Transactional to transformational giving

February 11, 2022 by Rob Hagan

A new parishioner, who was in a new member class on Zoom, asked the pastor, “Why does it seem that the church is always asking for money? That seems like all I hear, money, money, money.”

The thoughtful pastor answered with this insight.

“I have heard that criticism much in my pastoral life. I have even asked it myself during stewardship seasons. However, I realized that is not the right question for me. The question I should be asking is, ‘When does my faith become not transactional but transformational?’ For instance, when I go see the doctor, before I even get to see her, I am asked to pay a co-pay, so I can get well. When I go grocery shopping everything I want to buy is scanned, weighed, or measured and before I leave, I am asked to pay for the food that I need. Wellness and sustenance are looked on as transactional, but they become transformational when they meet our needs.”

When someone comes to church, they can enjoy great music, hopefully wise and relevant sermons, attend potlucks, join in on Zoom and not have to pay a dime. No one will coerce them or stop that at the door or the virtual worship and tell them their seat cost 10% for the whole year, or their subscription to the virtual worship for the whole year is 10% of their income. In fact, things get even better for this person who doesn’t give. There are other parishioners who give to the church give so that this person can enjoy the benefits of ministry without paying. The parishioners who give probably don’t even know him or her. Yet, if the non-giver hangs around the church and received the benefits of someone else’s generosity a change will take place if they listen. They will see the difference between success and significance. In areas of our life transactions must happen. Yet when it comes to faith in Christ, transactions yield transformation.

Does this sound familiar? The heart of the issue of reluctant giver is not really understanding the purpose of money.

Jesus taught about investing in the future and not hoarding.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21

In keeping with some of these Old Testament passages, Jesus challenges us with a choice: accumulate stuff here (which ultimately has no value) or use it in such a generous way that we’re investing it in the coming Kingdom. In other words, for money to be achieve its purpose money needs to flow much like water. Money holds our intention, our purpose and our desire for the kingdom of our Lord to exhibit to the world. Lynn Twist, author of the book Soul of Money writes,

“Money is like water. It can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love. Money moving in the direction of our highest commitments nourishes our world and ourselves. What you appreciate appreciates. When you make a difference with what you have, it expands. Collaboration creates prosperity. True abundance flows from enough; never from more. Money carries our intention. If we use it with integrity, then it carries integrity forward.”

When money begins to flow in our giving, with good stewardship it can be life giving to so many people, as water is to a dry desert. Money takes us where we can’t go ourselves. Parishioners can’t go to the hospital to visit the sick and infirm because of work and other commitments, but when their pastor goes, they are present because the gifts from church members enable her to be there in their place.

I was a having breakfast with a pastor from Seattle. We were talking about stewardship and this concept of money flowing like water. She is a pastor of an immigrant congregation mostly from East Africa. She shared an important story with me.

The pastor was at the communion table to begin the institution of the Lord’s Supper. She noticed a parishioner who immigrated from Uganda. The woman was carrying a bundle of brightly covered African cloth. She moved up the aisle slowly and laid the bundle on the communion table. The pastor wasn’t sure what to do. All she really could do was begin to uncover what was inside. Peeling off the fabric, the Pastor eventually found an envelope. Tucked inside the envelope was a hundred-dollar bill. A large treasure from this faith parishioner from Uganda, who understood the purpose of giving. She was watering the world!  She knew her treasure full of her purpose and intention would flow, under the care of this church, to exhibit the Kingdom of our Lord to a world desperate for the good news that Jesus brings.

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.