In most churches, it’s budget time. Some pastors will feel the need to preach on stewardship sometime in that process. Many will do it reluctantly. We’ve all heard the excuses. We’ve used them.
“I don’t like to ask people for money.”
“I don’t want to lose the gospel in preaching about money.”
“I don’t want to turn visitors off to the church.”
Can I encourage you to set aside your excuses and your fears and preach stewardship—financial stewardship. There are other areas of stewardship: time, talents, body, etc. But we’re talking money in this post. Jesus had no qualms with talking about money and possessions. He knew that is real life stuff. People think about it a lot. It can become an idol competing with Jesus for our best energies. And money follows the heart: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” said Jesus. At its heart, how we handle our money is a spiritual matter.
I’d go so far as to say that a failure to address stewardship issues from the pulpit is pastoral malpractice. Think of all the people in your congregation who could be set free from sins like envy, greed, selfishness, and materialism if they learned and practiced biblical teachings concerning money and possessions. Your congregation is not exactly combing the Scriptures for that kind of material. You need to tell them You need to teach them. That said, here are some practical tips for preaching on stewardship.
Don’t wait till the church is desperate for money to preach stewardship. Work it into the rhythms of your preaching calendar. If you’re preaching through a Bible book, don’t skip over any passages that deal with the use of money and possessions. Maybe you’d want to work a doctrinal series on stewardship into your preaching calendar. Just don’t wait till the church is desperate. Preach stewardship into your church’s DNA. That will dramatically limit desperation.
Don’t apologize for it. Nothing minimizes the truth like apologizing for it: “I know nobody likes to talk about money. I don’t either. But every once in a while I have to do it. So please forgive me. We’ll get through this and get to more important things next Sunday. Oh, and if you’re visiting today, I’m sure the last thing you wanted to is visit a church that talks about money. I don’t do it often.” Really? You know what that says to the church, don’t you? “This is a minor matter. Feel free to tune me out.” You don’t apologize for preaching on discipleship or missions or witnessing or marriage or the cross. Don’t apologize for preaching on money. It’s in the book—a lot. Jesus talks about it—a lot. It impacts discipleship, missions, witness, marriage, and the cross is the best example of sacrificial giving in the history of the world. See 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Remember that stewardship is broader than the offering plate. Every three or four years, I preach a series on stewardship. In January 2018, we had our adult Sunday School classes work through Art Rainer’s book, The Money Challenge. During worship, I preached a series that included sermons on God’s ownership, God’s provision, the idolatry of money, and one sermon on giving. A few years earlier we did a similar thing with Randy Alcorn’s book, The Treasure Principle. Sunday School and worship held hands to disciple our people in how they understand and handle what God has given them. Don’t be a “giving” only stewardship preacher. Preach broadly and theologically on the issue. Stewardship is broader than the offering plate.
Use both Old Testament and New Testament texts. Preach stewardship principles, stewardship parables, and people in the Bible who provide an example of stewardship, good or bad. Preach money wisdom from the Proverbs. Lots of variety possible in stewardship preaching. One of my favorite stewardship sermons is a sermon I call “Money Talks.” Since mammon was term in Jesus’ day that personified money, I introduced myself as Mammon and preached from his viewpoint. It wasn’t hard to get it to the gospel from that starting point. Lots of texts. Use them.
Smuggle stewardship nuggets into sermons if your text allows it. Are you preaching on greed? Smuggle in a stewardship nugget. Does the text address God’s providence? Smuggle in a stewardship nugget. You get the idea. If some part of your text raises its hand and asks to be used to plant a stewardship seed, plant it.
Use some humor. Some pastors are better than others at using humor in a sermon, but take a stab at it. Humor has a way of breaking tension, knocking down defenses, and opening ears. When we’re preaching about things like money and marriage and parenting, humor is a good friend to bring along.
Find and use good, legit stories that demonstrate God’s faithfulness. They’re not hard to find with a little digging. (I’ve got tons of them and would be glad to share them with you.) Stories put flesh and blood on theological bones and breathes life into them. Stories that rise out of the lives of your church family are powerful. Tell in a sermon how their offerings are making tangible kingdom impact in the world. Don’t be afraid to use personal testimony, to tell them something about your own journey in Christian stewardship. You’re not bragging. You’re doing something akin to what Paul told the Corinthians about his life: “Imitate me as I imitate Jesus.”
Challenge people to grow in this area of their discipleship. Don’t be bashful, be bold. Wouldn’t your people be better disciples for it? Wouldn’t it move the kingdom ball down the field? No matter how bold you are, you’ll never be more bold than Jesus who told the rich young man, “One thing you lack: sell everything you have and give it to the poor. That’ll change your bank account from earth to heaven. Then come, follow me.” Can’t get bolder than that!
Use the rhythm of your church’s life to touch on stewardship through the year like capital campaigns and seasonal mission offerings. Not a worship goes by when I don’t say a brief stewardship word of some kind (a Bible text, a word about how God used their offerings that week, a theological thought about financial stewardship, a quote of some sort). You can preach/teach stewardship without doing it through a sermon.
Practice what you preach. Maybe I should have put this first. It’s a bit hypocritical to challenge your people to do something you are not doing yourself. If not, why not?
We could say more, but I trust this gives you some grist for your mill, some mull for your muller. Pray about it. Think about it. Do it as God leads you. You’ll be a better pastor. Your church will grow deeper disciples. And the kingdom of God will benefit from extra resources.