The regular ‘money spot’ can be one of the most awkward and divisive moments in the life of a church. The time comes for the person responsible to update the church on its financial health, and in most cases, to urge an increase in giving to meet the shortfall. That update begins to increase in frequency as the urgency of the situation intensifies.
What tends to happen is that the people who are already giving generously either
- find ways to give even more generously or
- get fed up with being asked to give more and react negatively.
All the while, there is a significant proportion of the congregation who are giving little, if anything. (Note: ‘little’ means ‘an insignificant proportion of our capacity’; see Luke 21:1-4.) What we need to do is not only thank those who are already giving generously, but strongly challenge those who are not.
Here is a script for how you might do this:
In a moment, I will talk briefly about how we’re tracking financially as a church. But before I do that, I would like to acknowledge that there are at least three groups of people here. Those three groups need to respond in different ways to what I am about to say.
- First of all, there are many here who have carefully considered their financial obligations and capacity in regards to supporting the ministry of the gospel here at [insert name of your church] and beyond. You have worked out what it means for you to be generous in your present situation. You have prayerfully considered your giving, and you have acted. If that’s you, then here’s what I want you to do for the next two minutes. I want you to ignore everything I am about to say. This doesn’t concern you. You’re already doing your bit. Thank you.
- Secondly, there are some here who are visiting our church, or who have not yet made up their minds that this will be their home church. Similarly, please ignore what I am about to say. You are our guest this morning/evening.
- But there is a third group. You regularly participate in the life of our church, and gain spiritual and relational benefits from the ministries here. BUT … you either don’t contribute anything financially, or you give in an irregular, insignificant and unreflective way. You enjoy the benefits of a ministry, but you rely on the person in the next row to pay for it. To put it in a straightforward Australian way, you’re ‘bludging’ off the rest of us. It’s our best guess that this third group represents more than half of all those here this morning/evening. What I want you to do now as you listen to what I am about to say is feel guilty: feel guilty in such a way that you repent, confess your sin to God, and commit to obeying God in this area of money.
There could be no objection to making an announcement like this virtually every Sunday of the year. There is simply no reason for anyone to complain. The first group can’t get offended by an announcement that they have been explicitly told to ignore. The second group is being educated that if they do commit to this church, then the expectation is that they ought to give thoughtfully and generously. The third group can’t complain; they need to believe the gospel and respond to the generosity of God in repentance and faith.