Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why the fuss over the tithe?

As most churches present their budgets in the next few weeks I think it is a great time to ask the question which I used as the title of this post: Why the fuss over the tithe? Do we really understand where those who promote the New Covenant version of no tithe are leading us? Do we really understand how little substance their positions has?

This post is the beginning of a series that will unveil the truth surrounding the fuss being created today and the truth about what should be taught in our churches. We will look at misconceptions and misrepresentations along the way while also highlighting the deception being applied to discredit the truth of the tithe.

For a beginning point, we will break down the issues involving taxes and tithing. Are they the same? Are they different? How do we know?

For certain I believe in the tithe. I pray you will stick around and join me as we step by step search the Word of God to see what God has to say.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Proof for Stewardship/Lordship Education

The following information can be helpful to you and your people. This test and the results show beyond any doubt that we as leaders must return to the teaching of Stewardship/Lordship in our churches.

Topics like credit scores, retirement plans and debt are popular conversations in the U.S.'s uncertain economy, but you might not know how your financial status compares to that of your fellow citizens. Take this quiz to find out how you measure up against other Americans, and learn some informative facts behind the statistics.

1) How Much Credit Card Debt Does Your Household Have?

A) Less than $5,000
B) Less than $10,000
C) More than $15,000

If you answered C, you are in the same boat as the 54 million American households that have credit card debt. The average credit card debt total per household is $15,788.

2) How Many Credit Cards Do You Have?

A) 0
B) 1
C) 3 or more

If you answered C, your stack of credit cards is the same size as the average American with 3.5 open credit cards. Approximately 51% of the U.S. population has at least two credit cards.

3) What Kind of Credit Card(s) Do You Have?

A) American Express
B) Visa
C) Mastercard

If you answered B, you have the same credit card as more than 270 million Americans. The second most popular form of plastic cash is Mastercard with 203 million card carriers. In 1958, American Express became the first widely accepted charge card, but now it falls behind Visa, Mastercard and Discover (54.4 million) with 48.9 million in circulation.

4) What Do You Spend Most of Your Annual Paycheck on?

A) Housing
B) Transportation
C) Food

If you answered A, your annual expenditures match those of the average American. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008), the average American consumer spends 34% of their income on housing costs which include shelter, utilities, household supplies, and home furnishings and equipment. Transportation expenditures such as vehicle purchase, gasoline and public transportation take up 17% of the average annual budget. Food, both at and away from home, comes in third at 13%.

5) What Percentage of Your Annual Income Do You Save?

A) 6%
B) 15%
C) 10%

If you answered A, you are right on target with the average American. At 6%, American savings habits are ranked last among China (30%), Switzerland (14%) and Germany (13%). Less than half of Americans report that they save regularly. The highest rate of savings was during World War II when Americans were stashing away 26% of their earnings. During the Great Depression in 1932, Americans weren't saving at all with a rate of -1.1%.

6) What is Your Annual Household Income?

A) Less than $20,000
B) Less than $30,000
C) More than $40,000

If you chose C, you are earning as much income as the average American household. In 2009, the median household income in the U.S. was $49,777. Income tends to be highest in the Northeast and West part of the country at a median of $53,073 and $53,833 respectively. The Southern region of the U.S. has the lowest annual income median at $45,615.

7) What is (or Will Be) the Source of Your Retirement Income?

A) Social Security
B) Employer sponsored retirement savings plan
C) Employment income

If you chose A or C, you expect to get retirement money from the same source as 77% of working-aged Americans. Nearly the same amount of Americans, 75%, will use an employer-sponsored savings plan for their retirement income, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

8) What is Your Credit Score Rating?

A) Less than 600
B) 600 to 700
C) Greater than 700

If you chose B, your credit score is within the range of the average credit score in the U.S., which is 692. This is considered to be a fair to good credit rating. A credit score below 600 is generally labeled as a poor rating. A score in the 750-850 range or higher is an excellent score that will usually qualify you for the best interest rates on loans. According to Experian, residents of New England have the highest credit scores in the country at an average of 712. The West South Central region of the U.S. has the lowest average credit score at 673.

The Bottom Line

We need more stewardship/lordship education and we need it fast. As Pastors and lay leaders the time has come for us to step up the plate and teach the Word of God. We will never reach the lost in the world by living the way most Americans live.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Faith and the Budgeting Process

One of the loudest complaints we here from members of churches is that the presentation of the annual budget in many churches is presented with a hard line FAITH sermon or lesson to the members in an attempt to persuade them to vote YES. Why is this an issue? How does faith play out in the process and in the communication of a new budget to the members?

Important to remember in the process is a simple fact - people are not as ignorant as we may think. They know when priorities are in the right place in most situations. To hit people with a message of FAITH in expecting them to pass a budget that flawed in it's inception NEVER works in the end. There is a growing sentiment among some of the newer models of churches and leadership structures to use this approach. The end result is failure of trust and lost of respect.

Some key helpful thoughts as you work through the process and delivery:

1. Be realistic with what is ministry - to promote things that are NOT ministry as such will not work.

2. Teach Stewardship - you will accomplish more with teaching than with beating the FAITH message.

3. Live Stewardship - a staff must practice faithful stewardship. Look for ways to save money.

4. More money does not mean more ministry - don't be materialistic.

5. Keep missions and true ministry at the forefront - people will respond to these.

6. Be careful with the latest and greatest - you probably sold that last year. They remember!

7. Build trust and respect with the process - it will lead to developing stewards.

8. Vision cannot be sold - it must be shared and developed. give your people time to grow.

9. Be transparent - people are hurting. Show you care. Wastefulness says you don't.

10. Get God's heartbeat in every area - pray and search your own heart. God will approved what He orders and He will fund what He needs.

Remember that communication is key in the whole process. Share with your people as the process develops and get more than yourself involved in the sharing. Faith in the process and development will grow the faith in stewards lives.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2011 Budget Insights

If you look at the calendar the realization that planning of the 2011 church budget should already be in progress; or soon to start. Churches across America are experiencing tough times in the area of finances. Tithing (Budget Income) is down to some of the lowest levels in decades. Pastors are failing to preach on Stewardship more than one to two times annually (if that). Expenses verses income in many churches are riding high. Some churches are cutting ministries and some are considering elimination of staff positions or redefining them while lowering salaries.

In tough times it is important to remember some key insight into church budgets. Members of churches with backgrounds in business will be quick to jump on the latest models being implemented in the secular world without understanding the effect those models will have on ministry and missions. Implementing key principles in planning your 2011 church budget will make a difference in the life of your church. It will make a difference in missions around the world.

1. Remember that the church is in business to do ministry and missions. Cutting ministries means reducing the job that we have been called to do.

2. Every church has waste in the budget. Be honest in your process. Waste is not ministry - it robs ministry. Look for the waste and eliminate it. Golden calves in church budgets are Satan's tools.

3. Evaluate how you do ministry. Often we spend money on things that we are too lazy to do ourselves. The "how" of your ministry should require effort from human beings more than it does money.

4. Salary issues will be tough this year. Be smart when considering raises and cuts. Staff leaders should practice Stewardship in their daily lives while churches should care for the servants God has led their way. You may not be able to give much in the area of raises this year yet remembering this and planning for future raises is vital to maintaining a great staff.

5. Do not cut missions or ministries that are reaching people. Look for the multiple small areas in your budget that you can in actuality do without or do different. Literature such as magazines etc. are a prime example of things that can be cut and applied in areas of ministry and evangelism.

6. Teach Tithing and Grace Giving. The tithe is ten percent of the gross income. Is the beginning point in giving. When taught correctly, teaching on Stewardship will free your people from all types of bondage. A church that is taught biblical stewardship will become a generous church.

7. Pastor and staff must lead the way in giving of the tithe and offerings. Live what you preach. If you are not living it, repent, live it, and preach it! Do so in that order.

8. Get creative in highlighting the ministries that the church budget supports. Creative and positive fruit will do wonders to the development of cheerful givers.

9. Get a vision for what God is calling your church to do. Share this vision and commit to this vision. Never forget that God always pays for what He orders.

10. Know with confidence that God will bless a church that is faithful to go after His vision. Stop the sin of worry and share with your people the joy of seeing God do some God size things in your midst.

The team at Eklund Stewardship is here to assist you in the area of Stewardship. Budget development and formation assistance are available. Give us a call. We would love to partner with you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Coming Out of Summer

I know it is only July. Thoughts to August and the fall however will reap huge rewards if done now. Here are just a few things that hopefully will assist in your creativity:

1. Plan a "catch up" Sunday in September or October. If you do not send out Tithing Reports already, do so before this planned Sunday. Encourage people to evaluate their giving records in comparison to the amount that God asks.

2. Begin to promote the coming budget planning for 2011 in October. Share the highlights of 2010. Share vision related to the needs of 2011.

3. Have people share a testimony related to their giving and the fruit they have seen. These testimonies should be 3 to 4 min in length and focus on the fruit not on the person.

4. Do not hide from teaching Stewardship. Your people need to be stewards. Your ministry needs for more stewards to be developed.

Take some time this summer to plan for a smart fall. It will "pay off" in your budget planning and promotion and it will reap huge benefits in the giving of your people!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time for Budget Planning - NOW!

Start your 2011 Budget planning NOW. Are you kidding me? No! One of the key aspects of being a good steward of the money that God provides for ministry is to do a GREAT job at budget planning. I know that June is still a week away. Yet beginning to discuss budget issues with staff and key leaders is vital today!

Staff should already be seeing areas that need to be examined when looking at 2011 vision and needs. Giving trends for 2010 are now easily detectable. Getting started now will save headaches down the road in the fall. How is 2010 going? What does this say about 2011?

Satan is waging an all out war on stewardship right now. Even in Christian groups there is much confusion as to what a church should teach and how a church needs to respond to the economic times. Satan loves to get us distracted and then force us into poor planning and thought at the crucial times in the fall. It is important that we do not accept poor stewardship from God's people by excusing the waste and lack of discipline on the economy. Yes people are struggling. Yet many are simply NOT being stewards.

Take some time during the next 30 days and get a head start on budget planning and review. Evaluate the effectiveness of stewardship education. Look at options needed for the fall. Don't settle for a summer slump.

Be bold in teaching tithing and stewardship. Your people will become better stewards and your ministry and missions will be where God desires them to be.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stewardship - A Word We Need!

Try looking at any type of news media that does not reveal a growing distaste for the economic waste occurring in America at almost every stage of life. For this current time in our history we have the most money EVER being handed down from one generation to the next and the debt of the receiving generation FAR out weighing the money changing hands. It can be a little scary to think about.

The thoughts of this incredible time reveal a need for a word that is about to be extinct in our vocabularies - STEWARDSHIP! It is a great word. I have been trying to grasp why we are approaching it's demise when this word offers the answers to all we need in economics on a national, job, world, home, individual, and church level.

Sixteen times the word Steward is used in the Bible. The principles of being a steward are taught innumerable times through out the Word of God. Clear is the teaching of this simple passage:

Luke 12:42-43

42 And the Lord said, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward , whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?

43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

Clearly as we approach the return of Christ, being a faithful STEWARD rises to the top of all we do and prioritize in our lives. One of the greatest questions that we can ask today is this:

Are we teaching and modeling being a Biblical STEWARD?

When we look at the younger generation surrounded by debt, materialism, and selfishness. When we seek to do more in reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are forced to look at this simple word which teaches profound actions, mindsets, and disciplines. We discover quickly that we need the word STEWARD in our lives more than we may have thought.

Generosity is the buzz word today. But I submit to your pondering that we will never be able to be generous until we first learn to be good stewards.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Great Stewardship Question

As I travel around the country and meet Pastors and people from all walks of life I am asked this one question more than any; "how can I help my people be better Stewards?". It is a great question. Many books have been written about this subject and for sure many more are coming. I might even write one or two of those.

There is a short answer that works. This answer does not require a book. In fact, this answer is one that just simply needs to be repeated over and over again. The answer is found in the form of a question.

We should be asking, "Do we really need it?"

Simple isn't it? This one question can change many a bad expenditure. It can alter spending habits at the core of the issue. Do we need our wants? Are our wants really needed? As you teach your people and lead them in developing a lifestyle of stewardship - start here! This is the first step in discovering the seemingly secret to financial peace which leads to security and missional stewardship for each one of us.

Rather than living a life full of buyers remorse we could actually be making good daily decisions that lead to opportunities to bless others beyond our wildest dreams. Before you buy ask the question. When you encourage your people in the discipline of stewardship, ask the question. Most of us have far too many things we honestly do not need.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coach Led Approach to Capital Campaigns

Several churches have voiced a need for an approach to Capital Fund Campaigns that is different from consultant led and more helpful than "do it yourself" models. After much prayer and thinking through the process we are thrilled to announce the new Coach Led offering.

It is common knowledge that churches raise much less than possible when they attempt to approach a campaign "in house". We also know that bringing in a Consultant is not always the way a church desires to go for various reasons. Our new Coach Led approach meets these two issues head on. People will often make short cuts in the process when left to follow a "how to" approach on their own. Often groups will charge extra fees to come in and clean up a situation that is not going the path desired causing headache and frustration to the church and leaders. Our Coach Led approach allows your church to avoid these costly errors and experience a process that guides you through your campaign without the expense of having a consultant on site.

If you need to raise money for debt relief or a building and yet find your leadership resisting the idea of bringing in a consultant, email or call us and let us explain the details of how a Coach Led campaign might be the solution to your situation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I encourage you to read Aftershock!

I was given the book Aftershock to read. Today I did just that. It is a book written by David Wiedemer PhD, Robert A Wiedemer, and Cindy Spitzer. It is the second book in a series that deals with the Economic downturn in America and the world. The popularity of this second book has grown with the realization that the first book with the predictions of "bubbles" popping was actually spot on.

This second book deals with what is still to come and the already indicators being seen today show that the predictions and conclusions will be close, if not as accurate as the the first. It is not a book of wild predictions and scary tales. It is one that simply takes the data and deals with it responsibly. It is not a "Christian" book but this is the part that really got me thinking. Though absent is the "end time" plans and predictions of the demise of the world and the return of our Lord, the book does show that we are quickly, and maybe more quickly than we realize, moving towards a One World system of Government and Finance. As such, the implications for us as Christians are obvious; or they should be.

Though all resistance from a political/patriotic stance will surely come as should a Biblical resistance as well, we all know that the Bible is clear in this new era arriving and being part of the plan. Though the authors make NO mention of such, I found the path clearly revealed and being realized today drawing me to the Bible and to exactly what it says about the time if Anti Christ. I think it is prudent that we understand where we are in the world and where we are progressing towards at ballistic speed. It is here that the passion for ministry to a world that is and will be more shocked and depressed at the changing economic fortunes will be key.

As we look to the future of ministry I think it is important to realize that the day of debt and excesses are about to be brought to a halt by the one force we never realized - the economy of excess itself. People will be dropped into a reality that none truly thought would occur. Governments will fail. The dollar will fade into history. What has always been will not return. Depression as we are already seeing will continue to rise as our bodies and minds get hit with the truth that "stuff" will not be possible to maintain. Where we have played at the idea of "trusting in Christ" we will soon people forced to deal with their dependence on things no longer obtainable. The truth of our false gods will be clear even in church circles.

As leaders of churches and ministries I pray that we are looking at the data and that our vision casting is based on needs coming rather than goals of the past. The future will be full of opportunities to minister to people. It is easy to see that churches will either meet this need and become centers for ministry and aid instead of playgrounds and clubs or the party will be over for many.

I encourage you to go out and get Aftershock. It is a great read and one that will challenge your vision for tomorrow in a fruitful way.

Are we ready for the mission? Eklund Stewardship Ministries is here to assist. We believe in the New Testament Church and we are called to help your church get ready for the ministry that God has for you!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stewardship and Church Giving

In discussions related to tithing and giving in general to God's churches the questions raised usually sooner than later highlight one of the great needs of our day. We will address a few of these questions in this continuation of our series. The practical side of "tithing" and giving will show the depth of need in American churches that once was not an issue but now is at critical mass.

The first reason given these days is that the church is NOT required in the New Testament to receive such. The rationale behind such a statement comes from those within the New Covenant Theology spectrum that love to highlight the breakdown of the tithes instructed by God that Israel was to bring to the Temple. Since the Temple is not part of the New Testament, then, in their reasoning, the church should not be recipients of tithing.

Lost in the discussion of this type of teaching is the fact that the Bible clearly shows that the New Testament endorses churches as God's ordained entities for the work of the ministry. Key in this discussion is the threat of the idea that there is a Universal church instead of a Universal Body. If such existed as taught then one could argue that instead of setting aside monies for a person's home church, one could make the decision that something else is more deserving and thus give to that need instead of to one's church. It sounds wonderful to many; especially those who see abuses of wasted money by a few churches that lack accountability and missiological purpose. But there is a danger here that cannot be ignored.

When we move from an understanding that God established and ordained churches for His work we move from His plan. We weaken churches. We weaken Missions around the world. We move to a system of thought that says I can hear from God and do as He tells me and my church may not be in the equation. A great question to ask at this point which few address is actually a simple one:

Would God ordain churches and NOT provide for their funding in scripture?

Any attempt to leave out the first priority of one's church is extremely poor Biblical Theology. Leaving out the local church is like saying to your heart, I don't like the maintenance required so I am going to take you out. The body could not live long at all right? God gave us the New Testament church. We have corrupted her greatly in America but God still has not given us an alternative. In fact He did not give us a choice. Ephesians is clear that God provides every gift for the church for the purpose of her caring out the mission - the Great Commission! It is the church that is to hold us accountable as individuals. It is the church that is to provide for the teaching and discipleship of the people that are reached with the Gospel. The gifts given were given to local churches to honor God in doing the work of God. Each one of us according to Ephesians are part of the body that God uses to equip and "staff" the church. Would God go to all this trouble and yet not provide funding?


More to come...

Monday, February 8, 2010

When a standard is lost

Common definitions of the word STANDARD are such as:
a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated; "the schools comply with federal standards"; "they set the measure for all subsequent work"
criterion: the ideal in terms of which something can be judged; "they live by the standards of their community".

When we look at the issue of tithing it is important to remember this word. In the discussions that have made their way into the blog world of late we are learning that people who set out to prove a position to justify their behavior will often forget about this word STANDARD.

How is this important?

When a person looks in the Word of God a clear standard is seen concerning the tithe. Though some are trying to ignore this standard, it is there. Those who claim to hold to the New Covenant Theological position completely ignore that the Old Testament and the Law have been given to us for this very reason.

We are free from the Law. Christ did what we could not. Yet NC people forget that the Law was God's STANDARD! Christ's payment for our sins does not change this standard. We do not live in a life that is forced to do anything. But in my love for God and my desire to grow in love to Him more each day, I then must see what pleases Him.

Think of it this way. In April of this year I will have been married to Heidi for 19 years. I always try to do something special for her on our Anniversaries. There are things that I think will be pleasing to her but they are my ideas. There are places that I would love to go but those are my desires. If I am to show her my love for her, then I must learn what she likes. I seek to please her for I love her. When I give her a gift, I work hard at giving her something that she likes NOT giving her something that I think she would like.

The same is true with God. If we take the approach that a few are taking and say "I am free to give to whatever and God is fine with that..." we are missing the key point in LOVING HIM. One blogger wrote something like this; "I do not know what I give but I am sure it is less than 2%."

When I read the love letter that God has provided for us, I find that a standard is there. It is NOT an end point. The standard is the beginning. Out of love for God I desire to love Him in a manner that He deserves. How could giving less than the clear standard meet that which He deserves? How could I NOT know what I give to Him?

My love moves me to ask a different question - why in the world would I want to hold on to something when He has simply made me a Steward. It is all His. Grace indeed raised the standard. When we lose the standard, we lose much. We cheapen GRACE. We excuse our selfishness. We find justification for doing things like drinking alcohol, that violates God's standard. A loss of the standard actually brings into focus that maybe our love is NOT what He deserves. When I give more than the standard, I am NOT trying to buy my way to God nor am I living under the law. God forbid. I am though living the reality of my love for the one who saved me. I have clearly seen His standard and I then know where to start. But as I grow, my giving will and should grow.

When we lose a standard we lose MUCH!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More on Tithing

Clearly when one looks to the Bible the picture of giving a tenth is found pre-law, during the period of the Law, and then one discovers something changes in the New Testament. It is at this point that some will argue that the above statement proves our disregarding the tithe in the New Testament under the New Cov. I disagree with those who would say this and in fact I think that what they miss is vital to more than this discussion of the tithe.

GRACE is the incredible reality that God did for us, who did not deserve it, what we could not do nor could the Law do - GRACE allowed me and everyone reading this post to have the opportunity of Salvation through the person of Jesus Christ due to His death, burial, and resurrection. Oh to GRACE how great a debtor I am! In fact, I love the words to the song sung by Travis Cottrell - Jesus Saves! I am listening to it right now as I post. It is this topic and more the reality of GRACE that opens the window into the plan of God. It is the picture that describes more vividly than anything else can just who God is and why He is so incredible!

When one reads the laws that were given to Israel, one needs to understand that those laws were in fact, by living up to them, the only way from a human situation, that a person could be accepted by God. The law shows each of us that we need a Saviour. For none of us can live up to and keep the law. Jesus Himself said that He came to "fulfill the law..." in Matt 5:17 and NOT to destroy it. He became the sacrifice and thus fulfilled the law for us. Not that we are under the law as we clearly in Galatians. We are free. Yet, the "being under..." is not the issue.

The law was clearly a picture for us of God's standard. In the tithe, regardless of the crops issue that some so want to claim, the law only continued what was already seen in pre-law days. In the New Testament, no mention is required to know that the standard had not changed and the picture is still present with one very important fact - GRACE raised the mark.

As we under GRACE are the recipients of such great love, the question must be asked pertaining to the tithe as to how or why or what then should we do? Clearly a person is free to NOT tithe. Clearly that person would NOT be destined for hell on the issue of the tithe. Clearly 10% is not a requirement. For under GRACE, all of our lives are called into the position and obedience of FULL surrender. If a person says "I tithe 10% and thus I am doing well." That person is abusing the principle of the tithe and the GRACE factor. Clearly the minimum from the beginning of scripture through the end is seen in the 10% example. But in Christ's surrender to the Will of God for us, the issue is no longer "a tenth" or "what is the minimum" but rather my WHOLE life, finances and all are to be yielded to Him. Colossians makes it clear that everything we do is to be done to His Glory.

So would we do less than the law asked for? Would we do less than what was done in pre-law times?

Absolutely NOT!

And this gets us to the issue of the church. And the fun will continue!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Tithe, Law, New Testament, and Grace

Often people only view the law in Old Testament when trying to validate the tithe or invalidate it. It is clear that the Law teaches tithing for Israel. There is usually NO arguments or discussions about this fact save for the 3 tithe issue. The discussions get heated however when the topic of New Testament practice begin.

As we have previously noted, Jesus makes mention of the tithe in His conversation with the Pharisees. In a future post we will look at the teachings of the Apostle Paul and some key things that must be noted and applied when accurately developing a case for or against the tithe from his teachings and life.

What seldom is noted in current discussions is the fact that the tithe appears PRE - LAW in the Old Testament. Abraham and Jacob both voluntarily embraced the tithe (the giving of a tenth). It is in this study that we discover the Biblical Heart of the tithe. For the arguments against the tithe due to legalism, this study sheds light on the misuse of Legalism in the discussion and the truth that the Biblical Tithe has always been voluntarily done out of love for the Lord God.

The Law codified the tithe for the nation of Israel. The standard of the tenth was kept from pre - law to the law. If you will continue to trace the journey of the tithe, you will discover that unlike the FOOD issues, the tithe is never repealed. The tithe is embraced just as Abraham, Jacob, and the law embraced it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they should have given the tithe while also doing other things. Not once did he say "stop giving the tithe!" Why? What about GRACE?

I actually love the discussion of GRACE in light of the tithe. The norm and error by many as seen in our current culture inside the church, is to argue that we are under GRACE thus the tithe is no longer valid. The acceptance of less than 10% is thusly justified when one takes this appraoch. While another major error is made in the acceptance that 10% is enough. GRACE changes the discussion. Neither are accurate.

And we will continue here later in the week...