There is an age-old technique pastors have used to give their church a sense of unity and mission. It’s called the building campaign. Trust me. I have heard about it, read about, and have seen it. Now don’t get me wrong. This is not the case with all building campaigns. Even as I write this, my home church is doing a long overdue renovation and is engaging in a long-term building plan. In fact, they put off an expensive building plan for many years in order to support more missionaries on the field.
So What Exactly Does Compulsion Look Like?
We have visited a lot of churches. I will never forget the most awkward church service I have ever attended. It was immediately after we began our journey as missionaries. Up until that time, I only heard about such things, but that Sunday, we actually heard it with our own ears. It was a pastor chastising the congregation for not participating in a capital campaign. To be clear, he wasn’t chastising them for not fulfilling a pledge; he reprimanded all those who chose not to pledge to the campaign. He proceeded to tell his congregation that he was “angry, saddened, and vexed” when he thought of all those who didn’t give. More than that, he told them that he knew the names of everyone who didn’t pledge.
This particular capital campaign was an effort to pay down the mortgage debt earlier than scheduled. The rationale for the quick retirement of the mortgage was so the church could increase its missions budget. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with that rationale. The backstory, according to a member, was that the congregation already heard that before while worshiping in their original building. Shortly after that mortgage burning, the decision was made to sell the church and embark on a new building campaign.
If that chastising were not bad enough on that Lord’s Day, the really strange part was that the pastor proceeded to preach on 2 Corinthians 9:7 only hours later at the evening service. Let’s remind ourselves of the passage:
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (ESV)
I don’t know how that preacher handled this passage that evening, I wasn’t there. But I can assure you that what he did that morning was a betrayal of the passage. If that was not compulsion by the pastor, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident in the Lord’s church. As a follow up, I was there the following Sunday evening as he continued his series on 2 Corinthians 9, where he recognized his hearers may have thought he had a harsh tone, only to double down on his statement, without any hint of apology.
WWPD — What Would Peter Do?
Now I agree that pastors must admonish their congregation to give to the work of the kingdom. Of course, someone may call upon Acts 5:1-11 where Peter rebukes Ananias and Sapphira for not giving all they declared to have given. That was a pretty severe situation and ought to put the fear of God in us. But I don’t recall Peter expressing his personal anger to them (not that Peter was incapable of expressing his frustration with people). As far as we can tell from that passage, Peter dealt with them in a straightforward fashion declaring how the Spirit was going to deal with them. Yet even if Peter did indeed express deep vexation towards that lying couple, we have seen enough of Peter to not emulate him during his emotionally extreme moments.
According to studies most Christians don’t give anything that resembles a tithe, while so many give sacrificially. Our requests for support are turned down time and time again because churches have really tight budgets, or even more, they are operating over budget. Let me emphasize my appreciation for the pastors who give their all and encourage their flock to do the same for the kingdom. We know many of them.
Like angry pastors, I, too, can get frustrated. I would much rather be serving on the field with all our funds raised right now rather than waiting for folks to cheerfully give to our ministry. But we are on the Lord’s timetable not mine. He moves the hearts of people, not me. And He doesn’t need me scolding His people for not giving to our ministry.
As painful as it was to watch, I am thankful that I was able to be there that particular Sunday. By God’s providence that year, I was able to witness something I wouldn’t have believed if you told me. The Lord used that occasion to remind me how not to raise funds even though that scolding worked–they ended up meeting their goal, and they never did decide to partner with us. All by God’s grace!
Are You a Cheerful Giver?
I don’t know who is reading this post. I don’t know your financial situation. I don’t know your heart condition. I don’t know who you are, and even if I did, I promise I won’t publicly expose you for not giving to our mission.
I cannot tell you that the Lord of the Harvest requires you to give to our mission, but I can tell you that He requires you to give to the Great Commission. We can only hope He moves on your heart to give in our direction.
We don’t have anything to offer you except our prayers and reports from the field of what Jesus is doing in Indian country. We don’t have any forecasts or projections of how Jesus will give you a really good ROI (return on investment). But God’s word tells us that we should not despise small beginnings (Zach 4:10). Some plant, some water, but we are assured that it is the Lord who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:7). Our ministry does the watering. Please consider our small beginning and see how the Lord increases the fruit of our labors.
If you would like to talk to us about our ministry and how you can be part of our support team, please contact us. We are always available to talk to you.