Law versus grace in stewardship

September 12, 2019 by Rob Hagan

Recently, I was in a church during stewardship season. The elder of finance was announcing how much the church is short of pledges. It announced to the congregation about cutting staff, reducing the programs if the congregation doesn’t pay their money for the next year. I have heard this so many times.

The only thing is, it doesn’t work! Law never works; grace does.

The next announcement was a gentleman who shared about a group home for felons just getting out of prison. The church provides volunteers. The gentleman said, “thank you” to the congregation for the leadership and commitment of the church’s minister. He continued to thank the congregation for changing his life because he is a felon and the church impacted his life for Jesus Christ. While his life is still a struggle, it is filled with the joy that only Christ can bring.

I wanted to stand up and get out my wallet and say, “Take what you need!”

And that’s what your church needs to show – the impact of your church for the Kingdom of God!

Know the Mission

Clif Christopher, in his book, Rich Church, Poor Church, gives hints on how churches can examine themselves to see if they exhibit the Rich Church mentality or a Poor Church mentality.

If you find the idea of a “rich church” and a “poor church” distasteful (and that’s understandable), think of it a different way: think of it as a church that has momentum in ministry or one which languishes in the shadow of scarcity. In other words – it’s not about how much is in the bank account. It’s about how the church views itself and its ministry.

In one chapter entitled “Know the Mission,” Rich Churches know that money changes lives. It’s not just about balancing the bottom line on a treasurer report.

Rich Churches are always talking about how they are changing lives. Poor Churches are always talking about how they need more money. Rich Churches understand that transforming lives, not raising money, is their business. Money is always seen as a tool for mission.”


Test your vision

Mission is for the Kingdom. Mission is not for the sake of the bottom line. Questions to identify, momentum and proclamation are key to the church’s survival – and keys to generosity. Test your vision against these three questions below.

  1. Who are you?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What do you have to declare?

These three questions, I believe, are crucial to differentiate a church between a church that has momentum in ministry (Rich Church) or one which languishes in the shadow of scarcity (Poor Church). This fact is certain: churches never believe they have enough money … ever.

However, the Rich Church may struggle with on having enough because they give away funds to impact people’s lives. A Poor Church will not have enough money because the vision is lost – or was never created – and nobody knows the impact their dollars are making to build the Kingdom of our Lord.

It is the Lord who helps us to answer these questions. We are generous to others because our Lord has first and foremost shown his deep and abiding generosity to us.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Small writes in his treatise on the church entitled, Flawed Church, Faithful God, Because the church is the body of Christ it is not self-generated, self-directed, or self-sustained….as the Church is the body of Christ the church is not master of its own life, its own nature and purpose; the church belongs to Christ alone.” (pg. 90)

Christ wants the church to impact the world.

Joyful giving

Mother Teresa comments on momentum, generosity and impact from her saying, “Joy is a sign of generosity. When you are full of joy, you move faster, and you want to go about doing good to everyone.“

A good friend and parishioner of one of the churches I served started an athletic scholarship with a major university. When he shared this with me, I was excited about his decision and how it will impact lives for future generations.

However, I asked him why he didn’t think of using some of those resources also for the ministry of the church? He said, “Rob, you are my buddy and I care for you, but you didn’t ask, and I didn’t know what you would do with the money.”

You had better believe the university did ask, and they told him how the money would be used.

My friend didn’t know the impact of his money for the kingdom of God. I learned a huge lesson.

Make sure that the church is about changing lives, and not the bottom line.

Rev. Dr. Rob Hagan is the Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation serving the Northwest. He works with pastors and church leaders to cultivate generosity and promote stewardship within their congregations. He also meets with donors to assist them in making gifts to support their church and other ministries. You can find your congregation’s Ministry Relations Officer here.