General InterestGenerous ChurchesLeadership Development

Don’t Be Fooled: Big Gifts Don’t Always Equal Spiritual Maturity

By August 22, 2017 No Comments

 

Imagine you’re the leader of a church with a healthy contingent of high-capacity givers, and some of those givers are blessing your church with generous financial contributions.

There’s a temptation in those cases that Dr. Stacy Spencer, Founding and Senior Pastor of New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, has learned to avoid.

“Sometimes you’re lured into thinking that if the gift is big, the heart is big,” says Stacy. “Don’t be fooled by big gifts and assume they always equal spiritual maturity. Sometimes that might not be the case.”

Stacy thinks that was one of the big lessons Jesus taught when he told about a group of temple givers—many were bringing big gifts, and a widow gave what looked like a meager offering.

“Remember, it was the widow who had the heart that pleased God, because she gave everything she had,” Stacy says. “All the other people were high-capacity givers who brought big gifts, but their hearts weren’t conditioned like the widow.”

Stacy says when people give big gifts, it can be tempting to hand them more leadership and spiritual authority than they may be able to handle. Jesus wrote the book on this one, too, with how he challenged a young, high-level leader.

“The rich young ruler couldn’t write a big check and walk away free and clear in his relationship with the Lord,” Stacy says. “Jesus knew his heart, and knew he needed to grow in some areas, even though he claimed to do all the right things.”

It’s About Discipleship

Stacy and others who pastor high-capacity givers say the key to helping them develop a pure heart to go with big gifts is to foster a genuine mentoring/discipleship relationship that goes far beyond accepting their generosity and assuming all is well with their soul. Every giver has areas that God wants to further develop, even high-capacity givers.

“High-capacity givers are inundated with sales pitches, so they don’t need another one of those from us as church leaders,” Stacy says. “They need somebody who is going to care about more than their wallet, and invest in helping them grow in their relationship with the Lord.”

Stacy has developed deep discipleship relationships with high-capacity givers that have included professional athletes, actors and high-level wealthy business leaders. There were no shortcuts in developing friendships that had an impact on the spiritual formation of these high-capacity givers.

“We do life with these people and some have become our friends,” Stacy says. “God has been gracious in many instances to allow me the opportunity to cultivate a genuine relationship that allows us to know our givers deeply and to actually have an impact.”

That kind of relationship, with a focus on addressing the heart issues that God reveals and challenging high-capacity givers to give more than money, helps church leaders keep a healthy perspective on substantial donors.

“A lot of big givers write big checks and think that should be enough,” Stacy says. “But they’re not attending worship, or they aren’t part of a small group, or they aren’t serving in any way. You can’t continue to receive their big gifts without holding them accountable for being discipled.”

“Don’t be captivated by the big gifts, and fail to work toward true discipleship and fellowship, ” he adds

Get Past the Dollar Signs

Leadership Network’s Chris Willard, who helps church leaders around the country develop a culture of generosity in their churches, agrees 100 percent with Stacy. He encourages pastors not to be shy about knowing their high-capacity givers and initiating a relationship with them.

He suggests pastors should get a list of the church’s top givers, and reach out to them to begin building a potential discipling relationship.

“There might be a lot of names on that list you don’t recognize as being plugged in anywhere else,” Chris says. “You have a unique opportunity and probably the best platform of anyone in your church to reach out and connect with them.”

“In many cases, high-capacity givers are the most overlooked people in the church. There is usually no ministry or discipleship strategy for people blessed with wealth, and their heart issues need to be addressed as badly as anybody else. They have deep spiritual needs.”

The key, Stacy and Chris agree, is pastors working through their own insecurities and inadequacies when relating to high-capacity givers. It takes developing a genuine relationship where pastors can look past the dollar signs and want something for their high-capacity givers, not something from them.

“You have to avoid the self-talk that goes on in a pastor’s head that says you have nothing to offer people with wealth,” Chris says. “High-capacity givers are often high-capacity leaders in large and complex organizations. But they need someone to care about their spiritual depth and maturity as much as they care about their leadership and giving capacity.

“Tell that voice in your head to ‘Be quiet,’ because you really do have something to offer them.”

Andy Williams contributed to the writing of this article.

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Warren Bird

Author Warren Bird

Warren Bird, Ph.D. has been named a Leadership Network Senior Fellow in light of his exemplary service 2006-2018 as Director of Research and Intellectual Capital Development at Leadership Network. He serves as full-time VP of Research for ECFA.org (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). An ordained minister with background as both a pastor and seminary professor, Warren is an award-winning author or co-author of 31 books for ministry leaders including Hero Maker with Dave Ferguson, How to Break Church Growth Barriers with Carl George, and Next: Pastoral Succession that Works with William Vanderbloemen. Other recent titles are Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work with Jim Tomberlin, and Wisdom from Lyle E. Schaller. Some of Warren’s recent online reports include "Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard," and "The Heartbeat of Rising Influence Churches." See also research reports at leadnet.org/megachurchleadnet.org/salary and leadnet.org/portable. He is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading researchers of megachurches, multisite churches, large church compensation and high-visibility pastoral succession. He also oversees the world's only active, sortable list of global megachurches. Follow him on Twitter @warrenbird.  Click here to subscribe to Leadership Network Advance to get updates from Leadership Network.

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