Church Must Prioritize Giving In New Convert Care
By Steve McSwain
When Jesus was at the pinnacle of his popularity, he turned to the crowds-the sheer numbers of which would make many clergy today green with envy-and laid out the conditions of genuine discipleship for new believers. You can read the conditions for yourself in the fourteenth chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel. To be frank, the conditions are so stern that most churches and church leaders find it more convenient to explain away what he says by relegating it to the status of hyperbole. I find that interesting. Jesus concluded his list of conditions by saying, “So no one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me.” (Luke 14:33). I’m quite certain that single requirement emptied a few, if not most, of the front-row seats. In fact, it may have emptied most of the seats. “Give up everything? You can’t be serious!”
The discipline of giving must be given a higher priority in the church than any other discipline in the Christian life. There is no debating this. Proportionately, the teachings of Jesus demand it. He talked about money and our relationship to the material possessions of life more frequently than any other subject-more than love and several times more than prayer. In fact, only one subject occupied a greater place in the daily conversations, teaching, and preaching of Jesus. That one subject was the kingdom of Heaven. Fully two-thirds of the forty or so parables attributed to Jesus concern the subject of money and possessions. All of this leads me to one of the most curious oddities of the church today. Why is it that the one subject about which Jesus spoke more than any other save the kingdom of God is the least discussed subject in the church today? Especially when dealing with your new believers
Unfortunately, the priorities of the church today are almost universally misplaced. In those churches that do talk about money, it is more often for the sake of institutional preservation than the personal enrichment of those who wish to be genuine followers of God. The church is in serious trouble if its priorities are not challenged and its mission seriously changed. I’m not sure who said it, but I concur completely: “If you help a person get his financial life right with God, every other area of his life will straighten out itself.” Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there your hearts and thoughts will also be” (Matt. 6:21).
In the decade I’ve been crisscrossing this country, I’ve met scores of religious people whose lives are in complete disarray, and if you look beneath the surface, you’ll discover, as I have, that the financial life of most of these folks is disastrous. They’re drowning in debt. They owe credit card companies so much that the debt would take a generation to pay off if they make only the minimum monthly payment. They drive cars they can’t afford and live in houses they can’t even afford to furnish.
I am committed to helping people find freedom from bondage to ego and to discover, instead, that giving themselves away will reward them with the life they’ve always wanted. If the church would make this the aim of ministry, not only would the church grow, but the church would change and a changed church would help produce a changed world.
Saint Paul wrote, “Since you excel in so many ways-you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us-now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7). I desire to achieve excellence in my own giving, and I’m committed to helping any new believer with a similar desire achieve the same. Esther and Jerry Hicks put it this way in their book, “The Law of Attraction”: “The greatest gift that you could ever give another is the gift of your expectation of their success.” Pursue excellence in giving, and I fully expect you’ll succeed in finding and living a life that matters.
This article Church Must Prioritize Giving In New Convert Care by Steve McSwain is excerpted from The Giving Myths, 2007.