Money may be a root of all evil, but it can also function as the hinge point for demonstrating faith.
Faith or fact? How ought we to plan and use church money in ways that demonstrate our beliefs?
I just came back from a discussion over sausage and eggs during which a leader from another church commented how their finance committee decided a while back to shift how they approach budgeting for their congregation. Rather than budget according to the projected amount of giving, they instead set their plans for the year according to how they feel God is leading them, even when that results in budgeting beyond the resources available. For them, it is a matter of faith in money management.
Now, I have heard that idea before. And, I have also seen the fall-out from churches, who formerly employed such a model, and then some time later began to reap the consequences of mismanagement. Jesus was very clear with his admonition that only a fool begins a project without having counted the cost to ensure that he has sufficient resources to complete the task.
Of course, Jesus was not referring just to financial resources, but the analogy directly references money as the resource in question, and no where does he make an exception to this rule under an apparent “faith clause”.
So I asked my friend, and the other men with him who are part of this decision, how do they demonstrate their faith in budgeting while at the same time ensuring that they have rightly counted the cost?
What ensued was an excellent example of faith in stewardship by constant submission to the lead of the Holy Spirit. I thought you might like to listen in.
Money is a resource not only for getting things done, but also for demonstrating our faith in God. When focused upon our own plans and pet projects, it often results in damaging outcomes. When submitted to the constant re-directing of the Spirit, it becomes a powerful instrument of grace and maturity.
For these leaders, budgeting according to what is already in the bank is acceptable, but lacks the step of faith – that step out of the boat in pursuit of Jesus who is “about to walk by”. That compels them to stretch. But how far, and within what biblical constraints?
This is where it gets interesting. As one of the “wise men” put it, the whole thing begins with prayer. Budgeting, or any other acts of faith, must begin with seeking God. We may have vast years of experience, but God has a tendency to request new things of us, just as he did of Moses when he told him to speak to the rock even though the initial method of getting water came by striking the rock. It pays to listen closely, because our past approaches are not always reliable for future decisions.
The next stage is reviewing the collective wisdom of those involved in the decision process to gain a less biased and more counseled view on both the ministry needs and the potential resources. There should be degrees of confirmation from separate sources that demonstrate the communal leading of the Holy Spirit within the body of believers and less of the influence of charismatic zealots promoting their unique agendas.
When comparing the available resources with the recognized needs, a step of faith should be planned. This is the scary part for many: that first step out of the boat when staying within the relative safety of the side-rails certainly appears much wiser.
But remember, Peter didn’t step out of the boat because he wanted to test God’s willingness to intervene, nor did he make that leap for his own purposes of demonstrating how strong his faith was. He stepped out because he recognized the likelihood of Christ ahead of him and because he had already tested his plans by asking Jesus to call him out if it really was him. This was not a reckless faith, it was a desire tested and then implemented.
Remember, Jesus also refused to test God by taking a leap of faith off the cliff set before him by Satan. Acts of faith are not always right before God. They must always operate within the boundaries of Scripture.
So how does a budget committee ensure that their step of faith remains within the will of God? The answer revealed the spiritual maturity of these men: you continue to measure the implementation of that budget to the revelations of the Holy Spirit.
When the evidence confirms the steps, move forward. When the evidence conflicts with biblical guidelines, you scale back. When the boat is tossed about by storms, you cry out to God for deliverance. When Jesus chides for lack of faith, you humble yourselves and quickly adjust your agendas. When Jesus disciplines for not having the “things of God in mind”, you again humble yourselves and quickly adjust your agendas.
And when you hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant”, you know you have died and gone to heaven.
The act of faith remains a dynamic dance with the Divine.
That is how to budget with faith and avoid the damaging effects of trying to justify our own plans with selective scriptural exuberance.
Of course, this doesn’t apply only to church budgets. It ought to find similar expression in our personal use of resources as well as any plans we might want to make.
As Christians, we no longer live according to the law of accounting, but instead live by financial direction of the Spirit.
How will you begin to demonstrate that step of faith in your plans?