“Brothers, we are not professionals.” John Piper wrote those words to jar pastor’s from the idea that we can equate the work of ministry with the work of the CEO. Yet as we read or hear about embezzlement or fraud in churches, one cannot help but think, “brothers, we are not professionals, but at least be honest.” Ministry should be messy at times, but the same should not be said about our books. Brothers, a lack of financial integrity has the power to destroy our ministry as fast as moral failure. Money, or the lack of it, has this unique ability to expose the depth of our character. And as my father always told me, “our ministry will never rise above the depth of our character.” Marked by that thought, here are few humble attempts to help. Not to become professionals, but simply to stay faithful.
- Know and live what God says about our hearts and money.
As men called to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word, it would be irresponsible and dangerous for us not to know what God says about our relationship to money. Jesus is clear in Luke 16. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
There is no room for flexibility. And Pastor, remember we are not immune from temptation. We often skip the lines that follow that verse, maybe it hits to close to home. “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Our hearts inclination toward money matters deeply to Jesus.
- Obey church policy.
Good, strong financial policies with layers of accountability are not a hindrance, they are our friend. They bring clarity and protection for us, our staff, and the church. Know them and follow them. We are not exempt. We are not above the standard. We set the standard. If policies are non-existent or weak, lead the church to create or strengthen what is present.
- Maintain personal responsibilities.
When our church hands us a responsibility, hold that trust carefully. If they trust us with their souls from the pulpit, we must not destroy that trust by how we handle the dollar in the plate.
But take it beyond the church as well. Financial integrity is critical in our personal lives as well. Live within reason. Pay the bills. If we are a deadbeat who does not handle his business well it speaks poorly of us, the church, and our Savior.
- Know our limitations and lose any pride.
Robert Kellogg, President of WatersEdge, shared three areas he sees pastors have issues financially.
- But I’m the Pastor – Yes, the rules apply to us as well. Brothers, good policies and accountability help tremendously here. Make sure we hold ourselves and others to the standard of Christ.
- Unintentional ignorance – Brothers, we are not professional CPA’s, we are ministers of the Word and it is ok to not understand everything about the financial aspect of the church. But that is not an excuse to allow ourselves or the church to get into trouble; be it with our personal taxes or the church’s handling of cash, we should educate ourselves so that we may be found responsible.
- Pride – If we don’t know, we should say so. God gifts his church with people to help. God has gifted Oklahoma Baptist’s with WatersEdge, an incredible group of servants to the church who are ready to help. Pretending to know more than we do, simply for the sake of our pride does not help us or the church. It puts us in danger and may lead to missed opportunities.
- Keep in mind our calling.
It is not a stretch to apply Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6 to would-be ministers who could lose sight of their calling. Interestingly he points specifically to men who lose it for the sake of money.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. … imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. … But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Brother, we didn’t start out for the dollar, don’t trade away this gift of ministry and your integrity for the sake of one now. Jesus was enough then, he is enough now, and will be enough for eternity. Love and crave him.
Dr. Michael Taylor is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church Ponca City and can be contacted at email@example.com.