

Question: I just kind of imagine what it would be like if Pastor Rich walked into church and he starts his sermon aggressively: “Today I want to liberate you from greed.” What would happen? Other than getting people’s attention.

Dr. Johnson: Actually, even better is to say, “Today I want to tear down one of your idols.” Because that is what Colossians 3 refers to greed as, and covetousness. He calls it out for what it actually is, it is idolatry.

Question: Randy Alcorn, of his many famous sayings, one is something like: “Our giving should prevent us from doing some things that we want to.” That is his handling of sacrificial giving. That is one of the most helpful things I have ever heard. If you give out of your surplus, it is not the widow’s mite; and it does not mean as much to you because it’s your discretionary money. But if you really want to do something, you say, “I think I should give instead of that trip to Maui.” That puts a whole different look on things.

Dr. Johnson: I think a really important start point is to just have worked out, we say it’s the Lord’s money and it is, all of it is, in particular, what we give to the Kingdom here. It is not ever an issue because it’s not mine, so I never look at it like, things are tight this month, so maybe I’d better scale back. I think a healthy approach is to go, That is not ours, we can’t touch it, it is not ours. People get to the end of the month and go, Let’s see what we can give, as opposed to saying, Let’s establish what we need to give and let’s establish that that money is parked over here. There is some benefit of online giving, that you never see it. It is just not yours. Online giving has its own issues, too, with the act itself that you can almost forget because it becomes like a tax or an automatic deduction. We don’t want our giving to descend into that. How about also thinking personally about money.

B. How do you overcome the cynicism of people about giving?

Question: Do you think that maybe the reason it is so difficult to talk about giving is because in The United States everyone is so wealthy, but so much of that has been taken advantage of and there have been so many shady people stealing money? Have we gotten into some sort of cynicism about money and that sort of thing?

Dr. Johnson: Maybe not even theft or those issues. We wake up every morning and I’m suddenly aware, the moment I turn on my computer, that there are a ton of people out there that want my money. I’m battling, right? There is a Best Buy ad, there is Men’s Warehouse, there are ministries. Everybody wants in on the action of what I have. We just get blitzed today. It is a constant barrage.

The advertising. It is absurd how many advertisements we are exposed to now each day. We live in a consumer age that has defined us as “consumers.” That is how we are referred to in culture, we are consumers. We have been trained from almost infancy on consumption.

We live in a culture trained on consumption and everybody wants a piece of the action. It can sometimes therefore feel in the church, when we are asking people to give, that we are just joining the list here, instead of saying, Wait, that is a very different category. I must admit, I start getting cynical this time of year with ministries I’ve never heard of, that suddenly somehow discovered me. I think, the only reason you are interested in me is because you want to get in on the action. So, you can become cynical.

Question: Recently this has been convicting for me because I never think about money. I’m not in debt or anything, but just the aspect of pleasing God and being a steward and how much that matters. It can go over your head and you don’t think about that aspect of your faith.

Dr. Johnson: Maybe we grew up with some wrong kind of preaching on it that has turned us off. I had a guy in my church who was a general manager of Toyota. He would tell me these stories. He would tell me stories of people who would come in. They could barely afford it, but they would buy a brand new Toyota, all on credit, except for maybe a very minimal down. Of course, the moment they drive out, the car is parked out there that is worth less than what they owe on it. If they don’t turn around after the new car smell is gone and the thrill of it, then they will come back the next year and buy a new car. Of course, everybody wants to facilitate that, they want to encourage that. So, they take the debt they had and add it on top of the debt of the new car. They do it about a third time, until they kind of hit this ceiling, whatever it is. He would tell me stories about people that had a car that maybe they owed $21,000. on, but they owed the bank $50,000. That is the culture we are living in.

Let’s say you have a number of people like that in your church and you’re talking about giving; and they are going, “Giving? I can’t even pay off my credit card,” which we talked about. The percentage of people who owe $8,000.-$10,000 – who use their credit card to just survive and rack up $8,000., $10,000, $20,000. All they are paying each month is the interest charges. In other words, imagine how people must feel who are never paying down their debt, they are just paying money on the interest. I had to sit down with my daughter recently and say, “Kate, banks love people like you. They live for people like you. This is how they make their money.” We have to train people.

C. Learning discipline with our finances will make a difference in how we give

Question: You were talking about the relationship between personal finances and church giving. I guess it sums it up in my head by saying it is an issue with discipline. That if we can learn discipline in our own lives, to live within our means; to have the kind of lifestyle where we are free to participate in church; where you are not having to work two jobs to pay off that third car, given there are only two of you in the house, that kind of thing. If you can learn discipline in that area, then that will carry over and free you up to give. Is that a way to kind of sum it up?

Dr. Johnson: I think so. And that is why I started by talking about, let’s teach on money itself. Because I think what we do way too often is, we focus on teaching on giving. But that is going to fall on empty ears if people are in a financial mess. They are going to tune you out. They are going to say, “I can’t even pay all my credit cards, so how could I give to the church?” We might stand up and say, It’s all about faith and God is going to honor you and bless you. I think we have to start over here and say, Let’s go over some basic principles. Then, of course, not turn it into just a financial seminar; but go back to Scripture. Scripture teaches the things I have talked about in terms of understanding how you should view money, how you should invest. If we could get people there; and like you say, in a broader context of learning spiritual discipline and disciplining yourself, which should manifest itself in how we use money, to what we eat, etc., then we have a chance to talk about giving.

Question: When I was in graduate school, none of us had any money. I remember going to the grocery store and I watched a couple. She was picking up the food and he had a calculator, doing a running total. He would pick up some meat, put it back down, take a piece of chicken because it was 50 cents cheaper, kind of thing. I have thought of that quite a bit. It is a bit extreme; but if we could develop that kind of discipline of saying, I’m going to set a budget. I’m going to live within my budget; and I am going to try even to be more generous than my budget allows me to be. That kind of thing is going to pour into the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Question: We face the issue in Biblical Training and almost all online ministries like this. It is like half of one percent of the people who use it, give. You just have to wonder, what kind of discipline is there in your life, spiritually and physically, that would produce that kind of behavior.

Dr. Johnson: If we say the hope of the world Is the church and the hope of the church is its leaders, then the hope of the leaders is training. I’m partial, of course. I work in a seminary. That is part of what we’re talking about here. I think I can safely say, You tell me a better investment. Yet, I think it is reflected. In fact, very few people make Kingdom investments that way. So, we are short changing the leaders of tomorrow, which is a tragedy, I think anyway. I’m speaking to the choir probably. But wouldn’t you agree? It’s true. I don’t know a better Kingdom investment.

It goes into something we might touch on. It is incredible how very, very few people think about estate planning when it comes to ministry. My last church, a 60-year-old church, they had next to no-one that left money to the church in their estate. If they had, our church would have no financial issues. The seminary would have no financial issues. But again, no-one has taught people, or very few have learned what you do with your estate. So a lot of it ends up with the government, a lot of it ends up with kids who maybe have no business having all of that wealth. We told our kids, This is what we are giving to the Kingdom. You are part of it, but not just all of it.