Overcoming A Poverty Mindset In The Church

Have you ever heard…(or said)

I work so hard, but still can’t make ends meet.
If the economy would turn around, I might have a chance.
You don’t understand what it is like to struggle.  It’s the story of my life!
If I ever have any extra, I’ll be the first to give back and live generously.

You nailed it…that’s the poverty mindset.  And it can be both heartbreaking and frustrating to deal with this mindset as you call people to imitate the generous ways of God.  So, what do you do?

For starters, you can search Google.  There are a ton of articles related to the poverty mindset online.  Some of these resources are developed by churches and ministers…others by sociologists and well-intentioned bloggers.  But, let me save you some time.  They pretty much all say the same thing.  The majority of these resources encourage you to nudge people from an “I can’t” mindset to an “I can” attitude.  Sounds good right?

There’s only one problem.  Momentary motivation rarely leads to long term change.

Other ministry blogs will tell you that the poverty mindset is destructive and they point to a variety of cut and paste verses from Proverbs.  They tell you to work hard, be more disciplined and stop making foolish decisions.

But, here’s the problem.  All of these answers address the surface and the temporal.  They don’t get to the root of the issue.  Each of these suggestions buys into the idea that we are defined by what we have and by what we do…not by who we are.

Identifying the real issue

I have never been in a church that is completely absent of the poverty mindset.  It’s almost ridiculous to see this in the U.S., but there are pockets of it in every group of people that gather for worship.  Additionally, there are some church communities that run their organization out of a poverty mindset.  They are always worried about meeting the budget.  They are uptight about last week’s giving and they don’t know how they will get through another strenuous financial year.

So, what do we tell those disciples who think this way?  What do we say to churches which operate in this manner?  Work harder?  Be more disciplined?  Plead more often?

While those answers may be contextually appropriate, they don’t address the real issue.  Here’s the big question: Who are you?

Are you defined by what you have, what you’ve done…or by who you are?  At its core, the poverty mindset is an identity issue.  And it makes perfect sense that

both people and entire church communities would define themselves by the resources in their possession.  Isn’t that what the rest of society does?  Isn’t that the way of the world?  Doesn’t that fit with the business models and consumer mindsets of our day?

But, listen to the resounding theme of Scripture…

  • The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  (Psalm 23:1)
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20)
  • For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

According to the Bible, our identity is not found in what we possess, it is found in who possesses us.  Our lives are hidden in Him and the actions that we take are actions of faith.  We are not identified by our meager possessions, we are identified by our Father–who created, sustains and rules over all things.

Isn’t that the way that Jesus lived?  Even Jesus said, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30).  He – our perfect example – said that the only way to find your identity is to lose yourself in the lordship and leadership of the Father.  And no child of the King is poor.

Jesus “had no place to lay his head,” but we would be hard pressed to call Him lacking.  He “had no place to lay his head,” but in spite of that, He called us to join Him in His abundance (John 10:10).  That’s because living on a peasant’s income in ancient Israel didn’t make Him poor.  He was rich in every way as He lived by faith and trusted in the astounding wealth of His Father.

He didn’t have a poverty mindset because His identity was not wrapped up in His (on-hand) possessions.

A story for perspective

A few years ago, a friend made a last minute request that I go to Orlando and attend a conference he was hosting.  I almost laughed at the proposal.  There was no way.  Living paycheck-to-paycheck didn’t provide room for a last minute flight, hotel room, rental car, conference fee and meals.  But days later, I clearly sensed God telling me to go.  So, I crawled out of bed and got on the internet.  I had a small reserve remaining in my bank account and knew that if I used it, our family could potentially run into deep financial trouble.  This was not wise money management.

Through a remarkable series of online events, I was able to book a last minute flight at a deep discount and package it with a hotel rate that was more than fifty percent off.  All told, the trip would cost me about $300.  So, I booked it.

On the last day of the conference, I got a surprise.  No one in Orlando knew my financial situation.  No one knew what the trip would cost me.  But as we sang in worship, a gentleman came up and tapped me on the shoulder.  He told me that someone had been prompted by God to give me a gift.  He wouldn’t tell me who the gift was from, other than to say it was not from either him or my friend that was hosting the conference.

Humbled, I said thank you and slipped the envelope into my pocket.

As the conference closed, I made my way to the rental car and headed for the airport.  When I opened the envelope, there was a wad of $20 bills.  In total, the gift was $300…covering the cost of the entire trip and replacing the meager reserve funds that were left for our family.

That event did not happen because I changed my attitude or mental state.  It did not happen because I tightened up my boots and worked a little harder (I was already working about 60 hours a week at the time).  It happened because I decided to listen to my Father and trust in

my identity as His child.

One note of clarification: Faith is not easy (that’s why it’s called faith).  And I still have moments where I define myself by the resources in my possession.

But, in my healthy moments, I know that my identity is hidden in Christ…not in stuff.

And realizing that identity shift is the key to helping your church members…or your church community…overcome the poverty mindset.  Let me know how this works for you…or simply what you think…in the comments section below.

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Read more from John Richardson by visiting http://www.generouschurch.com/

Practical Tips for Everyday Generosity

The following article was originally published at generouschurch.com.

We need to make something clear at the beginning of this post.  We believe that the practice of generosity helps us become more like Jesus.  It is an imitation of Him.  It is a non-negotiable of being a disciple (one who learns from the ways of Jesus).  That’s the heart of this article.  We want to find ways to practice generosity on a daily basis for the purpose of growing as disciples of Jesus.

Enough clarification.  If you’re still reading, we’re on the same page.  You want to live generously.  You want to help equip others around you to live with an open hand.  So, how can we do that?  For those of us who have trouble remembering to floss our teeth, how can we add anything new to our rigid daily routines?  How can we add something valuable to our lives that will actually stick?  How can we fit daily generosity into the busyness of life?

Idea #1 – Redefine the motives for generosity.  (Hint: it’s about what He’s done for us.)

When our thinking is transformed, our habits will follow suite.  Paul said it pretty well when he said, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Most people determine their acts of generosity by the patterns of this world.  We decide whether or

not to give based on the cultural standards around us.  So, if a natural disaster – like a hurricane – hits the coast and millions of people are negatively impacted, we may fall in line and give toward the relief efforts.  That’s an acceptable form of generosity in our culture.  However, if someone causes a disaster – by texting and driving for example – we don’t send relief funds to help the texting driver who caused the accident.  Our motives are driven by our understanding of right and wrong.  In both of those cases, our giving desires are highly influenced by the “patterns of this world.”  Those motives are shaped by our culture.

And the patterns of this world don’t encourage us to give generously.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  Western culture encourages us to either consume or save.  Not give.  Therefore, we have to transform our thinking in order to become truly generous givers.  We have to renew our minds by something apart from the patterns of this world to inform our giving decisions.

Scripture indicates that the best motives for living generously are the love and grace of God.  God is good for nothing.  I know that sounds irreverent, but hear me out.  God is good to us even when we have nothing good to offer Him in return (He’s good for nothing).  When we understand that He is open-handed toward us and that He gives generously – even when we don’t deserve it – it does something to us.  It transforms our minds and re-wires our motives.  Seeing the love and grace of God expressed through His generosity awakens us to be good for nothing as well.

Idea #2 – Redefine the definition of “wasteful spending.”

Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”

Think about the implications of that verse.  Ray Steadman once said, “The idea expressed here is one of openhanded generosity. Give freely, wisely, and generously to the needs of those about. This phrase, ‘Cast your bread upon the waters,’ was a proverb in Israel for what looked like wasteful expenditure. No one would take good bread and throw it in the river. But here we are enjoined to do that very thing. This is not encouraging us to be spendthrifts, to thoughtlessly and carelessly give away our money, spending it like a drunken sailor. What is meant is, be willing to take a chance where a real need is evident.”

Many of us subconsciously associate giving with wasteful spending.  We see the gift that we gave as a personal loss.  And when we don’t hear astounding reports of how the gift has changed lives, we are tempted to think, “I may have wasted that resource.”

But people who regularly model the generous lifestyle have chosen to redefine “wasteful spending.”  They might define wasteful spending as anything that does not advance the kingdom of God…or any spending that does not benefit my relationship with God.  Either way, the new definition keeps God at the epicenter of life rather than exalting money to that un-natural position.

Idea #3 – Find a generosity partner to share the journey with you.

We were created for community.  And studies consistently show that we are more likely to stick with lifestyle changes when we do them in community.  Chip Ingram’s book, The Genius of Generosity, is built on a story of how this works.  When Chip was a young pastor, there was a man in his church (John Seville) who brought Chip into a secret giving pact.  As Chip and John worked together, they were both strengthened in their commitments to generosity.  A commitment to generosity – in a relational setting – gave them entirely new ways of seeing God’s generosity and propelled them much further into generous living than either man would have experienced on his own.

So, find another person that shares your heart for imitating God’s generosity and press forward into a new lifestyle together.

Idea #4 – Find a way to say “yes” to giving opportunities for an entire day.

Pick a date.  Set aside a small sum of money.  And say yes all day.  Anytime someone tells you of a need and asks for help, say yes.  Make it your goal to say yes to every giving opportunity that comes your way for the entire day.

This idea has been recently promoted by a guy named Sasha Ditcher.  He is the founder of Generosity Day and has spoken

about this idea at a Ted Conference (watch it on YouTube).  But, before Sasha came up with the idea of saying “yes” for an entire day, this thought was promoted by another creative thinker – Jesus.  In Luke 6:30, Jesus makes this radical proposal

– “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

So, not only did Jesus encourage us to say “yes” to all giving opportunities, but He also added that we should graciously allow a thief to keep what he has stolen from us.  He said all of that just before He said these famous words, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

In other words, take the whole “loving your neighbor as yourself” idea seriously.

So, spend an entire day saying “yes.”  If it doesn’t do anything else for you, it will burn in your eternal consciousness the importance and value of daily generosity.

What practical tip would you offer to someone who wanted to live generously each day?

The Most Enormous Little Subject In the Bible

Generosity feels like such a small topic.

It feels small in terms of annual preaching and in terms of overall impact on the church. I mean, honestly, it is important for people to give…but is it really important for church leaders to take a long, hard look at generosity? Is there even enough Biblical material on this subject to make it worth a “deep dive?” On the scale of faith topics, this is one that seems gnat-sized. It hangs around just enough to bother us and distract us from things like love, faith, family and the “big” doctrines of faith.

At least, that’s the way it feels.

For some reason, recent scholarship has made us feel like generosity is a take-it-or-leave-it subject for the church. We know that the church needs money to operate, but we don’t really know how generosity impacts our spiritual lives. We know that God calls us to be generous for the good of others (i.e. The Good Samaritan), but we don’t really understand why generosity is good for us…or even if it’s good for us.

So, how important is this topic in Scripture? Does generosity really matter as long as all of the healthy, growing ministries are properly funded?

Here are five reasons that Biblical generosity will stay at the forefront of the church:

1. The kingdom of God is often experienced – or missed – because of generosity.

Remember this – Jesus spoke more about the kingdom than He did about heaven, hell, salvation or almost any other subject. And according to Jesus, the “gate” to the kingdom is often related to money and possessions. For instance, in the Parable of the Sower (a kingdom parable), Jesus says, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). For other instances, see Matthew 19:16-25, Matthew 6:31-34, Matthew 13:44-46, Luke 19:11-27 or Matthew 25:14-30.

2. The Gospel comes riding on the back of generosity.

John 3:16 captures the Gospel in a sentence and clearly states the vehicle that God chose for the delivery of His good news: “For God so loved the world that He gave…” There is no way to comprehend the Gospel apart from generosity. He gave Himself. He stepped into the mess of humanity as an infant and purposed to trade His eternal inheritance for our place in death. Beyond that, He extends the forgiveness and grace that are necessary for us to receive the Gospel. So, from the onset of the Gospel to its eternal conclusion, it is characterized by generosity.

3. Generosity is one of the primary defining marks of discipleship.

In Luke 6, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:27-30).

Later in that same passage, Jesus explains His reasoning for this radical call to generosity. In verse 35, He says, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” In other words, Jesus notes that as we become radically generous, people will perceive that we are pupils and imitators (disciples) of the Most High God.

4. Generosity has been God’s plan from the beginning.

Genesis starts with the words, “In the beginning, God created.” Can we quickly dispel a light-hearted myth? God was not lonely. He did not create because He was lacking in some way. In fact, many scholars agree that He created to share…to give.

He created us in order to share His love and joy with us. In the beginning, God sought opportunities to practice generosity.

5. Generosity characterizes the end of the world (as we know it).

As Scripture comes to a dramatic conclusion in the book of Revelation, God is still giving. The created world is not thrown away in a fit of justified rage, but it is redeemed. It is bought back for our pleasure and for His glory. It is re-created and re-fashioned – not because God needs this, but because we do. Revelation 21 says, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

That’s a subject of Biblical proportions. And apparently generosity only looks small when we are looking at it through a highly restricted lens.

So, how can you unleash this God-sized subject in your church?

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The above article was originally published at http://www.generouschurch.com/

10 Simple Ways to Become a More Generous Person

[pullquote_left]“You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” — John Bunyan[/pullquote_left]

There are very few people who don’t like the idea of generosity. We are indeed a species that loves to help others and confront needs when we see them. Unfortunately, there are also very few people who are content with the level of generosity in their lives. Most people I know wish they were able to give more. And while there are a number of reasons that this may be the case… sometimes the best solution may be the simplest.

To that end, there are a number of simple steps that we can take to make generosity more intentional in our lives. If you have never given away any money or time, this would be a great way to get started (no matter what your current economic situation is). On the other hand, if you are just hoping to raise the level of generosity in your life, you will also find some of these simple steps to be relevant and helpful.

10 Simple Ways to Become a More Generous Person

1. Consider the benefits of generosity. Generous people report being happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life than those who don’t give. Generosity produces within us a sense that we are capable of making a difference in the world, that we are actively addressing the needs of those around us, and that we are shaping our community into a healthier one. While generosity is typically seen as the opposite of self-serving, counting the personal benefits is indeed one of the most important steps that we can take in getting started.

2. Embrace gratitude. Make a list of the things in your life for which you are grateful. Your list doesn’t have to be long. It won’t take much time. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a physical list (in your head will be completely sufficient). Sometimes, the most important step you can take to become more generous is to spend more time thinking about what you already possess and less time thinking about what you don’t. Once you start intentionally thinking that way, you may be surprised just how good you already have it… and become more apt to share your life with others.

3. Start really small. If you’ve never given away money, start by giving away $1. If you are embarrassed to give just $1, don’t be. You’ve got nothing to worry about: there are plenty of charities online that allow you to give with your credit card and you’ll never cross paths with the people who record your $1 donation. Of course, the point of this exercise is not to report a $1 tax deduction on your year-end tax return. The point is to get started. If you’ll feel more comfortable giving $5, $10, or $20, start there. But no matter what dollar amount you choose, jump right in with something small. You can afford it… and that little push can help build momentum in your life towards generosity.

4. Give first. When you receive your next paycheck, make your first expense an act of giving. Often times, we wait to see how much we have left over before we determine how much we can give away. The problem is that most of the time after we start spending, there is nothing left over. The habit of spending all of it is too deeply ingrained in our lives. To counteract that cycle, give first.

5. Divert one specific expense. For a set period of time (try 29 days), divert one specific expense to a charity of your choosing. You may choose to bring a lunch to work, ride your bike to work once/week, or give up Starbucks on Mondays (wait, make that Thursday). Calculate the money you’ll save and then redirect it to a specific charity/cause. Whatever you choose, I recommend picking something that would be fun to give up – something unique that you’ll remember. And setting a specific period of time for the experiment should make it completely achievable.

6. Fund a cause based on your passions. There are countless charities/causes that need your support. And some of them are directly in-line with your most compelling passions. What are you most passionate about? Is it the environment, poverty, or religion? Maybe it’s world peace, child nutrition, or animal rights? What about education, civil rights, or clean water? Identify what passions already move you, find a committed organization around that cause, and then joyfully help them in their work.

7. Find a person you believe in. If you find that you are more easily motivated and shaped by the people in your life rather than organizations/causes, use that tendency as motivation instead. Take careful notice of the people in your life that you most admire. What organizations/causes do they hold most dear? Who do they support? What makes them passionate about supporting it? And how can you get involved alongside them?

8. Spend time with people in need. One of the most effective antidotes for non-generosity is to make space in your life for those who actually need your help. After all, it is a very small step to go from knowing somebody in need to helping somebody in need. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to volunteer one meal at your local homeless shelter. Most homeless shelters readily accept volunteers and have systems in place to get you started. And rubbing shoulders with the poor just may change your impression of them forever.

9. Spend time with a generous person. One of the most life-changing conversations I’ve ever had about generosity occurred when I found the courage to start asking specific questions of the right person. I remember starting with, “Have you always been generous?” And immediately followed with more: “When did you become so generous? How did it start? How do you decide where your money goes? What advice would you give someone who wants to get started?” It was life-changing. And the other guy paid for the meal… go figure.

10. Live a more minimalist life. Intentionally decide to own less. Oh sure, living a minimalist life won’t automatically make you a more generous person, but it will provide the space necessary to make it possible. You’ll spend less money on things at the department store. You’ll have more time/energy to help others. And the intentionality that emerges in your life will help you discover the need for generosity. Minimalism has resulted in many positive changes in my life – becoming more generous has been one of the most important.

Generosity rarely happens by chance. Instead, it is an intentional decision that we make in our lives. But it does not need to be as difficult as many people think. Sometimes, starting with the simple steps is the best step that we can take.

What simple steps have you incorporated into your life to foster generosity?

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The full article was first published by Joshua Decker at http://www.becomingminimalist.com/10-simple-ways-to-become-a-more-generous-person/

How Much Would I Give Away If…

Let me ask you a provocative question, “How much would you give if you knew Jesus was coming back this time next year?” Please know that I don’t have any insider information by asking the question. But this question does open the door for us to honestly evaluate both our hearts and our motives regarding how we are living and giving. What if we could somehow know without a doubt that Jesus was indeed coming back in one more year? Would your level of giving change? This thought-provoking question ought to cause all of us to soberly pause and reflect on our answer. If our answer is, “Yes,” the amount of my giving would be higher; it might be good to ask yourself, “Why?” Why would the amount I would be willing to give over this next year be greater if I knew Jesus was coming back next year instead of twenty years or a hundred years from now?

I have identified three specific motivations for why I think all our giving would go up and most likely go up a lot! Let’s consider these three motivations.

Motivation #1: “It’s Only a Year”

If there was only one year left before His return, we might be much more willing to make meaningful, personal sacrifices since we now know that it would be only one short year before this world as we know it would come to an end? I think we would all agree that twelve months is a pretty modest amount of time to do without if we knew for sure it would only be for one year.

I know when I work out, I am able to endure much greater physical “torture” because I know that my workout is only going to last for one hour and then I can go back to my non-demanding, sedentary lifestyle. I am willing to incur a good bit of short-term pain to hopefully enjoy a good bit of long-term gain.

If you are like me, you are probably far more willing to give something up for Lent (short term) than you are to give it up for life (long term). But what if you knew this life as we now know is only going to last for twelve more months? Would your willingness to part with even “essential” material possessions increase if there was only one year left to do without?

Ask yourself: “Would my giving increase over this next year if I knew with absolute certainty that Jesus was coming back and then the really good times were going to begin?”

Motivation #2: “I’ve Got Nothing to Lose”

Would our giving to the Lord increase because with only one year left, as the old hymn says, “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace?” As the new heavens and the new earth get closer, the grip this current world has on us would likely be loosened and its appeal and attractiveness would be greatly diminished.

Think about the value of a confederate dollar in 1861 (when the Civil War began) compared to the value of that very same dollar in March of 1865 (a month before the war ended), we would all agree that a confederate dollar after the confederacy fell was going to be worthless to whoever held it. So, if a person were to give away all their Confederate dollars just before the end of the confederacy, I think we would all agree, that person was not really making much of a sacrifice. Likewise, as the return of Christ continues to move closer, the “things of earth” will continue to grow more and more worthless because in that new day that is coming, nothing of our material possessions will be considered anything of value.

It is this fact that makes the picture of the streets in heaven being paved with gold so humorous. We take gold that is universally valued here on earth and in heaven God uses it for street pavement. The fact is that what the world values here is worthless there. And conversely, what the world considers worthless here is actually priceless there. Most of us don’t have any trouble giving away what we consider to be worthless – junk.

Ask yourself: “Would my giving increase if I knew what I was giving away was in a very short time going to be worthless?”

Motivation #3: “It’s a Good Deal”

I wonder if we might gladly substantially increase our giving if we realized that “investing” our resources in Kingdom initiatives just makes good financial sense. We could reason that doing so would enable us to enjoy not only a spectacular internal rate of return, but also a spectacular eternal rate of return in just one short year. Then, as we are ushered into the new heavens and the new earth, we will be rewarded handsomely for our sacrificial giving and our “brilliant timing.”

Randy Alcorn reminds of us of the obvious, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” If we knew beyond a doubt that “ahead” would be only one year away (not decades or centuries), might we view the temporary postponement of our current enjoyment of and security in our material stuff a small trade off for the eternal gain that would very shortly be ours.

We have all read Matthew 6:20, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”Jesus commands us to do this “for yourselves.” By knowing the time horizon for actually having our treasures returned to us makes “investing” in the Kingdom for ourselves all the more compelling. I think the appeal of a fantastic and guaranteed return on investment for almost all of us might be just too great to ignore.

Ask yourself: “Would my giving go up if I knew I was going to personally receive back a spectacular return on my Kingdom giving in just one year?

Isn’t it interesting how something changes in how we value our lives and our possessions when we use a shorter timeline? The world and our relationship to all our stuff are viewed quite differently. Life’s real priorities quickly surface out of the clutter of our over-busy lives. Every single area of our lives will be quickly reshuffled and our life priorities reordered when the timeline is shortened. And what could be most unsettling about this list of newly identified life priorities is that they seldom include what currently consumes much of our daily lives.

In life, the tyranny of the urgent is constantly seeking to override the priority of the important. We seem to routinely make time for and overvalue what is really quite trivial and unimportant – often because we mistakenly believe that there will always be time for getting to the “big stuff” later. But, what if there was no “later”? What if there was only twelve months left?

If we only had one more year for Kingdom impact; only one more year to get the message that God has entrusted to us, His stewards, out; only one more year to give to make it happen; would we be living and giving differently than we are right now? I think so. And it might be a very valuable spiritual, mental and emotional exercise to take some time to recalibrate and realign our priorities to focus on an eternal mission and not just a temporal one. Shorten your timeline and watch how it sharpens your focus.

We all need to plan like we are going to live forever and live like there is no tomorrow. If we choose to start living by this mantra, we will find some truly amazing changes in our lives starting to occur. Changes that may resemble a lot like how Jesus lived when He was here.

Obviously, no one knows if Jesus is going to actually come back next year. But I think we will all agree that regardless of when He actually does finally return, within the context of eternity, He will be coming back as the old gospel song says, “soon and very soon.” Are you ready to step up and start living and start giving like you really believe it?

Download PDF:  How Much Would you Give Away . . .

© 2012 Stewardship Ministries | All Rights Reserved.

E. G. “Jay” Link is the President of Stewardship Ministriesa teaching, training, mentoring and content ministry working with churches and nonprofit leaders to equip them with the biblical knowledge and training resources needed to serve all ages and all economic levels of believers to effectively live their lives as good and faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to them. He is the author of three books, “Spiritual Thoughts on Material Things: Thirty Days of Food for Thought,” “To Whom Much is Given: Navigating the Ten Life Dilemmas Affluent Christians Face” and “Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter.”

Mr. Link may be reached via email at jlink@stewardshipministries.org

Fiscal Cliff Notes: Highlights For Gift Planners

Fiscal Cliff Notes

Here are the highlights for gift planners:

Highest marginal income tax rates for single taxpayers making over $400,000 or married filing jointly taxpayers making over $450,000 moves to 39.6%.

Impact On Planned Givers: To the extent that the greater tax savings from taking a deduction against a higher rate means an increased incentive to give, there’s a little more incentive here for these high income donors.

Capital gains and qualified dividend rates for taxpayers with incomes over $400,000 single of $450,000 married filing jointly moves from 15% to 20%.

Impact On Planned Givers: Higher tax rates for capital gains may mean gifts of appreciated property will be more attractive to donors as a way to avoid this tax.

Returns of the 3% “Deduction Reduction.” This law reduces itemized deductions by 3% for every dollar a taxpayer’s income exceeds $250,000 single or $300,000 married filing jointly. The law was introduced during the Clinton administration, but was phased out during the Bush years.

Impact On Planned Givers: This provision sounds bad, but hasn’t been shown over the years to be a significant drag on charitable giving. One way to think about this is to say that

it’s the state taxes or mortgage interest deduction that is affected by any 3% reduction, not additional charitable gifts.

The charitable IRA rollover was extended for 2012 and 2013

Impact on Planned Givers: From a marketing standpoint, the message to eligible people who waited was they can give in January 2013 and count it towards 2012 and then also give again anytime in 2013 and count it towards 2013. There are more complicated rules for donors who drew on IRA assets to make gifts in 2012 that we will flesh out in future blogs and analyses.

The gift estate tax exemption was kept substantially the same ($5 million, $10 million for married couples) as under 2012 law, with the top bracket moving up modestly from 35% to 40%.

Impact On Planned Givers: With higher exemptions (that will continue to be adjusted for inflation)

there are precious

few people with “estate tax problems,” although these are the precious few gift planners spend a lot of time cultivating. The higher top rate for taxable transfers and the possibility of transfer tax repeal no longer on the horizon make lead trust gifts look better.

The Healthcare surtax on investment income moves in at http://www.cialispharmaciefr24.com/achat-cialis-france-24/ 3% for taxpayers with incomes over $200,000 single or $250,000 married filing jointly.

Impact On Planned Givers: This new tax is a tadalafil maroc minor

incentive for donors to make gifts of appreciated property.

The social security payroll tax goes back to 6.2% from 4.2% for all taxpayers and for high income taxpayers the .9% Medicare tax kicks in.

Impact on Planned Givers: It’s important to remind donors

that these taxes are unaffected by charitable contributions.

Finally, the alternative minimum tax (AMT) thresholds increases and will keep up with inflation.

Impact on Planned Givers: Many fewer taxpayers will be in the situation where their deductions are limited by the AMT so that additional charitable gifts create no additional tax savings.

Celebrate Generosity In Memphis 2013

The Hope Foundation is proud to announce our annual luncheon with a focus on generosity in Memphis.

Celebrate Generosity In Memphis 2013
Tuesday, March 5th, 11:30 – 1 p.m.
Holiday Inn Ballroom, University of Memphis Campus [map]

Last year’s event welcomed Shane Stanford from Christ Methodist Church as our keynote speaker to inspire over 400 of Memphis’s most generous givers and influencers. On Tuesday, March 5th we welcome Barrett Jones from Germantown, TN. Barrett is a Christian and happens to be the starting center for the 12-1 University of Alabama football team. Barrett’s young story is continuing to unfold through his excellent work on the football field and beyond.

A preview of Barrett’s testimony can be seen below:

This will be a great event to celebrate how God is moving through generosity. Memphis is unique in national giving statistics and Hope is proud to highlight stories from our donors and others involved

with Hope in Memphis.

Celebrate Generosity In Memphis 2013
Tuesday, March 5th, 11:30 – 1 p.m.
Holiday Inn Ballroom, University of Memphis Campus

Summer 2012 Newsletter

Summer 2012 Newsletter


A charitable gift annuity (CGA), administered by Hope, enables you to make a substantial gift to your church, favorite ministry or to your donor advised fund at Hope and receive guaranteed income from those assets for yourself or a beneficiary that you name as long as you and/or the beneficiary lives.

This is one way to put your treasure where your heart is — in your church or favorite ministry — and still take care of your needs and those of your family. A CGA is a contract between you and Hope Christian Community Foundation, which guarantees a fixed amount of income for life. You can fund your annuity with cash or marketable securities.

How It Works

  • You receive an income tax deduction in the year that you establish the annuity for the gift portion of the contract
  • You may witness the impact of your gift while you receive lifetime income
  • You receive a guaranteed periodic income that is not affected by the fluctuations of the marketplace. A portion of your annuity income is tax free
  • You are free from concern about money management and low interest rates

Features: The minimum amount required to establish a charitable gift annuity is $25,000. The minimum age is 65. The annuity rate depends upon whether one or two people will receive lifetime income from the gift and the age of the recipient(s). You cannot add to a charitable gift annuity, but you can establish additional annuity agreements. One key feature of a Hope CGA directed to benefit your donor advised fund is the opportunity to donate to multiple organizations rather than just one.

An Example: Sara, age 75, has considerable savings. She seeks to increase her income, reduce taxes and do something substantial for her church’s endowment program. After discussion with a representative of her church and her own financial advisor, she decides to make a cash gift of $100,000. In exchange, she will receive $5,800 per year. Her advantages are multiple: She guarantees income, generally larger than a savings account, for the sildenafil prix moyen mg rest of her life. She receives a one time tax deduction of the gift portion of the annuity. A significant portion of income is free from taxes. Her church will receive a significant gift.

To view more examples and learn more about charitable gift annuities from the Hope Christian Community Foundation please visit: http://hopememphis.givingplan.net/ or call us at 901.682.6201.

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[This message was originally tailored for Pastors]

If word-abuse was a crime, many pastors/ministers would be in jail over how they have abused one of our most important, biblical terms – the wordstewardship. If you were to poll your congregation and ask them what the word stewardship means, I suspect that if your church is like most, the overwhelming majority of them would tell you it has something to do with money and giving. Part right and part wrong. And as my grandmother would tell me, “If something is partially wrong, it is all wrong.”

I spent eight years of my life in Bible college and seminary and majored in theology. I can tell you that in all those years, I never took one class or even had one lecture on the theology of stewardship. So, everything I share with you I have learned since those days long past. Since very few institutions of higher learning include this topic in their curriculum, the overwhelming majority of pastors/ministers have either no stewardship theology or worse yet, a bad stewardship theology. Consequently, it is really no surprise that our churches are at best theologically adrift in this area of stewardship and at worst being falsely taught.

Let me give you a few examples of how the word stewardship is being abused in many churches. Church bulletins and newsletters often have a stewardship report. Of course, it always includes the amount of the offerings. Churches have fund-raisers/capital campaigns, but often refer to them as stewardship campaigns. A stewardship campaign sounds much more spiritual, don’t you think? We use the term “good stewards” to refer to people who are “good givers.” We teach that tithing will make a person a good steward. Many larger churches now have stewardship pastors who are really financial pastors. I could go on, but I think you see my point.

Many churches use the word stewardship as if it is a synonym for giving. But let me suggest that stewardship is not a synonym for giving. It is actually an antonym (opposite meaning). Let me explain. Giving has to do with what we deployStewardship has to do with what we retain. Stewardship is not about what we put in the offering when we go to church; it is about what we do with what is left in our check book after we have done our giving. Stewardship is about what we are keeping.

So, what exactly does the word stewardship mean? Let me explain stewardship as if it were a three legged stool and all three legs are essential for the stewardship stool to properly stand.

Leg #1: The first “leg” of this stool is the fact that God owns everything because He created everything. For example, King David tells us in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” I think that about covers everything we will ever get our hands on in this life.

Leg #2: The second “leg” of this stool is the fact that not only did God create us, but He also redeemed us from slavery to the prince of this world through the death of His son, Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Titus 2:13b-14, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” We now belong to Him again. So, God actually owns us twice: Once because He made us and twice because He bought us back.

Leg #3: The final “leg,” the one that enables the stool to stand, is the fact that we own nothing: We have been called by God to be stewards, to carry out His wishes for His property.

So, Stewardship accurately defined is: (v) “to plan, to manage, to administer;” (n) “a manager.” The concept of stewardship repositions us from being the owner to being merely a manager of a very small portion of the Owner’s vast material holdings. For many believers this idea is a revolutionary concept.

One Sunday I was preaching at a church that had just completed taking their entire congregation through our thirteen-week life stewardship, small-group study. Prior to the start of the service a distinguished, older gentleman came up to me, shook my hand and said, “Jay, the one thing in your study that has had the single greatest impact on me was this idea that God owns everything, including me.” He went on to say, “I have been in the church all my life, but somehow this truth had escaped me entirely.”  He confessed, “I thought I was the one getting up each day and going to work and I was the one making the money. It wasmine. But when I came to understand that God owns me and everything I have, it has changed everything in my life!”

I hear this kind of comment routinely from believers once they are finally presented with the true, biblical, stewardship message. The truth be known, it likely wasn’t that this gentleman missed the stewardship teaching in his church, it is more likely that his church had never preached or taught on it before. This radical, biblical concept of life stewardship is easy enough to understand intellectually, if and when we finally do hear it. It is, I will confess, exceedingly difficult to consistently apply and live out practically speaking.

This “we are only the managers and not the owners” mindset forces us to ask one, critical question. And it demands that we ask it on a daily basis. The life-transforming question is this, “Lord, what do You want me to do with all that You have entrusted to me?”

It is no longer “How do I want to spend my day?” “It is now, God, how do you want me to spend Your day?”

It is no longer, “How do I want to spend my money?” It is now, “God, how do

you want me to spend Your money?”

It is no longer, “How much of my money do I want to give to the Lord?” It is now, “God, how much of Your money should I be keeping for myself?”

It is no longer, “How do I want to care for and feed my body?” It is now, “God, how do You want me to care for and feed Your body?”

It is no longer, “How do I want to raise my children?” It is now, “God, how do You want me to raise Your children?”

It is no longer, “What kind of house and car do I want to have?” It is now, “God, what kind of house and car do You want me to have?”

Do you see how this owner/manager issue impacts every single area of our lives?

Let me offer you a personal challenge. For the next 30 days as soon as you wake up in the morning, even before you put your feet on the floor, ask God this one question, “God, what do You want me to do todaywith all You have entrusted to me?”  I am quite confident that if you start asking this one, prayerful question on a daily basis, it will change everything in your life just as it has in mine.

Can you see how if this life stewardship message were to be powerfully, effectively and boldly communicated to your congregation on a consistent basis, it has the potential to radically change the culture of your entire church? Can you imagine what your church would look like if everyone from the youngest children to your most senior members were to begin living each day of their lives asking this one, life-changing, stewardship question and were humbly and earnestly seeking to carry out the wishes of their Owner on a daily basis?

What would happen to their marriages, to their families, to their finances, to the number of volunteers, to their physical health, to the amount of their giving and to the impact and outreach of the church? This one word STEWARDSHIP has the power to change everything!

But let me be quite clear here. This stewardship message will never impact your people and the culture of the church if it doesn’t start with you. You must first personally embrace and adopt a stewardship lifestyle. In other words, you need to first practice it before you preach it. The impact of this life stewardship message all rises and falls with you.

Many people over the years have suggested that I abandon using the term stewardship because it is so badly used and carries such negative baggage in churches and among Christians. But there are

some things in life worth fighting for. And for me, the word stewardship is so profoundly important that it is worth trying to rescue from the mire of misuse, abuse and negativity – restoring it to its proper place of honor and respect with the other great theological concepts we so fiercely defend.  It is a word that has the power to transform believers, to transform churches and yes, to even transform pastors.

Every sermon you preach and every lesson you teach should be grounded in and built upon this foundational truth that God is the Owner and we are His stewards.  Remember, God has graciously entrusted the care and feeding of His church to you. Let me exhort you, steward it well!

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© 2012 Stewardship Ministries | All Rights Reserved.

E.G. “Jay” Link, is the President of Stewardship Ministries, a teaching, training and mentoring ministry for professional advisors and ministry leaders to equip them to effectively serve believers who have accumulated surplus, material possessions.

Tithings and Offerings – Spring 2012 Newsletter

The following article was highlighted in the Fall 2012 Hope Newsletter

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In his recent newsletter Jay Link of Stewardship Ministries explains how churches today struggle to teach Christian giving. “Having spent eight years in Bible college and seminary, I can tell you I did not take one class or even hear one lesson on the theology of giving.” Link goes on to explain that his theology of giving was carried over from what he had been taught in his church and he accepted it without question – a 10% tithe goes to the church.

It wasn’t until he decided to do an exhaustive, comprehensive study to support the doctrine la viagra caduca of New Testament tithing that he realized that tithing is not biblical.

Link goes on to explain that nowhere in the New Testament is their even one verse stating that Christians are to tithe – not one verse. “Keep in mind that almost all the New Testament was written by practicing Jews who certainly knew well the Old Testament law on tithing, but none of them ever mention tithing as a basis for Christian giving even when they were talking expressly about giving.”

“Old Testament tithing, simply stated, was a tax that the Jews had to pay to underwrite their theocratic nation whose King was God. The three Old Testament tithes were the taxation system used to underwrite Israel’s national expenses. The Jewish taxes were never once applied to non-Jewish believers in the New Testament – never once.

So if tithing isn’t the basis for our Christian giving, what is it? Freewill offerings were the standard for the Old Testament Israelites and the same is true today for us. Voluntary offerings, contrary to taxes, motivated out of grace and love and in whatever amount the giver chooses is the giving standard for today.

Paul sets the giving basis for believers in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul is very careful not to give a formula or percentage for how much we ought to give. The amount of our giving is decided upon after carefully searching our hearts.

Read the full article: Stewardship Ministries Tithing and Offerings [pdf]

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Please leave your thoughts of comments below.