What Happens if You Fail to Preach on Money

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If you cast a compelling vision, you can talk about giving and generate support.

Sixty-eight percent of American church members reported that they had not heard a sermon on the relationship between faith and personal finances in the previous year! Robert Wuthnow discovered that fact in a study a few years ago. Wuthnow stated in his report that “clergy often tiptoe around the topic of money as if they were taking a walk through a minefield.”

My own personal experience in the stewardship ministry confirms what countless studies have found. Simply put, sermons on stewardship and giving are rarely heard if ever from the pulpits across America. While there are some exceptions to this, on the whole the vast majority of preachers ignore the topic like a plague. 

At the beginning of every engagement with a church, we probe to discover what kind of stewardship climate exists in the church. Sadly, we find that most rarely if ever talk about stewardship. At best, it might be an annual sermon, or for the rare few, a series of sermons on giving.

Americans used to give 3.11 percent of their incomes to the church, but now give only 2.4 percent. I believe our failure to teach stewardship is a leading reason for this decline. What is the result of this failure? Here are a few that are impacting the church:

We are in danger of losing a generation of stewards. It has been said that Christianity is always one generation away from extinction. While Christ ultimately sustains His church, there is indeed a kernel of truth to the above statement. Perhaps nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the area of stewardship. 

Multiple studies have shown that giving as a percentage of one’s income has declined significantly since the Great Depression. Each succeeding generation of Christians appears to be less committed to giving than the last. One cannot help but think that the failure to talk about money plays significantly into this decline.

Our offering plates are emptier as a result. It is no revelation that giving as a percentage is declining in America. The lack of stewardship education and expectation are leading reasons. In the book Passing the Plate, the authors found “good evidence to think that low expectations in Christian churches for financial giving contributes toward the unimpressive financial contributions of American Christians.”

We have robbed people of one of the great joys and rewards of the Christian life. Either we believe the Bible is true or we don’t. We cannot pick and choose the passage we think our people might like. Avoiding preaching on stewardship ignores the truth that giving brings great joy and blessing to believers. We are made to give, and not teaching people how to be responsible in this area robs them of a crucial Christian discipline. Giving is not only about the church, it is also about the giver. I need to give for my own well-being, not simply to add to the church’s coffers.

We endanger our ability to do ministry and missions. At the end of the day, if you do not effectively teach stewardship you will find yourself limited in the amount of ministry you can do. In the current economically challenged times that we are going through, the ministries that are suffering the most are those that have not focused upon stewardship. They are the first to have to cut staff and ministry. While no church is immune to recessions and giving challenges, those that are consistently preaching stewardship raise more funds to fuel more ministry than those that ignore the topic.

A few years ago, Bill Hybels, in a roundtable discussion with pastors, made the following comment: “If I could do one thing differently at Willow Creek it would be how we would approach giving and offerings.” He recognized that in our rush to avoid criticism of talking too much about money, we have not talked about it enough. It is not that people mind that you do talk about giving, it is more in how you do talk about it that matters.

Cast a compelling vision, and you can talk about giving to support it.  

Mark Brooks As the founding partner of The Charis Group, Mark Brooks brings not only a rich background of ministry experience but also years of successfully helping Christian ministries raise funds for capital projects. His desire to better personalize the engagement that each ministry receives from their stewardship partner led him to begin The Charis Group. With creative, outside the box thinking, Mark has helped scores of ministries achieve maximum financial and spiritual results.

More from Mark Brooks or visit Mark at http://thecharisgroup.org

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  • PAorangeburg

    Amen! This is so so very true. Thank you for sharing this topic.

  • Brian

    I have been in several churches that have focused obsessively on financial topics. I have heard offering “sermonettes” that go longer than the worship time. Teaching upon teaching upon teaching on the issue form every angle. And you know what? Every single one of those churches STILL has giving and financial issues. Yes, we need to preach on finances…even Jesus did! But it isn’t the answer by itself. Not at all…

    • http://c-mog.blogspot.com/ Drae

      I hear what your saying, but the author wasn’t just really talking about preaching on finances. He was talking about stewardship of what God has given to all of us. The proper response to Gods gifts in our lives. The back of a dollar bill says “In God We Trust” but we say that only in relation to everything but our money. It’s like we forget who gave us the money in the first place. God is the root of all we have. As the Bible says “Every good and perfect gift comes from God” and the proper care and response to God and his gifts is what is needed in the Christian community. Irresponsible leaders do make it hard on us to do so, but the last time I checked the Bible said for us “to put not our trust in man” so therefore we are not doing it for them but for God alone because he commanded us to do so. And really and honestly if we loved God with all our heart we would want to give back everything he has given us just for the simple fact we don’t deserve any of it. So I hear what your saying and I used to have the same mindset, but when the Lord changed my heart, my outlook on everything changed. Pray that the Lord focuses our attention on him and not what man is or is not doing. – Be blessed and a blessing

      • Brian

        “And really and honestly if we loved God with all our heart we would want to give back everything he has given us just for the simple fact we don’t deserve any of it.”
        Exactly! And that’s the part I didn’t write in my initial response. Because all that preaching on money and finances didn’t produce the desired results because it focused on a specific SYMPTOM, but completely missed the underlying disease! If we preach the greatest commandment, and people then become and live that commandment, they will give. For if God has your heart….He has your wallet as well!

        • http://c-mog.blogspot.com/ Drae

          I agree. improper teaching on proper stewardship and love will produce improper results. Or like I read somewhere “Dead preachers preach dead sermons and dead sermons kill”

  • http://www.discovernorthpark.com Larry Poole

    “We have robbed people of one of the greatest joys of Christian life.”

    Right on Mark! Great article.

    What we often forget is that giving was not designed to bless God, it was designed so that God can bless us. When we become Christ-like stewards, we are able to connect with the heart of God at a completely different level.

  • audie

    May some of us have grown tired of giving our hard-earned money for things like smoke machines, buildings that look like airport terminals, yard signs with writing so small that drivers can’t read them, motorcross and circus acts performed during the service, sermons that come off like stand-up comedy routines, and all the other gadgets and tricks so popular today.
    After all, if “stewardship” implies responsibility in giving, why should I give for the above reasons?