As an expert and speaker on stewardship at Ramsey Solutions, I'm blessed to be able to meet pastors from around the globe. Gleaning wisdom from them has been such a privilege! But there's one thing I hear far too often from pastors, and it pains me when they share it: They have more vision than resources.
They dream about what their church could do—if they just had the money. They hear a call from God for their churches to reach their communities, but they don't have the resources to answer that call. The money just isn't there for them to transform their vision into reality.
But sometimes I meet church leaders who do have the resources they need to accomplish their vision. Very often, this group of pastors has one thing in common: incredible financial transparency. That's it. They're open and honest about their church's finances.
Now, please don't misunderstand. Not every church that's struggling to match its resources to its vision is financially guarded. If that is the case with your church, there may be other reasons you're unable to fully realize your vision, and they might have nothing to do with transparency. But there is a link between financially flourishing churches and financial transparency. It definitely plays a role for churches that are able to realize their vision.
Why do financially transparent churches tend to flourish? Transparency puts a congregation at ease. Members are more likely to give because they trust their money is going to be managed well. But transparency also attracts high-impact donors from outside the church who are actively seeking organizations with integrity and accountability to be recipients of their generosity. Did you catch that? People who are intentional with their finances want to give their money to churches that are intentional with their finances.
Transparency also does something to the church's leadership team and staff. It nurtures:
1. Accountability to gift-givers and a responsibility to use the gifts to advance God's kingdom. Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 (NIV) when Titus is sent to receive the collection. Paul says: "We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man."
2. The desire to be an example of Christian integrity. Paul gives the following advice to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 (MEV): "Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
3. Modeling of Christlikeness. In John 18:20, where John gives an account of Jesus' trial, Jesus is clear about the importance of transparency and integrity. This example applies to our interactions with other Christians as well as the public. In the passage, the high priest questions Jesus about His disciples and teaching. Jesus replies: "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and I said nothing in secret."
4. An expression of gratitude toward God for your ministry. In 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul says transparency and integrity come out of an appreciation to God for the ministry: "Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy we have received, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the secret things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by expressing the truth and commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
Financial transparency doesn't have to mean revealing your personal salary or the smallest details of your church's budget. You can keep the specifics private. Instead, it could mean any of the following:
- Sharing the total dollar amount allocated toward executive-level payroll
- Making the salary-decision process available for review
- Publishing the annual report, but not financial statements, on the church's website or mailing it upon request
- Reporting on projects for which you've sought gifts and offerings to communicate project outcomes to donors
Financial transparency from a church's leaders really does play a huge role in transforming vision into reality. I pray you'll allow the Lord to lead you in this area and that He'll bless you with the resources you need to be the church He's calling you to be!
Chris Brown is a pastor and dynamic speaker carrying the message of intentional living nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. Host of the "Life, Money and Hope" podcast, Brown provides biblical wisdom and practical advice for life's everyday questions. Follow him online at stewardship.com, on Twitter and Instagram (@chrisbrownonair) or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair).
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