By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
Standard discipleship programs train new believers in the basics of how to study the Bible, pray and share their faith. But there is another vital building block that may often go missing.
“Money is such a big part of our lives; if we don’t disciple people in it, then we’re by default saying the Lordship of Jesus doesn’t permeate the most basic parts of their lives,” says Dr. Bobby Harrington, senior pastor of Harpeth Christian Church in Franklin, TN. “We have to teach people how to deal with their money in godly ways, or we aren’t discipling.”
In his church and in his work as Executive Director of national disciple-making organization Discipleship.org , Bobby makes sure financial stewardship is always part of the discipleship package.
“There is a clear relationship between stewardship and discipleship,” Bobby says. “Of course, money is a big deal in the Bible, so it’s going to be a big deal in disciple-making.”
Bobby offers four principles for ensuring discipleship always entails developing a heart of financial stewardship and generosity:
Start with the Lordship of Jesus
For Bobby, the ancient confession of Romans 10:10–“Jesus is Lord”—is the starting point of any discussion of stewardship as discipleship.
“Jesus as Lord means He is more important than anybody, anything or any aspect of our life,” Bobby says. “We’re saying He’s King—of our money and everything else.
“There is so much pressure to make money our God, rather than Jesus our Lord and God. We want to help people surrender that issue first and foremost.”
One of the first things Bobby does in disciple-making related to finances is to help new believers acknowledge that everything comes from God, and we’ve been entrusted with it to serve His purposes.
“The whole concept of tithing in the law of Moses was to help people acknowledge they were giving back only a portion of what is all God’s in the first place,” Bobby says. “We’re managing everything God gave us.”
Teach People More Than Just Giving
Many times as church leaders, we think “If everybody just gave, it would be so good,’ ” Bobby says. “But most people haven’t been discipled in how to manage their money God’s way.”
Bobby knows when he’s talking about being generous in his church—probably just like in yours—so many people are struggling with debt and are stretched so thin financially that they have little or no financial margin. No matter how motivating we may be, they have a hard time saying “yes.”
“We have to teach people the discipleship fundamentals of debt and savings and budgeting,” Bobby says. “We’re teaching people all these things so they can live a well-managed life, then you will be able to teach them about giving.”
Something FOR Them, Not FROM Them
As church leaders, we may well need to shift our goals when it comes to stewardship as discipleship. Our aim is not to get people’s money for the church or our projects.
“Our goal has to be that they would have a relationship with money that honors God so they can be used by God,” Bobby says. “It’s what we want to do for them so God can work through them.”
Bobby wants to raise up disciples who give the first 10 percent to God, save the second 10 percent and live a well-managed life with the remaining 80 percent. They have financial margin, and they’re making good money decisions.
“There is a freedom to be generous,” Bobby says. “A freedom from anxiety, freedom that you’ve prepared for the future. We are doing people a favor.”
Be Mutipliers of Good
Bobby knows there are two types of people listening when he teaches about generosity: One group doesn’t give, so they don’t like that teaching, and the other group loves it because it encourages them to keep it up.
“They get to partner with God in multiplying the benefits of good stewardship,” Bobby says. “In the words of Paul, they can ‘be generous in every way at all times (2 Cor. 9:11).’ They’re going to see the impact of their life multiplied in the Kingdom.”
Since we live in one of the world’s wealthiest countries at perhaps the most prosperous time in history, people we disciple in our churches have the opportunity to take their giving way beyond where they could take it alone.
“The multiplication effect can go way beyond any one life or any one church,” Bobby says. “It’s a beautiful thing we’re doing for others when we do what God intended for our finances.”
How Do You Accelerate the Development of a Stewardship Culture in Your Church?
Its great to know these things (which is half the battle, by the way), but how do you put the resources and systems in place to help members grow in stewardship and generosity? We’ve partnered with Generis, leading church Generosity Strategists, to help you figure that out. Our Generosity and Stewardship Accelerator is designed to help teams from large churches have their best year in generosity and stewardship. Ever. Our next group is forming now. Click or tap on the banner below to learn more.
Andy Williams contributed to the writing of this article.
Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org.