This One Thing May Be Killing Your Ministry

Mid section of man calculating bills on mobile phone

Throughout my years in ministry, there was a verse that was always lodged in my brain – words that came to me many times.  I would think about them, meditate on them, and remind my church staff members about them. 

Yet I believe they are not looked at very often in the context of “doing ministry.”  They just happen to be words from the lips of the greatest teacher of truth ever – Jesus Christ.  They could make or break a pastor’s effectiveness in a church. 

So . . . are you ready? 

“So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”  (Luke 16:11)

What is Jesus saying?  If you can’t handle lower things like money, why would I ever give you bigger responsibility – like oversight of people’s eternal souls? 

Now, before you dismiss this, here is what Luke records just three verses later, “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.”  They thought Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about.  What an indictment of the religious leaders of that day!  What about the religious leaders of 21st century America?

I recently heard of a Senior Pastor who got into the church’s giving records and altered them to make it look like he was tithing when he wasn’t giving a cent to the church. Why would God bless a ministry under his leadership? 

I also heard of a Lead Pastor spending money rather frivolously, while at the same time the church he was leading was laying off staff because of financial strain. Why should God answer that pastor’s prayers for believers in the church to step up their financial giving?

There are many reasons why God could take his hand of blessing off a local church, but the words of Jesus say to me that one huge reason would be pastors who are not disciplined in financial matters, either personally or with church finances. 

I used to remind our church staff of this regularly, “Team, God is watching us in the financial area, both personally and corporately. And if we can’t handle that area, why would he bring eternal things like people our way?  The winds of God’s Spirit could quit blowing in our sails very quickly.” 

If you are skeptical of all this, just go back to the early church story in Acts 5 when some hidden financial issues temporarily halted the rocket-ride progress of the early church. Once confronted and corrected, the church could then march on.

Then comes some of the most famous words of Jesus, “No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  (Luke 16:13)  Notice Jesus did not say it will be tough, difficult, or extremely hard to serve both God and money.  He said, categorically, you cannot serve both.

So two areas that are crucial for pastors: 

First, personally, are you modeling a life of honoring God with your money? 

The two most powerful words in leadership are follow me.  How can you call on people to tithe if you are not leading by example?  How can you preach that personal financial discipline is a priority if the pastor and/or the church staff are not modeling that?  If you need help in this area – two words: Dave Ramsey.

Second, on the church level, are you handling the hard earned money that people are giving to the church with the amount of respect and responsibility that should carry? 

Do the church staff team members treat their individual budgets with the same kind of respect?  Are there systems of accountability in place?  I would encourage churches to have an annual audit of the church books by an outside CPA firm – it brings integrity and credibility to the church.

The words of Jesus once more - let them sink in!  “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?