The first step in setting the stage for a successful stewardship system is to create a culture of generosity in your church. Generosity is an often intangible force that trickles down from you to your people and results in specific actions. As your people see you being generous with resources to support them, making them more comfortable, and giving them the best opportunity to grow, they will begin to adopt that same spirit of generosity. However, if your actions reflect an attitude of scarcity, your people will act in the same vein and approach giving with a scarcity mentality.
Paul convicts us on this point in Romans 2:3-4: "Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God's judgment when you do the same things? Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" We are quick to judge others for not being faithful in their giving, but we are not always being faithful in the ways we give to them. We are not modeling the outward expression of a generous heart. And yes, we are called to give to our people—sacrificially, even. Another way to think of the word kindness in this verse is "generosity." God's generosity draws us into repentance. But how will people ever see or understand God's generosity if we, as the church, fail to model it? What if your church could become known in your community as the church that gives rather than the church that takes? What a profound impact that would have on creating a culture of generosity within your church and a reputation of generosity beyond your doors.
Since our [church's] first days, we have made an intentional decision at The Journey to focus on exemplifying God's provision through generosity. Living with an open hand has not always been easy; we've been stretched. But the rewards of generosity are well worth the effort and expense. We've grown, our people have grown, our church has grown, and the culture of generosity that has been established permeates every area of our ministry. Here are just a few examples of the ways we try to go over and above in modeling generosity:
Pastors often ask me, "How do you pay for all of that?" My answer is short and simple: the fruit is in the harvest. I can't afford not to do it. If I refused to foster an atmosphere of generosity at The Journey, I would be cutting off God's blessing and closing down people's hearts. I would be lessening the likelihood that people visit our church for the first time and then go on to become fully engaged followers of Christ.
I want you to examine your heart toward generosity. Refocus your thinking. Shift the paradigm. Ask God to give you wisdom as you begin to walk in the understanding that generosity breeds generosity.
Let me remind you of two practical steps to take as you start cultivating a generous culture. First of all, begin cutting your spending where you can, but not in ways that will visibly influence your generosity. For example, if you are doing mailings, don't stop doing those. Instead, call the printer you are working with and try to negotiate a better rate. Always be on the lookout for internal savings.
Second, focus on proper stewardship. Learn to cooperate with God to bring in the full tithes and offerings. As church leaders, we set the tone for our people. Every system we implement to make our churches healthier begins with our own obedience to the heart of God.
—Nelson Searcy; adapted from Maximize: How to Develop Extravagant Givers in Your Church (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2010). Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be distributed to other web locations or published in other media without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.
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