‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2:8)
But over the years I have talked with so many leaders in the church and I have noticed that financial stewardship in the church is never simple. Ask church leaders to tell you the words that pop into their heads when they think of church finances and you will hear words like: stress, conflict, meetings; and one of my personal favorite reactions, “Lord take me now.”
Intellectually, they have a plan; in their hearts, they have a mission. The friction usually resides in trying to do the right thing (the God centered thing) and the other right thing (the people pleasing thing) all at once. The church leaders can feel pulled in several financial directions. The desire to please everyone and serve all things well becomes overwhelming.
In my book, I shared a story about a church leader who needed a building torn down on the church property. He asked a congregate for a bid, the bid was high, yet he still felt obligated to use him because he did not want to offend him.
I have no doubt that the pastor was on mission to serve the church. But there are detours that we can make in serving our mission and they can come in two common forms:
- Aversions – Discomforts we try to avoid (usually internal fears or preferences)
- Diversions – Distractions to our calling (usually applied by external sources)
Avoiding Detours Caused by Aversions
Our desire to avoid conflict and uncomfortable situations can be a driving force in how we spend the money of the church.
After all spiritual leaders are not matadors, waving a red cape anyone to charge at them. While spiritual leaders are faithful, brave, and not remotely faint of heart, they value harmony in the church.
The problem lies in knowing the difference between solving conflict and avoiding it all costs. While we may be tempted to avoid upsetting others or creating conflict, we have a better option of using our gifts to solve conflict that may arise (when we make God-centered decisions that others do not agree with).
To stay on course, and avoid the aversion-based decision making, ask yourself these questions:
- Is any part of this decision based in fear of being uncomfortable or fear of conflict?
- Am I trying to please someone with this decision or is this the very best decision for the church in the long term?
While we may succeed in avoiding the conflict by succumbing to our aversions, we may lose valuable time or finances in a decision that was not well suited for the church in the long-run.
Avoiding Detours Created by Diversions
While an aversion is caused when we get off course to avoid something negative or uncomfortable, a diversion is caused when we are pulled off course by a distraction or a tug towards something that is off mission but not necessarily wrong.
Diversions often come in the form of people who have a different mission in mind. While the spiritual leaders of the church are living a calling to serve God and grow the church, there are people who are on a different mission. Their mission may not be bad or unethical. But it might be a diversion to the mission of the church.
When we are not carefully focused on our calling, it can become possible for us to be pulled off course even by good and decent church-going people. The decision can be good in many ways, yet still be wrong for the church.
Here are a couple of questions to helps us unravel this diversion tangle:
- Have I come to this decision after a careful time of prayer and reliance on Scripture?
- Will this decision leave a legacy that clearly reflects my calling, or will it somehow reflect external pressure on my team or me?
Aversions and diversions are mission-negative. And they reflect the motives of the individual rather than the mission of the church and the true and godly calling of the leader.
Instead of fear and pressure bending the mission, allow your calling to keep your focus on the One who called you there to begin with.
After all, whose mission is it anyway?