Chris and I had a simply terrific pastor for pre-marital counseling. His name was Mark Brattrud, and he pastored a little Full Gospel church that met in a Howard Johnson’s in Albany. Mark was perhaps thirty at the time, married for a few years with a couple of small kids. The church grew like wildfire. Made up mainly of college kids and young marrieds, we got the job done.
We sent out missionaries, sent up Sunday school programs for little ones, and had all kinds of positive things going in the community. I’m convinced that one of the reasons this happened was because Mark took what the Bible had to say about money very seriously.
At the time, a man named Larry Burkett had started a ministry called Christian Financial Concepts out of Georgia. Larry merged his ministry with another one, and it’s now called Crown Financial Ministries. Larry passed away after that from cancer, but Crown continues to thrive.
Mark got all of the “managing your money God’s way” materials and made Chris and I study them together as part of our counseling. We learned all kinds of things like this:
*Jesus talks more about money than any other topic except salvation and love. “Did you know that?
“The Bible has a lot to say about finances and belongings. I have researched God’s Word and found more passages about money and possessions than about heaven, hell or the Second Coming. The Bible offers more than 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 on faith — but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions! There is no doubt that the church should have something to say about financial matters in the church as well as in the secular world.” (www.crown.org)
*”Thou Shalt Not Go Into Debt” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It does, however, admonish us with all kinds of scary images about debt. Ps. 37:21 calles us “wicked” if we borrow and do not repay. Proverbs 22:7 says the “borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Yikes!
* Money is intimately connected to your heart.
Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So, Pastor Mark wanted Chris and I to “hide these things in our heart” from the very beginning of our relationship. Considering that nearly 80% of all divorces cite “Money” as one of the top 3 reasons for splitting up, this was a very wise idea.
Anyone who’s been married for a while knows that reasons for arguing with your spouse abound. It’s nice to knock “Money” off the list from the beginning. I can sit here and tell you with clear eyed truthfulness, Chris and I never argued about money, because of this early training.
So, now that he’s gone, what to do? In the previous post, I related to you a gritty situation I found myself in regarding money.
The megachurches I have been involved in over the past years, sadly, don’t seem to handle their money well. Before Chris was diagnosed, we attended a church up here that has since shut down. Money was a constant issue. The church was affluent and well attended. It was estimated that the average annual income of the attendees there amounted to about 70 million dollars a year. (Average household income in the area about 70,000$ a year, times about a thousand regular givers.)
Out of the seven years we went to that church, it stretched to meet a two million dollar budget. Jesus asks us simply to tithe. Just tithe, or give ten percent of our income. Jewish folks actually were encouraged to make all kinds of other offerings, the ten percent was a minimum.
Had my old church simply been obedient and tithed, our annual budget would have tripled. Think of it. Seven million dollars. We could have started a free medical clinic, immunized poor kids, supported food pantries, had every single ministry in the family of God provided for abundantly, very likely with some left over.
This is, sadly, the modus operandi of most American megachurches. Honestly, it’s so irritating I could spit. My kids and I talk about this type of thing all the time, and fortunately, so far, their training in generosity seems to have ‘stuck’.
Ten percent isn’t that much. If we can’t get along with 90 percent of what most Christians make, we seriously need to reevaluate.
Did you ever notice, too, that Christians can’t seem to talk about this type of thing without raising up a whole crop of squirrely attitudes?
I got blasted the other day by a regular reader about the previous post. David is a doll, and one of my most valued friends. Still, he’s a redheaded Irishman, and trusts me enough to let loose now and again.
“Victoria! You should take that post down! You can’t assume about people’s financial situations! And besides, you’re making yourself out to be this loaded chick with more money than God! You are sounding very manipulative!”
Hmm. I thought about it. Really, I did. David is one of about 5 people that I actually listen to when they criticize me.
I realized that David was right about some things. Since Chris and I used God’s principles of handling money from our marital infancy, we’ve always had a surplus. The point of that surplus, after the needs of the family are met, is to give it away. Really, it’s not brain surgery, a minimum of study will reveal that God owns it all anyway, so we may as well be obedient.
Very, very few Christians are obedient in this way. Thus, people like me come across as indiscreet. How unfortunate. How much better for ALL of us to be obedient, and maybe even get together and TALK about the good we could be doing with a surplus!
When Chris and I were young, we had the joy of discovering that even a well placed 50$ could make a world of difference to someone. As we went along, we learned about how wise Christians provide even for their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22) and how we need to know where our money goes and have a plan for it (Proverbs 27:23) .
The blessings of this sort of concrete planning are really pretty cool. I think the best part of this type of thing is the joy that comes with contentment. Chris and I were not millionaires, and with four children to educate, I’m not going to be that, probably ever. But we knew the faces of our flock, AND knew the faces that came with sharing with those of us who don’t have a surplus, and could use some of ours.
So, my friends, lay off the judgements, if you please. I talk about giving because it’s what Jesus asks us to do, not because I’m made of money. Also because I think it’s pretty darn fun.
Much love to you all,