“Beware of preaching on money.”
That’s not in the Bible, but it ought to be.
And somewhere in the Proverbs we could insert this one:
“He who preaches on money to a new congregation should expect the honeymoon to end abruptly.”
Few subjects are as fraught with danger for the unsuspecting pastor than preaching on stewardship (money, giving, tithing, contributions to the Lord’s work, greed, materialism, however you want to put it).
As a new pastor of a church that had broken ground for a $5 million sanctuary just before I arrived, I found we were running behind the budget and were facing some hard financial decisions quickly. So, I did what I had always done in previous churches with a fair amount of success: I preached on giving.
It seemed the logical thing to do.
In fairness to myself, I wasn’t harsh or demanding, legalistic or judgmental. I thought my approach was balanced and scriptural.
Almost immediately, I began receiving anonymous notes from longtime members, all saying pretty much the same: “We are not used to our pastor preaching on money all the time. Please stop.”
I got the message.
There is no use in doing something the congregation is rejecting.
Another approach would have to be found. (I never did find it, and my ministry there—which got off to such a rocky start—lasted a very short three years.)
The preacher is in a no-win situation. If the money to support the church program does not come in, he gets blamed. The staff’s ministries grind to a halt (or are seriously curtailed) and the pastor, being the point man, is accused of not inspiring the congregation to give. However, in order to get the money in, he has to talk to the congregation about it, whether in sermons or letters or other means, depending on his creativity.
If the congregation rejects this direct approach, there is nothing more to be done. (At least, nothing I could think of at the time.)
The next church I served had a different kind of financial problems. Eighteen months before I arrived, the previous pastor had split the church and taken away a group to begin a new congregation. I came into a church with millions of dollars in debt but a fraction of the income they had received prior to the upheaval.
Guess what I did.
Right. I preached on money.
I came up with a cute idea—or so I thought.