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When we allow frugality to replace fearless faith
When financial decisions are made, what one person views as faith by taking somewhat of a risk, someone else views as an act of stupidity or carelessness.
On staff teams, people who want to make healthy decisions involving financial risk are often in tension with those who see the same decision as foolish and unwarranted. Some churches are on good financial footing, but are not growing and reaching out with fresh vision and exciting dreams. They are safe in the harbor. Others are taking some reasonable financial risks and seeing God do some amazing things.
We need to be willing to take healthy risks, but it’s not always easy to tell the difference between good risks and potentially bad risks. When life is over, for leaders and their churches, we will probably have more regrets over what we did not do than what we did do. We will be mostly guilty of sins of omission, not sins of commission. Fear of failure might win over steps of faith! One of the reasons many churches stay small is that they are afraid to take faith risks and trust the one who can do the impossible.
Here are a few basic principles that can help churches avoid unhealthy financial frugality and be in a position to act on biblically based, fearless faith.
1. Understand that the Lord himself is our resource
We belong to God and are not our own, nor are we the owners of the resources we have, but stewards of what he owns. We manage—we don’t own— and we will give an account to the owner some day.
2. Develop a philosophy of our standard of living (spending)
Many groups and churches have no written and agreed-upon documents that spell out what they believe about allocating the resources God provides. Organizations seldom have written and agreed-upon values and procedures, but they often have many arguments and turf wars over who gets how much and for what reason.
3. Balance income, saving, giving, and spending.
Just like a person or a family would divide the dispensing of funds into the three categories of giving, saving, and spending, I suggest that churches do likewise. Perhaps churches should apply the 80/10/10 principle of spending 80 percent, giving 10 percent, and saving 10 percent.
Many churches that are in trouble spend 110 percent of their income and do so via credit cards and lines of credit. They are always anticipating that the next Sunday (or a few Sundays from now), some big gifts will come in that will enable them to catch up. Some churches put too much stock in year-end giving in December to help them get back into the black; some even preach and pound people to give toward the end of the year. Then when that doesn’t happen, the church must start a new year off with cutbacks and layoffs—not a good way to keep morale and vision up for a brand new year.
Most churches don’t save much or give much either. The bottom line is that a lot of churches are materialistic and spend entirely too much money on the wrong things that hinder them from their true calling to evangelize and disciple. Hebrews 13:5 is a good reminder: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
4. Make financial decisions a team effort
Don’t let big dispersals of money be the decision of one powerful personality. Whether he is frugal or faith-filled, he should never make big financial decisions on his own. Have a team of people who see things from different points of view so healthy decisions are made.
Jesus, help us to have faith to step out and believe that your work done in your way will not lack your provision. Keep us from being either safe in the harbor or shipwrecked at sea because we have not trusted you and handled the finances in a way that honors you. Thank you for your promise to supply our needs as we seek to know you and make you known to a needy world all around us.
Food for thought
- Is your church (or organization) fear-filled or a faith-filled when it comes to finances?
- Do you need to spend more or save more?
- Do you have a wise person (or team) overseeing your finances, or is your budget out of control?
- How much of your income do you give to advance the gospel in other locales?
This article is adapted from Mistakes Leaders Make by Dave Kraft copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187. If you would like Dave to come to your church or area to speak on leadership, you can contact him here.