We don’t like to talk about money.
Pastors hate to preach on it.
Finance committees only do it because they have to.
We keep our records quiet and avoid tough conversations about budgets.
And when the time comes for mission work or important projects, we pass around the white buckets and pray someone gets inspired to put more than their pocket change inside.
Why are we so afraid to ask for deep commitment, for generous gifts, for extravagant response?
1. We segregate finances from other types of gifts.
We do not ask those who have the ability to make music to hide their gifts or keep their names hidden. We are not afraid to praise the talents of that cook in the congregation who makes the most excellent peanut butter pie… and might even have been found once or twice on our knees begging them to make it for the next church supper. The person who gives their time to repair items around the church gets their name in the bulletin. We celebrate the gifts God has given us and the way that people have graciously given them for the Kingdom of God.
Except for when it comes to dollars and cents.
I’ve discovered that money is not some great evil. It is not the powerful, ominous thing we make it out to be. It is a resource, a gift, not unlike our voices or our hands or our creativity.
I may have shared this before, but Henri Houwen writes:
Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. it is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission….
We are declaring, “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you – your energy, your prayers, and your money – in this work to which God has called us.” (A Spirituality of Fundraising, p. 16-17)
We have segregated the almighty dollar into it’s own category, rather than understanding it as one of many ways that people are able to respond, embrace, and participate in the work of the kingdom.
Through Imagine No Malaria, I have seen people give their time, carefully crafting beautiful creations we are selling to help support our work. Folks lend their voice to the effort through being ambassadors and telling the story of our work. Kitchens are busy with those who are baking and preparing for mission dinners and pancake suppers. Runners have covered countless miles with their feet to build support across the state for our work. And people have opened their pocketbooks in response… eager to participate in the life-saving work of Imagine No Malaria.
Those dollars are vitally important. Without the financial resources we are gathering, we cannot do the life-saving work that is needed on the continent of Africa.
ALL of these gifts are kingdom work – healing the sick and preaching the gospel for hundreds of thousands of people. All of them are ways for people to respond to the vision and join in the mission of God.
2. We aren’t good at evangelism
Nouwen writes that through asking…. through inviting those individuals, families, and organizations to give… we are in reality doing the work of evangelism and conversion.
Whether we are asking for money or giving money we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration. To be converted means to experience a deep shift in how we see and think and act… By giving people a spiritual vision, we want them to experience that they will in fact benefit by making their resources available to us. (p. 17, 19)
A young girl in Colorado experienced that transformation when she caught the vision and was invited to give. As other students added their dollars and change to the bucket at Vacation Bible School, she emptied her bank account and took the money she was saving for a doll and clothes and things she wanted and donated it instead to help save lives.
When we fail to ask… when we fail to share the vision and invite people to participate in God’s work… we are denying them the opportunity to experience that kind of transformation.
Maybe one of the reasons we are afraid to step out and talk with others about participating in this project or in others is because we are so lousy at doing evangelism in the first place.
A Barna study revealed that the average United Methodist will invite only one person to worship with them every 38 years. We just are not in the habit of talking about what our church is doing and asking people to join us in the first place. So why would we expect things to be any different when it comes to money?
This past week, I got a call from a church in Mason City that is doing some outside the box thinking and invited the local blood bank to become a partner in this effort.
Folks in Carson invited their whole community to participate in a basketball game and raised $4000.
When we carry this message, this vision, this transformative promise out into our communities – we just might be stunned at the response. God is good and the Holy Spirit is at work if we are willing to get outside of our walls and ask.
One of my colleagues with Imagine No Malaria refused to accept a pledge from a church. It was a large, thriving church with a passion for mission and the ability to participate in a big way. When they turned in a goal of $1000, my friend sent it back to the pastor and said, “We need to meet.” He refused to let them sell themselves short because they had the potential for transformative ministry through Imagine No Malaria.
Most people, including myself, would be pleased as punch to get a pledge at all and wouldn’t have the guts to do such a thing. But why not?
The demands of the gospel are not small. The invitation to discipleship demands that we take up our cross and follow. And yet we allow people to get by with weak offerings: in either time, energy, or dollars.
I bet your church, right now, has five people in it who could and would be willing to invest themselves in this kingdom-work by giving $1000… either all at once, or as a pledge over the next year or three. I bet your community or your county has two businesses or organizations that would be willing to donate $2500 a piece if they were told about how this work is transforming lives in Africa and creating opportunities for community development and economic empowerment.
Too often we operate from a mindset of scarcity and cherish tiny offerings, instead of realizing that God has already abundantly provided.