More Than Money
The Generosity Principle
By Sam McVay
Four pastors explain how the principle of generosity is taught
and demonstrated in their local churches. I pray God will use their examples
to motivate us to do more to support missions around the world.
Giving in the Small Church
How big does your church have to be before you give to missions? Should you reach a certain attendance before giving to outside causes? I would say, “As soon as you function as a church, start giving to missions and other outside causes.” After 32 years in my present pastorate, it is difficult to remember when our church was not committed to giving beyond our doors, but there was a time when we were “casual” givers. We were not really committed to it. If we thought we could afford it, or if some great need came up, we gave.
However, at one point we made a conscious commitment to give beyond our immediate ministry. As a deacon expressed, “From the point we really committed to giving to missions, God has blessed us, and we have faced few money issues since.”
Over the last several years, our church has given about 26% of our total income to outside causes. We average about $900 per capita, per year, to outside causes. These causes include State Mission Shares plan of support, International Missions, Co-op (for all ministries at district, state, and national levels), Welch College, youth camp, benevolent work, and a local crisis pregnancy center among others.
To give this way, the congregation must make a couple of mental/spiritual adjustments. First, you have to be willing to live by faith. Our church has never had a large savings account for a “rainy day.” We don’t set money aside in the Free Will Baptist Foundation or a bank. We operate week-by-week, month-by-month. It would be nice to have money in savings when an air conditioner goes out, or a roof leaks, but that is not always possible in a small church committed to giving.
Second, you must be more interested in Kingdom work than in self-work. You look at things and decide, “Is this nice, or is it necessary?” An attractive, well-maintained church building is necessary, but there are varying degrees of “attractive.” Is giving so others can hear the gospel more or less important than our comfort and our wants?
The time to start giving is now! As you do, your people will capture a vision beyond your walls, and God will prove Himself faithful to provide your real needs.
Missions in the DNA
Our church is a giving church for a few reasons. First, pastors who labored in this church before me made missions a priority. Second, we have sent missionaries in the past. Third, we have organized giving through a donor-identified envelope system. It makes giving a priority and makes it clear how we should give and how often. Although the system lacks all the bells and whistles of online giving or mobile giving, many people still use it.
I take zero credit for the generosity of our church. I looked at the budget before I agreed to come on staff and immediately noticed Central Oaks is a giving church. This emphasis on giving has been going on since before I was even thought about (and I mean by my parents, not just Central Oaks).
Missions is one of our core values. We call it “God’s Glory Among All People.” Every Christian should realize giving to missions is an opportunity to obey the Lord and build His Kingdom on earth. Some of our people make very little money and still give faithfully. Others are in assisted living facilities and still give to missions. It’s simply part of who we are. It’s in our DNA.
Faithful Giving by the Local Church
The first and most important aspect of supporting missions is teaching and preaching the necessity of global outreach. Jesus gave us the Great Commission, and we must take that as our greatest calling as believers. We cannot reach the world alone but must support those who go and reach the nations.
The local church must keep missions and individual missionaries before the congregation. We have a history of hosting missionaries in our church. I like to invite home missionaries and international missionaries to share their ministries and support needs at our church and district meetings on a regular basis.
Our church has an advantage: several members have answered the call to church planting and worldwide missions. We have supported them as they built churches in Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona. We have sent members to Mongolia and France. We have supported many of our congregation on short-term mission trips to Arizona, Africa, Cuba, Russia, Panama, Japan, and Tajikistan. Nothing raises awareness and funding like sending your own people.
Finally, I must commend our congregation; they are a generous people. Generosity can be taught, preached, and exemplified, but ultimately it comes from the heart. Even in the midst of a building campaign, our folks continue to be generous in giving to outside ministries. The Spirit of God must cultivate the generous heart. When we seek to please Him in all things, we realize “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Ernie Lewis, Pastor, Blue Point FWB Church, Cisne, IL
Developing a Mission People
Many churches desire to make a difference in their local ministries and around the world. One way this is achieved is developing a mission strategy. God has called His Church to be involved in His redemptive plan and engaged at every level—local, state, national, and international missions.
Psalm 96:3 says: “Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples.” Everything a church does must be tied to missions. It is easier to engage people consistently with missions and mission giving when every ministry is tied to “making disciples.” At Connect Church, we have tried to stop doing anything that is not producing disciples. We continually evaluate and tweak every system and strategy. Because the glory of God is the goal, and missions is the means, missions stays on the forefront at all times.
As church leaders, we must develop more than a strategy for missions giving; we must develop missions people. This requires continued maintenance and leadership implanting vision into the DNA of a church. Any strategy will lose steam after a while. Missions cannot be something a church does, missions must become who the church is. Every activity of a church must be tied to “Declaring the Glory of God to the Nations”—be it local, national, or international.
To ensure mission support remains important, Connect Church includes mission giving in our operating budget. We designate a percentage of our operating budget to missions. Each year, we identify missionaries, needs, and causes God has placed on our hearts. Many families support missions by designated giving to our mission budget, but everyone in our church supports missions through tithes and offerings.
We recognize that people respond to stories. We want to support missionaries by bringing them to our church. I want our people to develop personal relationships with missionary families. We do this as missionaries are available or passing through town. However, several years ago, I became aware that our missionaries are rarely together to share burdens, needs, stories, and praise.
Years ago, International Missions had to eliminate a much-needed annual stateside missionary retreat. This retreat had two purposes: to disseminate information and to provide a safe place for our missionaries to relax and refresh in community. Connect Church has begun to underwrite this annual retreat. Every missionary, board member, support staff member, and their families are invited to attend this three- to four-day event.
Our church provides the retreat center, prepares the food, serves the meals, and provides childcare. The final day of the retreat, we invite missionaries to worship with us at Connect Church. We try to honor the missionaries and their children in an appropriate and meaningful way. I especially want young children to have fond memories of those missionary-loving people at Connect Church. During worship, we ask nothing of our missionaries. They have only one objective—worship together. Our people interact with many of them during a church-wide dinner after Sunday worship. Every four years, our church meets every missionary family (new and existing). Throughout the year, when I tell stories, our people feel invested and want to contribute.
We love partnering with International Missions. Not because we agree with everything. This cannot be the measure of partnership, or we would only partner with ministries we control. We partner with IM because we trust their hearts. We trust their theology. We trust their stewardship. We support many causes and currently have three full-time missionaries from our church. None are with IM. Most do not qualify to be sent by IM. However, we continue to support IM because we trust the vetting process. We also know we want the same thing around the world—the glory of God. Supporting IM is virtually risk-free as they carry the burden of responsibility for Free Will Baptists to declare the glory of God to the nations.
Just before renowned missionary to India William Carey boarded ship, he was asked by friends to reconfirm his commitment. They wanted to give him a way out. Carey responded by saying, “I will go down into the pit itself, if you will hold the rope.” Our responsibility is to “hold the rope” for those willing to declare His glory to the nations. We must make sure they have the resources necessary and release control to the Holy Spirit. I have a responsibility as pastor of Connect Church to empower my people to declare His glory!
Blaine Rogers, Pastor, Connect Church, Russellville, AR
God is doing amazing things around the world through the ministry of Free Will Baptists. In the past year, hundreds of young French people have heard a clear presentation of the gospel. Some have accepted Christ as Savior. Many others are involved in Bible studies, seeking His truth. In Panama, 11 Free Will Baptist churches are working to start 33 new churches. The number of Free Will Baptist churches in Africa has more than doubled in the past decade. Missionaries have been appointed to go to the Samburu tribe, an unreached people group. The list goes on and on. God is using our denomination to bring a message of salvation to people around the world. We believe He is calling all of us to be engaged in this work through prayer and financial support.
If you are not seeking God’s direction on how you can be part of what He is doing around the world, you are missing out. Our missionaries would love to come to your church to share what God is doing around the world and how you can be part of this vital ministry.
About the Writer: Sam McVay is director of church relations for Free Will Baptist International Missions. Learn more; get involved: www.FWBGO.com. If you would like to host a missionary at your church or gathering, call 877-767-7736.