The Importance of Vision
On the other hand, there was an influential layman at the church I pastored in Wollongong who in his youth, just after World War 2 in England, had courted and married one of the maids at an aristocratic household. He told me that they even had to get her lady’s permission to walk out together. The mistress of the house, another elderly lady, was very generous, but in a discerning way. She had certain charities that she supported and would steadfastly say ‘no’ to any other supplicants.
So where should you be generous, and how should a minister address a congregation on this subject? There are so many causes and so many are worthy causes: Life line, World Wildlife Fund, Lifesavers, Hospital and University support. My daughter-in-law used to work for the McGrath foundation. As a cricket lover, I felt that saw that as an excellent cause: cricket sponsoring breast cancer nurses!
For followers of Jesus, the bible gives excellent general pointers about where to give.
1. Christian ministry: There were women in the New Testament that gave their money to support the ministry of Jesus. (Luke 8:1-3)
2. Gospel Projects: King David raised resources for the temple to the glory of God. (1Chronicles 29)
3. Alleviation of poverty: Paul raised money so the Christians in Jerusalem would not starve. 2 Corinthians (8 and 9) The collection forms a thread that runs through other epistles and Acts.
4. Mission projects help ensure people in other places may come under the transforming word of Jesus.
As the senior minister of Figtree Anglican church, I knew that I could not dictate where people should give. That would not only be wrong, but certainly counterproductive. Australians don’t like being dictated to, especially with regards to money. So my approach was to give a lead. People looked to me to give guidance from the scriptures on a wide range of topics and money was no exception. My wife Helen and I always made sure we were on the same page with our giving and the general handling of money. Thus after speaking about general biblical principles when preaching I would say something like this.
First, we give to the local church. That is number one on our agenda. The local church gets a very bad press today. That is mainly because the media highlights the relatively few rotten apples and remains totally silent on all the love and care and fellowship and support that you find in the local church. It is the engine room of the Christian faith. I am asking you to give to support the ministry here. But at the same time I am doing all I can to make this ministry one you will be very happy to support.
Second, we give to other causes that proclaim the name of Jesus and are motivated by his love. These will include para-church ministry, missions and mercy ministry that aids the poor and underprivileged, and Christian projects over and above our local church support. Evangelistic work and church planting have a special urgency today.
Third, we give to secular projects as they touch our heart. This is third on our list because we believe our major support should go to Christian ministry, because if Christians don’t support the church and Christian ministry and missions no one else will. Yet there are some very worthy community projects and it is good to consider them. I hope you will find these points helpful as you consider your own giving or the way you might lead others. For more on giving and generosity see my book Giving Generously.