Last week I read a little book given to me by Tim McPherson, “A Spirituality of Fundraising” by Henri Nouwen. It was transcribed from a talk Nouwen gave to a Foundation in 1992. I found it helpful and challenging in terms of how I often think about fundraising. I decided to write something about it today because I think many of us struggle to come to terms with fundraising and financial stewardship as pastors. One way I see this played out in our ministries is that some of our churches work hard to downplay the reality that congregations require cash. I recognize that this may be our answer to the objection, “the church is always begging for money.” Consequently, some churches seem proud of the fact that they never “take an offering” (this language reveals part of the problem) in the service but let people give quietly, privately, and causally. Okay, feel free to argue that point. However, I am intrigued by Nouwen’s assertion that “if we come back from asking someone for money and we feel exhausted and somehow tainted by unspiritual activity, there is something wrong.” Nouwen suggests there is a different way to think about this. “The question is not about how to get money. Rather, the question is about our relationship with money.” Now there is a question that desperately needs asking and also needs biblically and theologically informed response. Teaching our people how to think about money and how to steward money is a major part of our work as pastors. In my opinion, pastors should know, at least on an annual basis, the giving patterns of their people as a marker of spiritual health. Pastors should not avoid texts that raise the subject of our relationship to money, but should preach on these texts with purposeful regularity. How did it come to be that talk about money is seen as something private and personal? Perhaps the poignant question in this should be aimed at us, the pastors of the church. What is our relationship to money? If we ourselves are clinging to our futile abilities to secure our own lives, then we have no authority from which to call others to trust God. If we are not leading the way in generous and even sacrificial giving, then no wonder we are afraid to ask others to do what we ourselves are not doing. As Henri Nouwen said, “Only when we are free from money can we ask freely for others to give it.”
Pastor, what would the Lord say to you today about this important aspect of your work? This is part of making disciples. This is part of faithful Christian ministry. In a world that has no idea what money means, teaching your people how to think about and manage money from a truly Christian view is a way to love them.