My family and I eat, sleep, and live because people have made a decision to be generous. Now, I know that the “right” answer is that God provides through people’s gifts to our church. But I often wonder for people outside the church, or outside knowing God, how weird all of that probably looks. I could picture this conversation, perhaps at the soccer field watching my kids practice.
“So you’re a pastor?”
“And you get paid because people decide to give out of their income each week, each month, or whenever they feel like it?”
“What happens if they decide not to do that anymore?”
“I don’t know…in other places I served, there were times I had to wait to get a paycheck, because our ministry didn’t have the money. But it eventually always showed up. There are a lot of generous people out there. And most churches and ministries I know of usually put their staff first, and cut other expenses, to make sure people can feed their families. There’s this verse in the Bible that says, “A worker is worth his or her wages.”
“I know it still sounds weird. But it kind of makes you believe in God. How else can you explain trying to herd a bunch of people’s hearts into giving–when times are tight, bills are due, the kids need braces, retirement account isn’t what it used to be, and people are moving into the area and out of it, trying the church for a bit, and then leaving for another one–and somehow, we all get paid?”
“Still sounds weird… So that’s why it seems whenever I go to church, they always seem to be asking for money?”
“Yep. But beyond paying the staff, keeping the building maintained, and running programs, most churches are giving money away to other ministries: to the poor, to the homeless, to be a part of social justice issues like trafficking, and a lot more. One church I used to be a part of had a goal of giving away 33 percent of its budget each year. And they did it.”
“I know. And beyond all that…we talk about giving because it’s a part of what we think God is teaching us. To see what we have as gifts from Him, and not let those things be a master over us. And, to learn how to live on less, and bless others when we give our money away.”
“I get that…but it is still weird that you depend on others getting all of that, and actually doing it.”
So, that just might be how a conversation like that could go. And when you stop and think about it, giving is weird. And amazing. And profoundly freeing.
For all of those that have blessed me through their giving: in part-time jobs in two churches in Seattle, an internship and my first full-time job at a church in Boulder, Colorado; in receiving a scholarship and a job in seminary in New Jersey; an internship at a church in Charlottesville, Virginia; in years of college ministry and being an assistant pastor in Chattanooga, Tennessee; and now as a pastor in Sacramento, California:
Thank you for being weird.