THE PASTOR’S PERSONAL LIFE – PART 5 – YOUR MONEY
by David Wentz
Published on June 20, 2022
Categories: For The Pastor
Dear pastor and Church Leader,
We begin our fifth week of one of the chapters in David Wentz’s book, Pastoring: the Nuts and Bolts. You can read the first four weeks here: [1] [2] [3] [4]

 

The Pastor’s Personal Life – Part 5

Your Money

By David Wentz

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, said, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” At one time he was one of the best-selling authors in England, and consequently had one of the highest incomes, yet he died with little more than the clothes on his back – by his own choice. He consistently gave the rest away to those in need. He didn’t leave much behind, but imagine his treasures in heaven!

Tithing

In 1976 I graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Systems Engineering. Two years later I left a good job with a good salary and moved two thousand miles to go to seminary so I could become a pastor. I had a wife and a baby. I went from a situation where I was able to live comfortably and save some money, to a situation where I had to truly learn how to depend on God.

As is common in America, most of the young mothers in our community and in our church worked at jobs outside the home. Early on, Paula and I prayerfully decided on another course. For our family, what Paula could give to our children by staying home full time with them was more important than whatever we could have bought for them if she took a job. We have never regretted that decision. It may not be right for everyone, but it was right for us.[ii]

Nonetheless, money was tight. Have you ever had to buy food for four teenage boys and a girl?

From the time we first got married we tithed our income. We believed that if the Old Covenant required 10%, we who are in the New Covenant could not do less. Our understanding of Malachi 3:10 was that the tithe is the threshold, the minimum requirement that opens the windows of blessing.

We faithfully tithed through two years as an engineer at Ford Motor Company and three years in seminary. Then I became a pastor.

By this time we had two children. My income as a pastor was less than the official government poverty level. There reached a point when Paula and I started wondering whether we could afford to continue to tithe.

We recalled the old saying, “Time is money.” I was putting all my time into the church and the ministry. Certainly that was worth something, we told each other. God knew our situation. Certainly he would accept my time in place of my money, wouldn’t he?

We conveniently forgot that “time is money” is a quote, not from the Bible, but from Benjamin Franklin, the same person who said “God helps those who help themselves.” God is not obligated to follow Ben Franklin’s philosophies.

Anyway, we decided that instead of giving ten percent of my income to the church, the biblical tithe, we could cut it back to five percent.

We had thought we were in financial trouble before. Now the bottom completely dropped out. It was only a few weeks before we decided we couldnt afford NOT to tithe. So we started giving God his ten percent off the top once again, and somehow God rescued our finances. I didn’t get a raise, we didn’t receive some big gift, but somehow things got better.

That was over thirty years ago. We have never stopped tithing, and God has never stopped providing.

Actually, there was one other time when our personal finances got in very bad shape. We knew from experience that reducing our giving was not the answer. We decided to see what would happen if we increased our giving to God. After all, I had preached many times that you can’t out-give God. So we increased our giving, and sure enough, it happened again: somehow, without any clear change that we could see, our financial situation cleared up. It’s just like farming: if you want a bigger harvest, you have to plant more seed.

I’m sure you have heard many testimonies of God’s faithfulness to those who tithe. I just want you to know that what I write here is not theory, but proven by personal experience. My financial security is not in a job or a bank account or a government program. My security is in the fact that I have put my faith in God, I have obeyed his commands, and I know he is faithful to fulfill his promises.

The question of tithing to your local church can become confusing if you are the pastor, especially if there is not a clear separation between your own money and the church’s funds. What if you are the pastor of a brand-new church? Maybe it’s not even really a church yet, just a group of Christian believers meeting together for fellowship and support and learning. You may be serving your church right now as a volunteer. You may even be paying the costs of the church out of your own pocket. How do you figure a tithe then?

You might be tempted to say, “I’m the pastor, any pay I get for pastoring comes from tithes and offerings, so if I tithe, am I not just tithing back to myself?” It may sound logical, but beware. It’s just a short step to rationalizing accepting tithes from others, but not paying them yourself.

I don’t want to be legalistic, and there are no hard and fast rules and definitions. But for me personally, its not really an offering to God if I retain control of it. I believe it is very important, both for my personal spiritual health and for my pastoral example for my church, that there be no hint of a financial conflict of interest.

What I mean is this: it can be very tempting to find a way you can use your money for yourself but still call it a tithe. Make sure you give your tithe in a way that avoids this temptation. No one should be able to accuse you of using Gods money to benefit yourself. If you control the church’s money (which I do not recommend – see Chapter 17), give your tithe to a different ministry. If you have a group of leaders who oversee the money for your church, then you should tithe to the church. Be sure everyone understands that there are no strings attached. Your tithe should go into the same pot as all the other tithes and offerings, and be managed the same way.

It always amazes me how many people think pastors get rich from the offerings of their people, or from some kind of outside support. They may even think the pastor personally owns the church’s property. There have always been people who sought worldly gain from religion, and the devil makes sure those are the stories the public hears. That’s why your finances must be clear and above-board. I don’t mean outsiders should have access to your personal financial records, but you should be able to answer legitimate questions and defend yourself against false accusations, should it ever become necessary.

Your people will watch to see what you do with your money. We are not to parade our giving before people to show off how spiritual we are. But as pastors it is important that our people know we don’t just talk about God’s faithfulness, we stake our lives on it. A leader is one who goes first and shows the way. Your people pray because you pray, and showed them the way. They read the Bible because you read the Bible, and showed them the way. And many will only give to the church if you give to the church, and show them the way.

Tithing is a difficult concept for many people, but the basic question is very simple. Am I going to obey God and trust him to fulfill his promises, or not? If I only do the things that make sense to my human intellect, where is faith? Tithing as a means of getting out of financial trouble doesn’t make sense to my brain. But it’s what the Bible says, so I do it. I’ve never known anyone who tried tithing in faith who was not blessed by the experience.

Pastor, you cannot afford not to tithe. You can’t afford it financially, you can’t afford it professionally, and you certainly can’t afford it spiritually. Exactly how you calculate your tithe is something you need to prayerfully take up with God. But as a pastor, you must demonstrate the power of faith. Tithe!

Saving

Some people feel that saving money, especially saving to provide for the needs of old age, shows a lack of faith in God to provide. But Proverbs 6:6-8 tells us to learn from the ants. They store up food in summer to tide them over in winter. Many other Bible passages recommend wisdom and prudence.

God is the source of our security, but he uses earthly means, including savings, as the channel to provide for us. Emergencies can happen to anyone, and old age happens to almost everyone. Unless God clearly instructs you otherwise, always save a portion of your income to provide for yourself and your family in an emergency, or after you are unable to continue working.

Spending

In some traditions pastors take a vow of poverty. In others, pastors feel they should follow extravagant habits to demonstrate the abundance of God’s provision. Most are somewhere in between. It seems to me you raise the fewest questions when your standard of living is about the same as that of most of the people in your church, or perhaps a bit more conservative.

When it comes to specific spending, I have always tried to follow a very simple rule: ask God what he wants me to do. If I prayerfully believe God wants me to buy something, I buy it. If I don’t believe he wants me to buy it, I don’t. Being married, of course, I always seek my wife’s confirmation on these decisions, especially if it’s a decision on which my natural desires might bias my ability to hear clearly from God. Matthew 6:33 promises that if we always seek to please God, he will always take care of us.

Protecting your money

It’s important to have clear boundaries between your personal money and church finances. This can be very difficult if you are starting a church out of your home. Even if your church has a building or other property, many people will assume it belongs to you as pastor. If someone suffers some form of injury or loss related to the church, they may use legal means to try to force you personally to make reparations.

There are two ways to protect yourself from this kind of liability. The first is to make sure the church has appropriate insurance. If coverage designed for churches is not available in your situation, something similar to what is used by other kinds of religious or non-profit organizations, such as schools, may work.

The second way to protect your personal finances from liability is to establish the church as a separate legal entity. In America this is done by a process called incorporation – the same process used to protect the owners of small businesses. If a corporation, including a church, is sued, normally only the assets of the corporation are liable for judgment. The personal money and property of the pastor and other church leaders is protected. Look for something similar for your situation.

Note:

There are only two more parts to this series. Please watch for them as they are published weekly.

 Part 6: Your Sabbath

 Part 7: Your Spirit

Thirty-eight years as a pastor honed Davids passion for helping people connect with God and make a difference. Add a varied church background, a first career in engineering, and graduate degrees from three seminaries (mainstream, Wesleyan-evangelical and charismatic), and you can see why he expresses Gods truth in ways everyone can appreciate.

David earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia; two Masters of Divinity, from Melodyland School of Theology and Wesley Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary. He enjoys the outdoors, writing worship songs with his guitar, and playing sax and flute in jazz and blues jams. His heroes are John Wesley, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

David married his college sweetheart, Paula, in 1974. Their five children are actively serving God in the US and around the world.

You can connect with David on his Email, twitter, Facebook, and Doing Christianity Nonprofit.

CGM Wishes to Thank Memento Media on Unsplash for The Use of Our Feature Photo

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