Leader to Leader, Stewardship

How to Encourage Generosity

April 14, 2016 | Posted by John Kieschnick

When Rick Warren founded Saddleback Community Church in 1980, he walked the neighborhood and asked people what “bugged” them the most about the church. He said one of the top reasons given was the church’s focus on money. So, he determined he wasn’t going to preach or teach much about money. Not too many years later Bill Hybels concluded the same thing as he pastored Willow Creek Community Church. I can relate to these two pastors as I had similar feelings early in my pastorate in the early 1970’s. Sad to say, all three of us were wrong. Good thing to say, we all three “discovered” the truth! And where did we “discover” the truth? Where the truth is best found: the Holy Scriptures.

The Bible has a lot to say about money and generosity. The Pentateuch is loaded with laws regarding “tithes and offerings.” It has been noted that Jesus spoke more about people and their relationship with their “stuff” than any other topic. St. Paul certainly didn’t shrink from speaking about giving. What might we learn from them regarding generosity? Here are three suggestions for pastors based upon my own reflections on the Word and my personal experiences.

  1. Preach the Word of God regarding generosity boldly. As with other Christian disciplines, preaching one message a year on generosity likely isn’t going to change a lot of lives. It became my practice to preach on financial stewardship throughout the month of October. If there were four Sundays in October, there were four messages; if there were five Sundays, there were five. Believe it or not, while some people stayed away from worship, most people came to love the month of October. Why? Because they learned the truth and learning the truth helped set them free from their “obsession with their possessions.”
  2. Teach the Word of God regarding stewardship regularly. A pastor can do this in Bible classes and there are other materials which lay leaders can use. We found Financial Peace University, while not perfect, very helpful and practical. I recall vividly a comment from a woman who attended these classes (which were taught by lay people). She said, “Pastor, these classes didn’t just teach us about how to handle money. These classes saved my marriage!” People really do want to know what to do with their financial resources. Why not offer them help?
  3. Whatever you say and do, root your teaching in grace. Teaching about stewardship includes teaching about sanctification, but this doesn’t mean one has to be legalistic. St. Paul refers repeatedly to the “grace of giving” in his second letter to the Corinthians. He concludes chapter 9 with these incredible words, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” Isn’t that the ultimate power to encourage rich generosity?
John Kieschnick
Born in Walburg, Texas, the second youngest of nine children, John Kieschnick received a B.S. in Education from Concordia Teachers’ College, River Forest, Ill. Throughout his ministry, John has served on a variety of synodical boards and committees, both national and district (Texas). He has authored numerous stewardship Bible studies and programs.