3 Ways My Parents Taught Me To Love God And His Church

FBR t-shirtLoving His Church

In the month of September, my church has been celebrating our love for our church. We’ve been wearing special “I love my church” T-shirts on Saturdays all around the Metro Kansas City area. We’ve been taking “selfies” of ourselves wearing these T-shirts around town. We’ve been writing social media posts about why we love our church. We’ve even been hashtagging our love on social media with the hashtag #loveFBR on these posts and pictures.

As we have celebrated our love for our church over the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting back on my childhood and how I learned to love any church I’ve ever been a member.

The reason I love God and His church is primarily due to the example of my parents. As a boy growing up in my parents’ home, I learned to love my church through watching my parents love their church in 3 ways.

3 Ways My Parents Loved Their Church

  1. They gave of their time. They viewed church attendance as a priority, so anytime the church doors were open, we were there. On Wednesday nights, we were there for Awana ministry. On Sunday mornings, we were there for Sunday School and worship service. We would go back for Sunday night services. We also would also attend special missions conferences and revivals (remember those?). And now, as an adult, I’m at church almost every day, because I work for a mega church!
  2. They gave of their talents and abilities. My dad is an artist – he paints and sculpts, and he used those talents to help the church on various projects. He also served as a club leader in the Awana program. I can still remember him wearing his uniform and us kids having to wear those bright red neckerchiefs and the little plastic slides that held them in place. My dad also drove a bus for bus ministry, picking up kids and bringing them to church. My mom is a singer, and she sang solos as well as sang in the choir. She gave me a love and passion for using my musical abilities to serve God and His church in worship.
  3. They gave of their financial resources. My parents taught me how to give at the level of 10% of my income and beyond. Every week, my parents would write their check, place it in a giving envelope, and take their envelope with them to church and drop it in the offering plate. Now, as an adult in an age of electronic giving, my tithes and offerings are automatically given online each week.

In Romans 12:6-8 (NIV), we read these words:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We demonstrate our love for God and His church through giving of our time, talents, and finances.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Do you demonstrate your love for God and His church on a consistent basis? Are you giving faithfully of your time, talents, and finances? What talents and abilities has God given you that you could invest back into His Kingdom?

What’s The Big Deal About Christian Financial Stewardship Anyway?

Photo by Paval Hadzinski

Photo by Paval Hadzinski

The Light Comes On For Me, Over Time

Stewardship.

Yeah, it’s a weird word. It’s a churchy word, too. Not many people really get it, either.

Twenty years ago, I would associate the word “stewardship” to tithing on Sunday mornings and church building campaigns. That’s what I thought it was all about.

Then, I attended my first Crown Financial Bible Study Class back around 2001-2002, and the light of understanding slowly began to come on as I learned what God’s Word had to say about financial matters. I learned that “my money” was not mine at all. Everything that I possess has been given to me by Almighty God to manage for His kingdom purposes.

This is the core essence of Christian stewardship. As believers, we are called by God to manage the time, money, abilities, and relationships He has given us. We aren’t supposed to squander all these resources on selfish, fleshly desires.

Here’s an excellent synopsis of stewardship taken from Wikipedia:

A biblical world view of stewardship can be consciously defined as: “Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.” The central essence of biblical world view stewardship is managing everything God brings into the believers’ life in a manner that honors God and impacts eternity.

Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God’s ownership of all.

After I went through the Crown Financial Bible study, I ran across this blueish-green book in a local book store called Financial Peace by some guy named Dave Ramsey, who I had never heard of before. I’m reading through this book thinking to myself, “this guy makes a lot of sense. Debt is dumb. I need to get my family out of debt with gazelle intensity!” As a result of reading Dave’s book, I started listening to his syndicated radio show and eventually began coordinating Financial Peace University at my church.

All of these baby steps in the area of Christian stewardship eventually led me to take on a secondary role in my church as our Stewardship Pastor. It has certainly been an exciting as well as interesting journey as I have grown in stewardship in my own life and have attempted to teach it to others.

Why Stewardship?

So, why should stewardship be such a big deal in the life of a believer, anyway?

I believe there are several answers to this question.

First, the Bible is filled with financial wisdom and instruction. The estimates on the amount of financial verses in the Bible range from 900 to over 2,000 depending on your criteria. Needless to say, that’s a lot of Bible verses on money!

Second, Jesus Himself spoke a lot about money in the parables He taught the Jewish people. In fact, money was (possibly) His second most discussed topic with the Kingdom of God being the first. There is much theological debate on which parables dealt specifically with the topic of money, but money was a huge issue that Jesus addressed frequently in His ministry here on earth.

Third, money is one of the biggest areas of struggle for most believers. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have adopted cultural beliefs and practices when it comes to money. Most of us have either forgotten or never been taught Biblical financial principles.

Fourth, stewardship is about more than money. The more I study and practice the principles of Biblical stewardship, the more I understand this important principle. It really encompasses every aspect of your life – your time, natural talents, abilities, money, assets, physical health, and relationships.

My Take

Here’s my own personal take on this area of stewardship. If God’s Word is filled with financial wisdom and Jesus’ own ministry focused a lot of time teaching on money management, then there are certainly good reasons for this instruction. This is an area that the Lord knows we all struggle and need to work on in our life on a continual basis. It’s not a “one and done” kind of deal, either. Stewardship is a life long pursuit.

Every day, we have to surrender our selfish, greedy financial plans and desires over to our Lord and Savior. Our primary concern should be using the resources God has entrusted to our management to advance His Kingdom here on earth and in heaven.

Questions: Do you think stewardship should be a big deal in the life of a believer? Why or why not? Is stewardship a big deal in your own life and the life of your family?

Why Some People Have An Easier Time Giving Consistently Over Others

Photo by 401(k) 2012

Photo by 401(k) 2012

The Excuses

“Larry, I wish I could give more.”

“I wish I could give at the level of ten percent of my income, but things are really tight in my family. You know how I had to take a cut in pay last year? I’m also having to help out a friend in real financial need right now. That’s kind of like tithing, right? Me helping out my friend could count toward my tithe to God, couldn’t it?”

If I had a dollar every time I had a conversation similar to this, I could build up a sizeable love offering for my church!

And while helping out friends in need is a noble deed, I can’t say that those financial gifts can “count” toward the tithe according to God’s Word. God makes it pretty clear that we are to bring His tithe and offerings into the “storehouse” [Malachi 3:10]. In the Old Testament, the storehouse equaled the tabernacle, temple, or synagogue. In the New Testament, the storehouse equals the local church that you attend.

An Easier Way To Giving Consistently

In the area of giving, some people seem to have an easier time giving consistently at the level of ten percent and beyond.

After counseling with people on personal finance issues over the last few years, I believe there are two main reasons some people have an easier time giving back to God and His church than others:

  1. They have a monthly spending plan. You know, the dreaded B word, a “Budget.” They give each dollar a name and tell each dollar what to do.
  2. They make giving to God and His church a priority in their lives. Their offerings are listed at the top of their budget form each and every month. They give God the very best of the “firstfruits” of their income [Proverbs 3:9].

I know in my own family, we have learned important Biblical financial principles – how to give, save, and spend – through ministry programs such as Financial Peace University and Crown Financial. God has blessed us in amazing ways as we have followed what His Word teaches us regarding financial matters.

All this Biblical financial stuff really does work!

In my own personal experience, giving at the level of the tithe can be relatively pain-free if you have a financial plan, if you make giving a priority in your life, and then if you follow through with your planned gift.

Execution of that plan is key!

A great way you can demonstrate your love for God and His Church is through having a financial plan and establishing giving as a priority in your life.

Isaiah 32:8 tells us, “But he who is generous plans generous things, and on generous things he stands.”

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this exact issue:

Questions: Do you have an easy time giving consistently at the level of ten percent? If not, why not? Do you have a monthly financial plan? Have you established giving as a priority in your life?

Book Review: Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, And Playing Field Of Personal Finance

Financial-fitness-bookForced To Ponder

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

I recently made a new acquaintance at my church who studies and understands financial matters. We were discussing my stewardship pastor role at the church and my use of Dave Ramsey materials for financial instruction.

He told me that he believes Dave spends too much time on the defensive side of money. All he talks about is budgeting, getting out of debt, and emergency funds.

I really couldn’t argue too much with my new friend. He was making a solid point.

My friend then recommended that I look into the Financial Fitness materials by LIFE Leadership. So, I bought the Kindle version of their book and did a quick read on it in a few days.

In this post, I’ll share a few of the highlights of what I learned.

3 Key Elements I Learned From Reading This Book

Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, and Playing Field of Personal Finance by LIFE Leadership Written by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward

1. I have perhaps spent too much time on the financial defense side of money then the offensive side. Here’s an excellent quote from the book that makes this exact point:

“Most books on personal finance start (and, all too often, end) with a focus on financial defense (how to get out of debt, protect your money, and prepare for contingencies). But defense is the wrong place to start because it creates the wrong mindset. Defense of money is vitally important, but making it the first priority often puts people in an attitude of scarcity rather than abundance. We will cover financial offense (making more money) first and then defense (protecting one’s resources) later because the values and attitudes of financial offense are naturally abundant, aggressive, and bold. Successful financial offense requires initiative, innovation, ingenuity, and tenacity—the entrepreneurial values” (Kindle location 1212).

2. I need to excel in my current job role, and then figure out a side income to throw off passive cash flow. While this wasn’t necessarily a big news flash for me, it was a good reminder for me on how to stay on financial offense. Here are three excellent quotes from this book regarding this point:

“As you truly excel in your current role, you will naturally be given more responsibility, and as you do the same with the new duties, you will build yourself into a better and better leader. This is why the offense side of finances is so important in achieving financial fitness. Whatever you are working on right now in your life, truly excel at it in order to fully invest in yourself. The natural result will be progress and increasing prosperity and opportunities” (Kindle location 1432).

“If you have a job, it means doing the same thing as an intrapreneur—thinking like an entrepreneur, a leader, and an innovator at your work, rather than just fitting in to your job description. It means adopting an ownership mentality, thinking and acting like an owner rather than just settling for an employee mentality. Focus on the owner mentality in your choices, work, interaction with others, and in all tasks, character opportunities, and relationships whether or not you are actually the owner—as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, or both” (Kindle location 1420).

“One of the key principles of financial fitness is to increase your passive income, even if you continue to work at a primary active income source. Of course, if you are currently employed, don’t quit your job until your passive income has surpassed your active income (and you have sought professional advice, gotten out of debt, done the proper planning, and so forth). As we said earlier, you can keep carrying buckets for your employer, but it is also helpful to begin building your own pipeline of passive income” (Kindle location 1753 ).

3. I need to give more consideration to Emergency Preparation: food, water, power, guns, cash, and precious metals. In my mind, I would think that emergency preparation would fall under the area of financial defense. Brady and Woodard categorize this interestingly enough under financial offense. Here is a lengthy but excellent quote on this topic:

“Saving for a worst case includes the opposite of compounding money, which we will call “impounding.” This means putting away various forms of money just in case catastrophic things happen. Stash some cash in a safe, secure, secret place. And in case inflation ruins the value of the currency, put away some silver coins as well. Silver is better than gold for this purpose because in a worst-case world, gold will be very valuable, so a gold coin will be worth a lot more than the food you will want to buy with it. Small silver coins will be easier to trade for small needs. Gold can be used to effectively protect larger amounts from loss of value due to government inflation (more on this later). Saving for a worst case includes the opposite of compounding money, which we will call “impounding.” By the way, don’t be too extreme about this. We are not doom and gloomers, and we’re not predicting a world with roving bandits and no electricity. It could happen, but so could a lot of things. We are simply suggesting that part of sound money planning is to realize that bank holidays and closed banks can happen. They occurred during the Great Depression, even though the world didn’t end. But people with some cash and silver were able to purchase food and fuel when others could not. And major storms, natural disasters, and other challenges can come also. So be prepared. Don’t be fanatical. Just take some wise precautions. Another valuable investment on this same level is food storage. Get the kind that lasts many years and keep it in a cool, dry place. Many people store guns and bullets with their food and metal coins. Learning to hunt might be a very helpful preparation. Again, this is for last-ditch survival needs, but having it as part of your investment hierarchy can be very valuable” (Kindle location 2323).

My Recommendation

Okay, so here’s my recommendation: I highly recommend reading Financial Fitness, especially if you have been down in the trenches with the Dave Ramsey philosophy for a while. I’m not saying that the Dave philosophy is bad, but you can get too immersed in financial defense for too long. This has the potential for developing a financial scarcity mindset, which isn’t where you want to be, long-term.

This book can help you get turned back around to focusing on financial offense, which leads to abundance thinking. I wonder what this world would be like if people had thoughts of abundance rather than scarcity mindsets?

Questions: Have you read Financial Fitness? What were your takeaways from this book? Would you recommend this book to others?