For almost twelve years, I've been a hawk about removing empty rituals from the church. I know this offends some folks, and 'empty' is subjective (what is meaningless to some is profound to others). But I saw the church in many respects just 'going through the motions'. People were bored, which is one of the many reasons why they didn't come.
I wanted to do something about that, and we did. We asked very hard questions like, "Why do we do that?" and "Why do we do that every month, week, year, on the first Sunday, etc." Some of the answers made sense. Others, we discovered, were simply, "that's the way we've always done it". That's not good enough.
Its seems, though, that I've fallen into my own trap. From the beginning of my ministry, I adopted the standard, obligatory routine when it comes to money.
- The preacher does a 4 week series every year, mostly about giving.
- Attendance goes down because people avoid the subject like the plague.
- Giving goes up a little, so the leadership calls it a success.
- The church quietly celebrates that it's over, but already dreads next year's same-ol', same-ol'.
Why do we do that?!!
I'm not going to lay into a fiery sermon that will answer that question, but suffice it to say that our motives are pure. I believe that every Christ follower should give a tithe (10%). I believe that the tithe is Biblical and is the minimum, starting place for giving for the Christ follower. I believe that Christ followers who are not obedient and passionate here have a major issue in their spiritual lives. I have gone through this annual routine because I want to help people. I didn't know any other way.
But it clearly wasn't helping much. A few would take the plunge and start giving. A few would step up and give more, working towards a full tithe. Most avoided the subject. I used to think they were just telling God to keep His hands off of their money, but this week, I'm learning that there is a far more pervasive reason.
I'm just outside of Nashville. Beth Stoddard and I are attending an intense 3 day seminar with Dave Ramsey (yes, he was live with us yesterday)**. There are only about 100 church leaders here, from all over the country.
What I realized yesterday is that people want to help other people. Christ followers want to give to the church and other organizations. People want to be generous. But most folks are so incredibly strapped down in debt, payments and bills that they have no capacity. It hurts their lives in many respects - their marriages, their time with kids, their health and stress, and their spiritual lives.
Dave Ramsey is teaching us how to help our church - not to give, but to LIVE! If, using the 800 verses in the Bible that deal with this subject, can help people get out of debt, get on a budget, and live within their means, so many great things will happen because of it. I think that's the key. I'm convinced.
So, I guess you'll be hearing more about this :-)
Thanks for praying for us while we learn and try to hear from God on this important matter.
See you Saturday and Sunday!
**Our spouses traveled here with us (it was a 10-hour drive), but aren't going to the conference sessions.