Whether we realize it or not, we testify to what we believe about the gospel by the way we give for the spread of the gospel. Material resources are God-given tools, and God uses them in the hands of his people to accomplish his purposes, display his glory, and spread the gospel to the world.
God has charged the church to steward the gospel—not only the content of the message but also providing resources to get the message out to the world. The way a church does these two things reveals how highly it actually regards the gospel.
First, there is Poverty Theology.
Churches, for the most part, fall into one of four categories when it comes to money and generosity. This asserts that money and wealth are inherently sinful and that poverty equals spirituality. But while self-indulgence certainly needs to be challenged, God wants Christians to not only joyfully receive the good gifts he has entrusted to them, but to become faithful stewards and generous givers of his resources.
Second, there is the Prosperity Theology.
This false doctrine promotes the idea that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. Prosperity Theology teaches that one’s accumulation of material wealth is an indication of God’s favor. These churches teach their members to give money in order to gain greater material blessings. But the “give to gain” mentality twists the gospel and distorts the motive to sacrifice and share. Christian generosity should actually grow out of one’s deep love for God and gratitude for Christ’s atoning sacrifice, not from selfish desires.
Third, there is the Prevalent Theology.
This is the “American Dream” approach to wealth. If Prosperity Theology is about excess, Prevalent Theology is about comfort that leads to complacency. This theology tells people to find security in owning a car or two, buying a home or two, and taking nice vacations. After all, “that must be what life is all about”—so the thinking goes. But such an approach to wealth has left souls empty, hopeless, and unfulfilled. When wealth is worshiped, it leads to making little, if any, true sacrifice. Prevalent Theology leads many Christians to make idols out of good things, so that they never fully enjoy the Giver of good gifts himself.
Fourth, there is the Proclamation Theology.
Biblical stewardship is liberating, exhilarating, and purposeful. This teaches Christians to steward their wealth so they can make Jesus known to the world. Proclamation theology frees people to be content with what God has given them, to use what God has entrusted to them, and to glorify God by funding the promotion of his gospel. Local churches are vibrant educational centers where Christians learn to not only think God’s thoughts, but also practice his heart. And partnering with global missionaries gives churches a launching pad for applying the proclamation theology, so that it transforms hearts and deepens believers’ perspectives on life and eternity.
Fifth, there is the Stewardship Theology.
Churches that practicing stewardship serve their members well by teaching them to rightly reject the fallacies of human philosophies and the folly of worldly ways. Christians can then take an active part in making the gospel of Jesus Christ known to every tribe, tongue, and people. Put simply, generosity displays why we love God and how much we love his gospel. Generosity makes known how our hearts have been transformed by the gospel. Generosity puts on display a willingness to “give, serve, share and sacrifice.” It reveals that we reject greed, selfishness, and personal ambition. It demonstrates that we seek to be like Christ in giving sacrificially.
Sixth, there is the Generosity Theology.
When the church embraces biblical stewardship and Christians practice generosity, the witness of the church points to the greatness of God and to the goodness of the gospel. Then, and only then, will the wisdom of God be on display within the church by the way we give generously and live sacrificially. The role of the church in funding missions is—simply and powerfully—to teach and practice a Biblical stewardship so that the glory of the gospel is on display through God’s church and his people, using all of one’s time, resources, and influence to make Jesus and his gospel known to the whole world.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” 1Tim 6:17-18 ESV
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