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d-PastoringHow to equip the people in your church so they become generous givers

We are living in tough economic times. In many churches, budgets are shrinking, resources are lacking, and downsizing isn’t something reserved just for the marketplace anymore. With a high unemployment rate, mounting national debt and no quick-fix solutions, we’re facing unprecedented economic challenges.

But this isn’t the first time church leaders have faced difficult conditions like these. While attempting to raise funds to aid the struggling believers in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul offered these words: “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:1-2, NIV, emphasis added). Wow, what a statement!

I think we’d all agree that severe trials and extreme poverty are not a prescription for generous giving. So how did generosity happen in these churches? What motivated them to give?

Paul explains the catalyst by connecting the grace of God (v. 1) with the grace extended to others who were also in need (v. 2). Then he adds: “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Cor 8:5, emphasis added). What God had done, in spite of their suffering, struck such a powerful grace note that generosity flowed naturally.

Relating suffering and extreme poverty to joyous giving seems counter-intuitive, but this passage demonstrates that building a culture of generosity is not about money. It’s about the heart and helping people live in freedom as they devote themselves first to the Lord. We must remember that we are not facing a financial challenge; we are facing a heart challenge.

The attention of the believers in the Macedonian churches shifted from personal struggles to eternal opportunity. They recognized that everything they had came from the Lord. Therefore their expression of generosity was simply taking what was already the Lord’s and giving it to His work. People were in need, and they took it upon themselves to respond—making both an immediate and eternal impact.

How can you equip your church and build a culture of generous givers? Here are a few recommendations.

Challenge them. As a senior pastor, I know that challenging people to give generously can be intimidating. Pastors don’t want to be perceived as being interested only in money. Yet these concerns and fears rob our members of the privilege and joy of giving generously and living financially free. Often the reason we lack financial resources is because, as church leaders, we lack the courage to cast vision for God’s kingdom-building work and then unashamedly ask people to sacrificially support the vision.

Teach them. You have to train people about biblical stewardship and fiscal responsibility. I’ve been amazed over the year at the number of Christians who truly don’t understand biblical teachings on money, stewardship and generosity.

It’s essential to equip and empower your church in the area of financial stewardship and to provide the resources they need to learn how to live below their means. You’re giving them more than a lesson in balancing their checkbooks. You’re helping them break away from financial bondage and debt, and you’re giving them the freedom to become joyful, generous givers.

Praise them. It’s extremely important to consistently thank your congregation for giving. This simple act will significantly contribute to building a culture of generosity. Affirming words, spoken with gratitude, acknowledge the act of giving and reinforce the importance of developing a generous spirit. A spirit focused on eternal matters dramatically impacts lives.

Our focus must not waver from equipping people to think and live as generous givers with an eternal mindset! Rich generosity is a by-product and not the starting point. And it is perhaps the most reliable indicator, according to Jesus in Matthew 6:21, of where a person’s heart motives really lie.   

John Spurling is an associate senior pastor at Gateway Church in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. He has more than 28 years of ministry experience and has authored and co-authored numerous equipping and leadership resources that are being used in churches worldwide.

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