Financial stewardship is a central area of Christian living. Authorities on scripture claim that Jesus taught more on money than any other subject. The epistles also teach often on giving, including strong language warning against refusal to give. Generous Giving is presented in the same light as learning scripture, preaching, earnestness for God, and practicing Christian love: "But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also" (2 Corinthians 8:7).
These facts suggest that giving is not just a New Testament teaching, but a New Testament emphasis. Our own experience backs up this conclusion. We find that Christian workers who don't give are usually very problematic in other areas as well. In fact, refusal to give is a key symptom that points to deep, sometimes unseen spiritual problems: lack of self-control, selfishness, secret drug or gambling addiction, hostility toward the church, and many other ills. As such, our teaching should reflect biblical emphasis in this area, but many leaders mistakenly overlook stewardship in their planning and assessment.
Consider the following points in building an effective leadership approach in this area.
1. The first thing to do is review the theology of church and personal finance. Carefully study the paper, "The New Testament Pattern of Church Finance." Also, reading works such as A Theology of Material Possessions by Gene Getz or Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn is an excellent idea. Developing your own strong convictions on giving must precede effective leading in this area. Teach these principles in home church.
2. According to Luke 16, your disciples will never be trusted by God to take care of the riches of the church unless they first become faithful financial stewards. When we think about our own history, it is not surprising that God picks this objective area as a litmus test for reliability in ministry. Crying Hallelujah! or standing to teach are easy to fake - but giving away money sacrificially is something the selfish refuse to do. If people are serving God for self-centered reasons, they will betray their true motives by their refusal to give.
3. Not only is non-giving a sign of selfishness, it also could be an important cause. The act of giving teaches us to view riches as belonging to God (Psalm 24:1). Giving is a discipline that constantly forces us to curb the flesh and live out our priorities in deed, not just in word.
4. Not surprisingly, successful and well-led home churches are consistently among the top in giving. Weak giving churches are generally also weak in growth and discipleship. This correlation is predictable based on Luke 16.
5. Non-giving disciples will be rejected from the Servant Team by Dwell elders. Not only must deacons belong to the Fiscal Support Team, they also must have a history of consistent generosity in this area. Therefore, if you are hoping to raise up leaders, you must see progress in this area. Start early with your disciples teaching them the reasons for giving and encouraging them to begin. Help disciples learn sound principles of personal finance, including getting out of excessive debt.
6. Your annual stewardship presentation to your home church or cell groups should be well-studied and strong. Consider using a combined cell group if you are worried about teaching on stewardship with non-Christians present. Consider approaching members beforehand with the idea that you would like to have the church take a stand together to make pledges at the presentation. Have testimonies ready from members on the Fiscal Support Team or from those who have turned the corner to generous giving.
7. Occasionally have missionaries raising support come to your home church combined cell or prayer meeting to discuss their work. Urge members to get involved as prayer partners and financial supporters.
8. Mark well those members who are strong givers and use them as examples to the church. This was done in the New Testament church - Paul used the Macedonians as an example in 2 Corinthians 8, and Barnabas and others were known to the whole Jerusalem church for selling property for the common good, according to Acts 4:36-37).
9. You should periodically ask your key disciples how things are going with their giving. Many leaders are surprised when they nominate disciples to the Servant Team, only to find out they haven't been giving. Ask your home church coach for feedback on your group's giving. The accounting office can't share specific details on your member giving, but they can tell you overall how your group is doing with making and fulfilling pledges.