This is part four of a six part series on Why Preaching on Tithing Doesn’t Work. In case you’re just now joining us, you might want to go back and start here.

The fourth reason why preaching on tithing doesn’t work is, well, because it doesn’t work…at least not to the degree we hoped for.

Recently on my Small Church Pastor Group Page on Facebook, I said, “We have this idea that if you teach on tithing you’ll get tithers. When has that ever really happened?” I was surprised by how many (actually only a few, but still) who reported that they’ve had pretty good luck with preaching on tithing. Usually, for me, when talking to a pastor about this, the conversation goes something like…

Pastor Bill: I’m really concerned about our giving. If something doesn’t change we’re going to be in trouble soon.

Me: How do you intend to respond to this?

Pastor Bill: Well it’s been a while since I’ve taught on tithing. (See part one) I guess it’s time.

Me: How did it go the last time you preaching on tithing?

Pastor Bill: Well, giving went up a little but then it creeped back down.

Me: What are your reasons for believing that you will get different results this time?

When we talk about teaching on tithing ‘working’, I’m assuming we mean resulting in people who were not tithing, changing and becoming tithers, permanent tithers. And what we’re really hoping for is that a large enough group of non-tithers will become tithers that it will turn things around for us as a church financially…especially if we are barely getting by or are in financial trouble.

There is an explanation why preaching on tithing seldom gives us the results we’re looking for, and we’ll touch upon this in part five.

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Last week I started a six part series on why preaching on tithing does not work. Now I realize that some of you do not preach on tithing because you don’t think tithing is a mandate for New Testament believers. If that’s where you’re coming from then just substitute the word ‘tithing’ for ‘giving’ or ‘stewardship’ and this series will still relate.

In part one I said that one reason why preaching on tithing does not work is that we seldom preach on tithing. There are some reasons why we don’t, but the main point to part one was that if you think that an occasional sermon on tithing is going to create tithers, you are probably fooling yourself.

In part two I suggested that the number one reason we don’t preach on tithing is fear. We’re afraid of turning people off or people turning on us. Have you ever had someone get pushed out of shape because you preached on tithing? Have you ever had someone get pushed out of shaped because you didn’t preach on tithing? Sometimes you just can’t win. Anyway…we fear losing people and this fear can cause us to hold back on teaching things our church members need to hear.

The third reason why preaching on tithing doesn’t work it because we wait until the church is in trouble financially or until we’re mad. Often these go hand in hand.

Not too long ago I was talking to a pastor who was concerned about a downward trend in giving in his church. The pastor was facing the very real possibility of taking a cut in pay. His family was already barely getting by. I could tell he was frustrated, (who wouldn’t be?), and I could tell he was mad. He wanted to discuss the need to preach on tithing. But before we went any further…

Me: You sound pretty mad.

Bill (not his real name): I don’t mean to sound that way. I’m not really mad, it’s just frustrating to hear how people spend their money with no regard to the church or tithing.

Me: I get that…but you sound pretty angry.

Bill (short pause): Well, I guess you’re right. I am mad.

Me: I understand. But we might want to deal with that before you preach a sermon on tithing or address this problem to the church.

If the only time people hear about tithing is when the church is sinking financially then it won’t have as much effect as if we preach on tithing even during the good times. As I’ve already said, it’s going to be uncomfortable talking about tithing if the only time we talk about it is 1) very seldom, and 2) when we’re in trouble. Also, if we are angry, that vibe will slip out (no matter how good we think we are at hiding our true feelings), and anger, irritation, guilt or shame are a poor motivators.

Always deal with your frustration or anger before you preach, and especially if you’re planning to preach on tithing.

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Christians can read the same Bible and come to different conclusions about tithing. Some believe that the Bible does teach tithing for Christians today and some disagree. Same Bible, different conclusions. Both love the word of God but both have different positions on this. So…if you don’t teach tithing then simply substitute ‘giving’ or ‘stewardship’ and this series will still relate.

In part one of this six part series, I said that the first reason why teaching on tithing doesn’t work is because so many pastors seldom teach on tithing (or stewardship, or whatever word best describes what you think the Bible has to say about giving). If you believe in tithing but seldom teach on it, how do you expect one sermon a year (some pastors don’t even do that) to do the trick? The reason why the topic of tithing/stewardship is neglected brings us to our second reason.

We are afraid to teach on tithing/stewardship. We’re afraid that visitors will lump us in with the television preachers who are constantly asking for money. We’re afraid that we might offend members of our church who in turn might leave or cause trouble for us. There are legitimate fears. I don’t fault a pastor for worrying about this. Remember, I was a pastor for 28 years. I know these fears.

Jesus talked a lot about money, material possessions, and our attitudes and practices concerning them. Don’t be afraid to talk about tithing/stewardship but do so without coming across as a jerk, heavy-handed, or resorting to guilt and shame. Have you noticed that guilt and shame seldom motivate people to change? I actually believe that many of us need to talk more about money rather than less, and I will unpack that thought in part six.

Coming up next: Teaching on tithing doesn’t work because we wait to do so until the church is in financial trouble and we are mad.

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Recently on my Small Church Pastor Group Page on Facebook, I said, “We have this idea that if you teach on tithing you’ll get tithers. When has that ever really happened?” I forgot how passionate some pastors can feel about tithing, whether they be pro or con. I didn’t intend the thread to go down that road but it did and I should have known better. Anyway…this is the first in a five part series about why teaching on tithing doesn’t work. And, in keeping with my (frustrating to some of you) policy of not stating publicly my position on certain controversial issues, I will try not to show my hand in regard to the topic of tithing.

Before I get to my first reason, let’s remember that Christians can read the same Bible and come to different conclusions about tithing. Some believe that the Bible does teach tithing for Christians today and some disagree. Same Bible, different conclusions. Both love the word of God but both have different positions on this. So…if you don’t teach tithing then simply substitute ‘giving’ or ‘stewardship’ and this series will still relate. Having said that…

The first reason why teaching on tithing doesn’t work is because teaching on tithing doesn’t happen all that often. Oh I know this is why some people don’t like the church, i.e. ‘they’re always talking about money’, and I’m sure there are plenty of those churches out there, but usually when I am talking to a pastor they confess that they don’t like to talk about money/tithing and therefore don’t do so as often as they think they should.

Pastor Bill: Dave, our giving is down. I don’t know what to do. Can we talk about that?

Me: Sure. Is this a three month or a six month trend or something that has been happening for a few weeks or maybe a month?

Pastor Bill: This started the end of last year and has continued to today.

Me: When was the last time you taught on tithing/giving?

Pastor Bill: Oh…let me think about that…Um…it’s been a while.

If you believe in tithing (or stewardship, or whatever word best describes what you think the Bible has to say about giving) but seldom teach on it, how do you expect one sermon a year to do the trick? If tithing (or stewardship, or whatever word best describes what you think the Bible has to say about giving) is such a big deal then why do we teach on it so infrequently? I think one reason is, possibly the number one reason is, fear. That’s what I’ll touch upon in part two, but let me sum up by saying…if you only teach on tithing (or stewardship, or whatever word best describes what you think the Bible has to say about giving) once in a blue moon, don’t expect that sermon, or series, no matter how good it is, to do the trick. My experience has shown me that most churches need to talk more about tithing rather than less and that they can do so without becoming ‘one of those churches that are always talking about money.’

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You know me…I’m the small church pastor’s biggest fan. I’ve spent the last ten years of my life working with and encouraging pastors of small churches. Every week I hear of the discouraging things pastors have to put up with: dysfunctional boards, gossip and slander, criticism directed towards the pastor, unrealistic expectations…the list could go on and on. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes, perhaps…it’s the pastors fault. Maybe it’s your fault. Why?

You get what you tolerate.

If you tolerate dysfunction, gossip, slander, unrealistic expectations, guess what. You get dysfunction, gossip, slander, and unrealistic expectations. You get what you tolerate.

Now I know that it’s easy for me to sit here in my ivory-tower (actually it’s an old remodeled farm house) out in the country and tell you what to do, but you’ve got to stop putting up with some of the stuff you’ve been putting up with or tolerating.

I know that ‘timing is everything’. A pastor can ‘deal with things’ too soon or too late. My experience tells me that most pastors wait too long before they confront people or problems. Also, I’m not suggesting that you rush in  recklessly without a well thought out, well prayed out plan. But you get what you tolerate.

Deciding that you are not going to tolerate something can be costly. You might lose someone. It might get worse before it gets better. Let’s be honest, for some of you it could cost you your job. I understand if you’re not willing to pay that price. I get that, I do. But there must be something you could do. Some plan you could develop and work slowly over time that would move you towards what you want and need rather than settle for what you are currently getting that is causing you so much grief and discouragement.

What are you currently tolerating? What can or should be done about it?

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I like to check in with pastors after a major holiday like Easter to find out how things went. I also like to ask pastors a couple months away from a holiday service whether or not they are planning anything new. Some churches make a big deal out of holidays making a big push for members to invite their friends, and others, usually the ones who have not had good luck in the past using holidays as an opportunity for evangelism, don’t. I understand this. It’s discouraging to get your hopes up and then nobody shows up. If this happens to you a couple years in a row you just give up.

Anyways…all this month and the next I will be asking the pastors I coach “How was your Easter service?” I always get one of three responses:

  1. It was great! Lot’s of visitors. High attendance. People came to know Christ. Three people were raised from the dead. (Well maybe I don’t hear that too often)
  2. It was normal. Just like our usual Sundays.
  3. It was discouraging. Small crowd. No guests.

Which of the above best describes your Easter service?

If you are a #1…praise God! Give all glory to Him and move on.

If you are a #2 or #3…praise God that it was Easter whether your plans worked or not. Assuming that you at least preached about the resurrection, you reminded your people (no matter how few might have been there) that Jesus conquered death, and because of that, we will too. Give glory to Him and move on.

We have to reach the place where we don’t focus too much on our successes or too much on our failures. We do the best we can. Offer it up to God, and then turn around, walk away, and get back to work. Both victory and defeat can distract us from the simplicity of serving Jesus.

First Mary saw Jesus but the disciples missed out. Then the disciples saw Jesus but Thomas missed out. Then Thomas saw Jesus.

Do you feel like you missed out? Naw…you didn’t. That’s just how you feel. Don’t trust your feelings. Give glory to Him and move on.

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As a coach, I believe that so much depends on us asking the right questions at the right time. Here are five essential questions you need to ask every Monday morning. Unless you take Mondays off, then ask these questions on Tuesday. 😉

    1. What do I need to follow up on from Sunday? This would be visitors, people you prayed for or counseled, it could mean supplies you noticed you were running low on, i.e. toilet paper, etc.
    2. Who do I need to forgive? Have you noticed how often people disappoint you on Sunday morning? Someone doesn’t show up who is in charge of something. Someone says some discouraging or critical thing to you.
    3. What do I need to accept? For some of us Sunday morning just reminds us how small we are. Our size is something we must learn to accept. Maybe you have limited quality for a children’s ministry. Maybe your music isn’t as good as you’d like. These are examples of things we have to learn to accept.
    4. How prepared am I for my day off? You do have a day off from pastoring don’t you? When will that day be? What do you have to do in order to completely detach from all things related on that day?
    5. When will I take time to be alone with God this week?

Can you think of any more essential questions for Monday morning?

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First of all, this could be one of the most important questions for you and your leadership team to ask: What are we doing to reach new people? The second best question is a follow up to the first: So, how’s that working for us?

Have you noticed that evangelism/outreach programs seldom work? And if they do ‘work’ the results are way, way off from what we hoped for. And another thing (boy, I’m really being negative…but stay with me), if our ‘program’ actually results in someone talking to a non-Christian and inviting them to church or getting them to accept Jesus…typically we never see them again. Have you noticed that? Now I hope that many of you will write me back objecting and sharing countless stories of how your evangelism/outreach program worked, still works, and how you couldn’t be happier.

I’ll just sit here and pause.

Okay, you’ve been waiting patiently, here it comes: The absolute best way to reach new people is through renewed people. People, not programs, reach new people.

Every year I keep waiting for a new study that will contradict previous studies telling us that the number one way people come to visit a church is by the invitation of someone they know and trust. I’m waiting for someone to prove that door to door works, that billboards work, newspaper adds work, free car wash works, kitten give-aways work. Nope, what do the experts keep telling us? The number one way to get people to visit your church is to inspire your people to invite their friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers to church, or a church event.

You reach new people through renewed people. I wonder what would happen if we spent as much money and time and resources on creating ‘inviters’ as we did on outreach/evangelism programs? I think I know what would happen. We would see a consistent flow of guests and visitors.

What are you doing to reach new people?

 

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imagesI’m into my tenth year of full-time coaching. That’s a lot of conversations with pastors. Occasionally I’m asked about ‘trends.’ For example: “Dave, what are some of the most common problems pastors have, or want to talk about.” That’s a good question. It’s not unusual for pastors to want to talk about problems with their board or a belligerent church member. Sometimes it’s how to develop an outreach or discipleship strategy. Some pastors want to talk about vision or direction for their church. These are just a few examples of common topics that can make up my day.

But there is another subject. This is a really frequent subject. Pastors want to talk to me about it. Pastors talk amongst themselves about it. Pastors deal with this topic all the time. This is something that frustrates and can sometimes suck the life out of a pastor. And it is also a topic that pastors almost never teach on. What is the topic? CHANGE.

One of the greatest reasons why a church does not move forward in it’s mission is due to a resistence to change on the part of the people. But it’s not always their fault. Sometimes pastors don’t understand the dynamics of change, and then couple that with an absence of teaching on change, and you have a perfect receipt for frustration and corporate stagnation.

As pastors we must become experts in how to lead through change. We need to learn how to become effective change-agents. We need to regularly teach our key-leaders and then our congregation about change. Here are some topics pertaining to change that I speak to pastors about all the time:

  1. Never underestimate how much change freaks people out.
  2. Understand the fears behind resistance to change.
  3. Most churches that have been in decline or plateau will not be able to turn things around without accepting and embracing significant change.
  4. Change is a process that requires wisdom and patience.
  5. Often times change is preceded by reeducation. What does that look like?
  6. Identify those in your church who are the most resistant to change.
  7. The role of prayer in implementing successful change.
  8. Resistance to change could be the number one reason why many churches are not effective in reaching new people and creating disciples.

These are examples of ‘change’ conversations I have all the time.

If you are trying to lead your people through change you’re going to need to teach on change, and teach on change, and teach on chance. First you must understand the dynamics of change. Then you need to pass this on to your leaders. Then you need to pass this on to the rest of your people. Then, and only then, will you be in a place to lead into change.

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imagesMaybe you heard the story. One man walks up to another man who is repeatedly hitting his head against a wall. The first man says, “Why are you doing that?” and the second man says, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

It’s not unusual for me to talk to a pastor who, in my opinion, is hitting their head against a wall. Usually this is something to do with their church, some area of constant frustration for the pastor. Maybe despite the pastors greatest effort they cannot convince their people to join a small group, or participate in an outreach, or change worship style, or some way in which the church is organized. They try and try and try…no luck.

Some things need to change but will never change. Some things will change, but not now. Some things will or can change but it’s going to take patience and time.

If you’ve been pastoring for more than thirty days you’ve discovered that change freaks people out. But I don’t want to get side-tacked on the issue of change. I want to address that sound I hear, that “thud, thud, thud” of a head hitting a wall.

Is there something your frustrated with in your church, does it feel like you’re hitting your head against a wall? Maybe you are. Now you can to get a sledgehammer and bust the wall down, or buy a stick of dynamite and blow the wall up, but if you do there will be some collateral damage. I’m not suggesting that we give up on implementing change. Leaders bring about change. Leaders see the need for change when others don’t. But great leaders know when to bring about change and when not to. Leaders are able to recognize when they are hitting their heads against a wall.

Every pastor should have a “Things to address later” shelf in their study. This is where they put great ideas or areas that need to change in their church but it’s not the right time. Everyday they walk past that shelf and remind themselves,’one day but not now.’

Its your choice. You can keep hitting your head against that wall or you can stop. If you do, it will sure feel good.

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