When pastors teach people how to obey the biblical commands about money, they are not self-serving; they are mission-serving.
By Scott Hildreth
According to a 2022 study from Lifeway Research, a majority of those who regularly attend church believe tithing is biblical. Although statistics show a decline in the past five years (77% in 2022 compared to 83% in 2018), an overwhelming number of men and women sitting in our churches each week know the Bible teaches generosity. However, this research includes an interesting reality check. While more than 3 in 4 believe the Bible teaches tithing, only about half (51%) give 10% or more.
As we reflect on these statistics, two points of application jump out.
1. An open door for discipleship and Christian growth
These statistics show church people believe the Bible but struggle to apply it to their daily lives. This is a key point for ongoing discipleship.
Generosity, or the lack thereof, can serve as a spiritual microscope highlighting priorities and faith. When Jesus highlighted money as a competitor to worshiping God saying, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, CSB), He was bringing this fact to light.“Generosity, or the lack thereof, can serve as a spiritual microscope highlighting priorities and faith.” — @dshildreth Click To Tweet
Over the years, I have heard pastors say they don’t preach about money or giving. There is a concern these sermons come across as self-serving. Or worse, we don’t want to be put in the same category of money-grubbing television preachers.
Even though these reasons make sense on the surface, they fail to appreciate the importance of generosity for spiritual development. When someone knowingly fails to implement biblical standards into their life, they implement bad habits that influence other areas of life. By avoiding teaching about generosity and stewardship, pastors may be missing a prime element of discipleship. Obedience in this area can have a significant impact in other areas of life.
2. Promising potential for Great Commission advancement
Not only do these statistics provide some guidance for ongoing discipleship, they also give church leaders a path for promoting missions and a Great Commission vision.
I remember hearing older preachers say: “When we get to heaven, the streets will be paved with gold, but down here, we have to pay for every brick we use.” We all know ministry costs money, and Christian ministry ought to be supported by Christian generosity.“When the Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all nations, this includes making disciples of the people in your congregation.” — @dshildreth Click To Tweet
The research cited above is good news. People realize the Bible teaches generosity. If pastors can connect this teaching with a vision for global missions, the potential for Great Commission advancement is unlimited. When pastors teach people how to obey the biblical commands about money, they are not self-serving, they are mission-serving. So how can pastors connect generosity to discipleship and missions?
1. Use the offering moment in a service to reinforce the missionary impact of giving
We cannot assume our people make this connection. Some may be convinced the only thing their offering does is pay for lights, HVAC, and salaries.
2. Remind people God is not poor, but He includes us all in His mission to take the gospel to the nations
Generosity on the part of Christians is not intended to make up for what God can’t provide. Instead, the Great Commission calls us all to spend our lives making disciples of all nations. Giving to this cause is an honor and worth celebrating.
3. Connect generosity to Christian growth
Each step of Christian maturity requires faith that God’s way is the best. I trust God’s plan for family is best when I love my wife and kids in a way that is different from other men. I trust God’s plan for sexuality is best when I live pure in a perverted society. And I trust God’s plan for money is best when I live generously, when my vision for investing in God’s kingdom is more important than investing in my own kingdom. Each of these decisions (and dozens more like them) is a step of discipleship.
Pastor, don’t forget that when the Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all nations, this includes making disciples of the people in your congregation. Generosity is a Great Commission reality. People are open to receiving teaching on how to more fully obey in this area of life, and that’s good news.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.