Do We Talk About Money Too Much?
“This is just a hugely distasteful example of the American money obsession gospel which us non-Americans find nauseating.”
I stared at my inbox and read the response twice. Then three times. Somewhere, in some other country, some nameless person with an @hotmail.com email address was very upset with me.
Earlier that morning I had emailed out a blog post about the importance of speed and simplicity when it comes to online giving. The few responses I’d received back had been largely positive. But then came this one.
I’ve been sharing content on the Internet long enough to know that negative feedback comes with the territory. I try not to take it personally. But, for some reason, this response really got to me.
I think part of the reason was its source. This email purportedly came from a fellow brother or sister in Christ. This is exactly the kind of person that Mogiv is working to empower and equip, and yet he/she found those efforts to be “hugely distasteful.”
Another reason for pause came from the accusation itself. We’re all familiar with the oft-cited excesses of prominent American pastors in recent decades. Indeed, it is those very excesses that Mogiv (and others in our space) are working to reverse. We exist not only to help churches increase their monthly giving, but also to help re-frame the conversations churches have around generosity. Based on that feedback, not only had we fallen short in our efforts, we had become a living embodiment of that which we most despise!
Given all of that, you can understand the (blessedly brief) existential crisis that followed. Thankfully, though, it didn’t stop there. In the weeks since, I have spent some time reflecting on the approach I take with the churches I work with. I came away with an important realization: the response above is an indicator not that we’re on the wrong path, but, rather, that we’re a long way from being finished!
As the Director of Business Development for a giving platform, it is not a stretch to say that tithes and offerings are literally all I ever talk about. Why? I can tell you it is NOT because I am overly passionate about moving dollars out of parishioners wallets and into church bank accounts. (Although, I am passionate about seeing well-resourced local churches.) No. I love talking with pastors and churches about money for these reasons…
Because Jesus talked about money.
The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27), The Widow And The Two Mites (Luke 21:1-4), The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35)…the list goes on. Jesus didn’t come to earth just to talk about money, but he sure wasn’t shy about bringing it up any chance he could. And I’m guessing this wasn’t because the temple needed some new pews. It’s because Jesus understood – as Timothy did – that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10) Jesus recognized that silver and gold were two of the biggest barriers separating his Children from his Father, and he worked tirelessly to remove them. Why should we not work to do the same?
Because money IS ministry.
Given the apologetic, almost obsequious tone our conversations around money often take, it would seem that many pastors are looking forward to the day when they don’t have to talk about money anymore. They have to do it now, but MAN, won’t it be nice when the church is fully-funded and they can finallyget down to doing some real ministry? An understandable desire? Certainly. But what this attitude misses is the fact that giving and ministry go hand in hand, and not just because ministries need financing. The core ministry of every church is the same: disciple making. And generosity is a necessary precursor to discipleship. As long as money holds a grip on the hearts of men and women, pastoral leaders will be tasked with addressing it. No different from pride, lust, envy, or any other sin that keeps us from true fellowship with God. Conversations about money don’t just fund your ministry, they are a part of your ministry.
Because giving is the antidote to greed.
Despite the best efforts of Dave Ramsey and others, Americans still struggle mightily with things like moderation and materialism. 65% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Average household debt in America is $117,951. Meanwhile, giving to The Church has been in decline for years now, and 17% of American families say they have reduced the amount they give to their local church. Money is both a false idol and a very real millstone around our necks. The antidote is not more income but, rather, more giving. When we view our money as a gift and as a vehicle for God’s provision, it becomes easier to break free from the death cycle of consumerism every American knows so well. If this transformation is every going to take place, the church must play a central role in reshaping the conversation.
For these reasons and more, I have emerged from my “funk” with a new commitment to talk about money even more than I did before!
The fact that it’s awkward. The fact that it makes people uncomfortable. The fact that I (and others) have communicated poorly around money in the past, is not a reason to stop talking about it. It’s a reason to push on! To pray, to preach, to learn, to seek the Lord’s wisdom, and to do it better the next time around.
I hope to help us do just that in the articles ahead. Check back next week to learn about the 5 mistakes pastors make when talking about money.