Jesus’ birth was a gift. His life and ministry were manifestations of giving, starting with the Wedding Feast of Cana. His death was a gift. His heart was pure. Jesus was and is a “Giver.”
In your church plant there are “givers” and there are “takers.” Many times “givers” are “takers” in disguise with impure motives. How can you tell? How can you prevent yourself from being entangled in situations from which you cannot extricate yourself; where the law of unintended consequences takes over? Mistakes of this kind can badly damage your ministry. We have found it helpful to establish a policy regarding the receiving of gifts from our people.
Our first church plant was located 30 miles from our home, so for the first year we commuted. After that, we moved and rented a place in the new area while we waited for my first annual royalty check from “The Fulfilled Woman.” It was our plan to use the money to purchase a house that we had found.
Among the 200 people that came that first year was a very wealthy, intelligent man. He brought along a group of about 20 folks with him. Not understanding the nature of some church transfers, we welcomed them with open arms and no investigation. After all, growth was growth. At 27 years old, having become Christians only 4 years prior, we had no experience with people like this.
This man was a “giver” who gave freely to many folks in the church. He offered to loan us the money so we could purchase the home immediately. It sounded good, but after praying about it we decided against it for a number of reasons. God, in His mercy gave wisdom beyond our experience and education, for while we were waiting my publisher informed us that the year’s royalty payment would be spread out over the next twelve months due to some financial emergency on their part.
Later on, after becoming a major antagonist in the church, he left taking 70 people with him. At the time we were running 300. Our lack of financial entanglement with him proved to be providential. This lesson has stayed with us throughout our entire ministry – nearly 40 years now. We will not use our people in order to benefit personally in any way. Does that mean that no one ever buys us lunch or gives us gifts? Of course they do, for special occasions. Regarding lunch our policy is…one time we are guests, after that we pay our own way.
In a new church you have an opportunity for new beginnings…keep yourself free to serve the true “Giver.” Pro 22:7; Rom 13:8; 1Cor 7:23