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How to Have a Successful Local Church
Dr. Bob Bender, 719-495-4185
Since 1980, by God’s grace and for His glory, I have had the privilege of raising over $35 million as pastor of three churches (with over $2.5 million going to the Cooperative Program) and an additional $7 million for other Baptist causes. C. H. Spurgeon says it for me—“I am beyond measure greedy on behalf of God’s kingdom.” One of the most successful tools the Lord uses to raise stewardship awareness/involvement in the local church is a time of stewardship emphasis—preferably annually.
Jesus saw the need of emphasizing this all-important area of life as He spoke on money more than heaven and hell combined, faith and prayer. If you were to preach through Jesus’ words in the gospels, 15% of what you preach on would center on money/material things and every 6 or 7 weeks you would be preaching on this subject. If we are to preach the whole counsel of God and if we desire to be like our Lord, then our preaching should reflect His values.
Yet there is reluctance by some preachers to address the subject of "stewardship." In my opinion, there are two main reasons why preachers are reticent to preach on money. The first is that they are not completely obedient in the area of money themselves. They have lost their moral authority to preach on financial freedom when they are in financial bondage. Secondly, they fear that preaching on money will alienate some. We dare not go there due in part to the excessive pressures and unbiblical promises of some overly zealous and sometimes greedy television preachers. However, what God’s people want to hear and what they need to hear are sometimes two different things. Paul said that there would come a day (now is that day) when people “will not endure sound doctrine but wanting to have their ears tickled.” (2 Tim. 4:3). People need to be “stretched” and challenged to move forward in their walk with Jesus in every area, particularly with their use of money and material things. .
Consider with me briefly the details of an effective stewardship emphasis. I can promise you great results if you apply this tried and true method in your local church setting. You will even see some results by using some of this information if you are not comfortable with using all of it. If you do not feel this merits an annual emphasis, just try it once; you will be blessed.
What is a Stewardship Emphasis?
A Stewardship Emphasis is a time to climatize your hearers to the subject of stewardship, communicate what God has to say on the subject, and then offer them a time of commitment. We use this time to acclimate our hearers to the value of stewardship and to make them more aware of its importance. We use various means to communicate to them what we deem essential regarding this issue. Finally, we use this time of emphasis as an opportunity for our hearers to take advantage of the challenge given them to make life commitments for that year.
I personally do not use the word stewardship to denote this calendared emphasis because it is so emotionally charged with negative connotations. I use the term Life Commitment Emphasis. We call January our annual Life Commitment Month. I may use the word 'stewardship' in the midst of the emphasis but not to promote it.
In the churches I have pastored, we usually focus on getting our folks to make commitments to the Lord through their church in the following areas: Giving, Serving, Praying, and Sharing (their faith) or the giving of their Time, Talents, Tithes and Testimony (as illustrated in sample Life Commitment Cards).
When is the best time to have a Stewardship Emphasis campaign?
“A wise heart knows the proper time and procedure” (Eccl. 8:5). I believe January is the best time for stewardship emphasis for the following reasons. January is the time when most folks are considering new year commitments. People usually think in terms of days, months, and years as it relates to their commitments, so using the first of a new year seems appropriate. January is usually a slow and uneventful month on the church calendar making it easier to focus on stewardship. January usually immediately follows a church vote on the new budget, so the next obvious step would be to provide motivation to reach the new ministry budget now adopted. We must remember that if your budget is larger, you must begin meeting it the first week of the new fiscal year which is usually the first Sunday of January. January also is the time when we start up the winter/spring church calendar and prepare for a time of fruitfulness in church growth usually occurring between Super Bowl and Mother’s Day (the other time of church growth usually occurring being between Labor Day and Thanksgiving).
The down side of emphasizing life commitments in January (there is a down side of everything this side of heaven) is that it usually follows an emphasis on money in December (world mission offering). You will also have to do some preparation in December which is usually a busy month with the last week or two consisting of a number of days off. Also many are more debt-ridden in January recovering from Christmas (but then again wouldn’t that be an argument for a January stewardship emphasis!) That being said, I still feel that January is the best time to emphasize stewardship by launching an annual Life Commitment campaign.
Why have a Stewardship Emphasis?
A Stewardship Emphasis is biblical. What is the one sermon that Jesus is most noted for? (Answer: Sermon on the Mount.) This sermon is seen by many as a summary of His Kingdom values. It is interesting that 18% of this sermon (by verse count) focuses on money, giving or material things. Jesus emphasized it; so should we. Paul saw fit to address this subject often in his letters—Corinthians and Philippians in particular. The Bible records David’s and Nehemiah’s successful attempts at raising resources to do the Lord’s work. Indeed, the whole of biblical literature is a challenge to us as God’s children to be stewards of what He has given us—time, relationships, money, influence, our bodies, our natural abilities, spiritual gifts, and even our prayers.
A Stewardship Emphasis is practical. This time of focused attention on our responsibilities as God’s children and churches allows us to reflect and respond appropriately. This emphasis allows us to give a concrete response to what the Lord is saying to us regarding growing in our relationship with God and others. A focus on stewardship produces practical lifestyle changes that honor the Lord.
A Stewardship Emphasis is productive. As I said, this approach produces results. One of the ways we change is through making commitments and keeping them. I have never been a part of a stewardship emphasis that did not produce positive results—some more than others, but all were productive. This success is especially true in churches where you have a good number of new members join each year. It brings them on board with the rest of the membership as well as reminding the “old timers” of God’s preferred future for His children and churches. After all, we need more reminding than informing anyway. We have forgotten the value and power of repetition and we must embrace it. A well crafted, communicated and executed stewardship emphasis will result in more people praying, giving, serving and sharing their faith.
This emphasis is also productive in yielding another very important result. I utilize this annual first of the year emphasis to remind our members of our church’s vision statement and core values and speak somewhat to the state of the church. This focus on your church’s vision becomes important as you gain new members. They must be reminded of your church’s uniqueness and vision in order to keep everyone on the same page with you. Your problem is much like mine regarding vision. It’s not that many of your folks don’t have a vision; it is that their vision is not the same as yours and the church’s! Using the first Sunday of the emphasis to get everyone on the same page embracing the same vision will pay great dividends.
Who/what do you need for a successful Stewardship Emphasis?
Obviously you need your paid staff and lay leadership behind you on this. I would meet with them together or separately and explain to them your plans for the emphasis especially if you haven’t led one before. Explain the rationale and key elements and get them to buy in to it and pray for it. You need your leadership on board.
Be sure you have enough money (not much is needed) to produce your materials and promote your emphasis. Most of the expense will be incurred from a banquet (if you have one).
Then you might want to enlist a Life Commitment Director. This would be a man, woman or couple who could stand up in front of the people and be the “poster child” for your emphasis. I use them as I would a layperson in a capital improvement campaign. They can say things you cannot or that you want emphasized with another voice. A sample letter from a director is found on page 10. A good lay leader is invaluable in this endeavor. There are years, however, when I have had a successful emphasis without one and have just led it myself.
Then you need clerical assistance (either paid or volunteer) to produce all the materials needed for the emphasis—letters, commitment cards, promotional materials, and a final tally of results.
If you are going to conclude your emphasis with a banquet (which I would encourage you to do even though it is a lot of work—it pays off), then, of course, you need a planning group to assist you in pulling off a successful banquet. This banquet is merely an opportunity for the church to get together for fun and fellowship. We use the last five minutes or so of the banquet to simply announce the results of our emphasis--numbers of those who committed to participate and whether we met our miracle offering goal. A time of prayer committing the year to the Lord concludes the emphasis.
How do you have a successful Stewardship Emphasis?
The key elements of a stewardship emphasis are (which is the same for any event): pray, plan, promote, execute, and evaluate.
Pray--Begin by asking the Lord to reveal to you the appropriate biblical material and personnel you need to pull it off. Ask for God‘s anointing and wisdom throughout. Seek the Lord for His will regarding the theme for your emphasis. For examples of themes we have used see Life Commitment Cards. Seek the good favor of the Lord upon your efforts and you will succeed.
Plan—There is calendar planning to be done both for the church calendar and for your preaching calendar (see sample calendar). Clear such calendars of any competing events. Be mindful that the Super Bowl occurs at the end of your January emphasis (which technically bleeds over into February) and that sometimes the banquet may be on Valentine’s Day (as it did in 2010). The first Sunday of January--if it is close to New Year’s Day--is basically worthless in being used for a stewardship emphasis as people are still out of pocket, on vacation or still in a holiday mood. By early December at the latest you should be planning for the elements of the emphasis and enlisting whatever assistance you need. Ninety per cent of the success of any endeavor is due to good planning and much praying.
The key elements are:
(1) Use several Sundays in January to preach your life commitment messages emphasizing your theme and use testimonies and even Sunday School lessons on stewardship if desired. See sample themes and life message titles/texts/theses (complete printed messages available upon request).
(2) The last Sunday in January should be your Life Commitment Sunday when the folks turn in their commitment cards. It is advisable to have them in the bulletin at least one week in advance of that Sunday to get the folks used to seeing the card and prepared to fill it out so as not to have to wait until the last minute to do so. Plan on some of your folks turning in their commitment cards the Sundays before and after. We basically use the same card each year, just changing the wording to reflect that year’s theme (see Life Commitments).
(3) The first Sunday in February should be the Sunday to have your Miracle Budget Offering. Using the first Sunday of the month is highly advisable to maximize the first Sunday gifts you normally receive. Be sure to set a goal that is challenging but reachable. If you err, err on the low side, because the goal itself isn’t going to cause people to give or not to give. What this offering does is to give your new budget a jump start with more cash flow to use to meet your budgeted needs which normally are more than the year before. You will see the value in this the more you do it. Also reaching your goal gives a “win” under you and your church’s belt. I emphasize giving to the budgeted ministries of the church because that is the “bread and butter” of what a church does.
(4) The concluding banquet is usually planned for the second Sunday evening in February. We have used various themes—50’s; Hawaiian; Cowboy; Formal—anything fun.
Promote—Use your bulletin, newsletter, website, letters, Sunday School classes and verbal announcements to effectively communicate what you are trying to do. It is important to keep the Life Commitment Sunday date and Miracle Offering date before them during the emphasis because it will come down fast (see sample promotion letter).
Execute—Now you simply execute the plans you have made being sensitive to any mid-course directional changes you need to make as you proceed. Obviously, execution is the most important element of the whole deal—pulling it off with excellence and spirituality.
Evaluate—After you have concluded your emphasis it is always a good idea to evaluate its success using others to assist you in assessing its effectiveness. Ultimately the success will be dictated by the results you see throughout the year. Hopefully you will see an increased number of participants in financial giving, serving, sharing their faith and praying—key elements to our growth in Christlikeness.
The ultimate goal of such a Life Commitment Emphasis is the same as any endeavor--to bring glory to God. “To God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:21). May the Lord bless your plans with His power and presence producing results that please Him.
My 2009 FBCBF Life Commitments
(Please check all that apply)
_____ Believing now is the time to serve, I will faithfully use my talents in 2009 to serve my Lord through FBCBF in the area(s) I have checked (please see reverse side below).
_____ Believing now is the time to give, I will faithfully use at least my tithe (10%) in 2009 to support the budgeted ministries of FBCBF.
_____ Believing now is the time to pray, I will faithfully use my time in 2009 pray for FBCBF daily.
_____ Believing now is the time to share, I will faithfully tell my faith story in 2009 as the Lord gives me opportunity (please check FAITH Ministry on reverse side (below) if applicable).
“So the Lord stirred up the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and
worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God” (Haggai 1:14)
Please check all that apply:
___ Men’s Ministry ___ Women’s Ministry ___ Singles ___ College & Career
___ Youth ___ Children’s/ ___ Preschool ___ Media Support
___ Home Bible Study ___ FAITH Ministry ___ Drama ___ Mission Trips
___ Music/Worship ___ Ushers ___ Properties ___ Safety Team
___ Parking ___ Greeters ___ Office Receptionist/ Work
___ Other (please explain) ______________________________________________________________
“INVESTING IN ETERNITY”
My 2010 FBCBF Life Commitments
(Please check all that apply)
_____ I will invest in eternity in 2010 by investing my talents to serve my Lord through FBCBF in the area(s) I have checked. (see reverse side--above).
_____ I will invest in eternity in 2010 by investing my tithes (10%) to support the budgeted ministries of FBCBF.
_____ I will invest in eternity in 2010 by investing my time to pray for FBCBF regularly.
_____ I will invest in eternity in 2010 by investing my testimony faithfully telling myfaith story as the Lord gives me opportunity (please check FAITH Ministry on reverse side if applicable).
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:20-21)
This is the Day--Micah 7:11-15
This is the Day for Building Your Walls Micah 7:11
This is the Day for Extending Your Boundary Micah 7:11; I Thess. 1:3
This is the Day When They Will Come to You Micah 7:12; Eph. 2:19-22
This is the Day of Shepherding my People Micah 7:14; I Thess. 5:13-14
This is the Day I will Show You Miracles Micah 7:15
Yes, Lord! Making His Name Glorious--Isaiah 26:8
Yes, Lord! (Glorifying God in My Life) Isaiah 43:7; Is. 43:7
Yes, Lord! (Glorifying God in My Church) Isaiah 26:8; Eph.3:20-21
Yes, Lord! (Glorifying God in My Giving) Isaiah 26:8; 2 Cor. 9:12-12
Miracle of Ministries Mt. 15:32-39
Mandate for Ministry Mt. 20:29-34
Materialism’s Subtle Stronghold Mt. 19:16-30
Discovering the Grace of Giving--2 Corinthians 9:8
Discovering the Grace of Giving Ourselves Romans 6
Discovering the Grace of Giving our Resources I Cor. 16:1-4
Discovering the Blessings of Grace Giving II Cor. 9:6-15
Now is the Time—Haggai
Now it the Time To Reflect Haggai 1:1-12
Now is the Time To Renew Haggai 1:12-15
Now is the Time To Rebuild Haggai 2:1-9
Now is the Time to Return Haggai 2:10-19
Now is the Time to Rejoice Haggai 2:20-23
From Vision to Victory
Casting the Vision for our Church Selected Passages
Claiming the Vision of our Church “
Committed to the Vision of our Church “
Memories of Past Visions Joshua 4
Visions of the Present Ezekiel 12:21-28
Visions of the Future Romans 4; Jer. 29
Claiming the Vision through Giving Mark 12:14-15
The Vision Claims Us 2 Cor. 9:6-15
From Antioch to FBCBF: The Grace Place--Acts 11:19-30
FBCBF: The Grace Place (Changeability) “
FBCBF: The Grace Place (Accountability) “
FBCBF: The Grace Place (Charity) “
FBCBF: The Grace Place (Generosity) “
2010 LIFE COMMITMENT MESSAGE OUTLINES
THEME: “Investing In Eternity”
Fattening Your Investment Portfolio--Matthew 6:19-21
Thesis: We fatten our investment portfolio through financial freedom.
I. Your investment portfolio should reflect Jesus’ prohibition (v. 19).
II. Your investment portfolio should reflect Jesus’ proposal (v. 20).
III. Your investment portfolio then reflects Jesus’ principle (vv. 21, 24).
Preparing for Eternity--Matthew 25:1-13
Thesis: We must be preparing for eternity now.
I. Prepare for eternity by possessing the oil of salvation.
II. Prepare for eternity by possessing the oil of sanctification.
III. Prepare for eternity by possessing the oil of service.
Take the Risk--Invest--Mathew 25:14-30
Thesis: We are to risk what God has entrusted to us by investing it in eternity.
I. Take the Risk—invest to avoid the Lord’s condemnation of wickedness (v. 26).
II. Take the Risk—invest to avoid the Lord’s condemnation of laziness (v. 26).
III. Take the Risk—invest to avoid the Lord’s condemnation of worthlessness (v. 30).
IV. Take the Risk—invest to enjoy the Lord’s commendation of faithfulness (vv. 21, 23).
On Trail for Your Life--Matthew 25:31-46
Thesis: You can tell whether you are a sheep by how you treat others, especially the least of humanity.
I. The Trial
II. The Judge
III. The Defendants
IV. The Verdict
V. The Standard of Judgment
It’s Your Serve--Matthew 26:1-13
Thesis (see development through the structure below)
I. Service is doing what you can do . . .
II. With what you have . . .
III. In meeting needs . . .
IV. Out of love for Jesus . . .
V. While there is still time.
A Love Offering To Jesus--Matthew 26:1-13; John 12:1-8
Thesis: Love gives.
I. Notice Mary’s offering of love
II. Notice Judas’ attitude of selfishness
III. Notice Jesus’ answer of approval.
IV. Notice our love offering of obedience:
Given thankfully Given resourcefully Given lovingly Given boldly
Given humbly Given sacrificially Given purposefully Given timely
Theme: “FBCBF: A Place of Grace”
Objective: To challenge and encourage our members to commit to give their time, talents, and treasures (specifically 10% of their income to the budget of FBCBF) in 2006.
App. 1/1/06—Church paper arrives with Stewardship Campaign on front and in Pastor’s article
App. 1/3/06—Intro letter from Ron/Vickie to church membership; re: campaign overview
App. 1/10/06—Second letter from Gibsons to membership including commitment card
App. 1/9/06—Banquet Planning Team meets to begin planning 2/12/06 Banquet
January Sundays’ Life Messages--FBCBF: A Place of Grace
1/11/06—From Antioch to FBCBF: The Grace Place; Ron/Vickie announce campaign
1/8/06—FBCBF: The Grace Place (Changeability); Ron/Vickie Testimony
1/15/06—FBCBF: The Grace Place (Accountability)
1/22/06—FBCBF: The Grace Place (Charity)
1/29/06—Commitment Sunday--FBCBF: The Grace Place (Generosity)
2/12/06 (6:00 pm)—A Place of Grace Stewardship Banquet (details below)
Sunday School Lesson(s)—Adult LIFE Groups—1/22 &1/29
Sunday, January 29—Grace Commitment Sunday (Commitment Cards Received)
Sunday, February 5--Super Grace Sunday
Super Grace Offering--Goal: $30,000 Budget Offering
Super Grace Message--”Proclaiming GRACE through FAITH”
Sunday, February 12, 6:00 pm—”A Place of Grace” Stewardship Banquet
Campaign results announced by campaign directors—Ron and Vickie Gibson
FBCBF New Building Western Theme “More Fun Than Christians Ought to Have!”
Campaign Verse: “We appeal to you not to accept the grace of God without using it.”—2 Corinthians 6:1
January 3, 2006
Dear First Baptist Black Forest Friends,
Happy New Year! 2005 brought us many blessings including our new church building. 2006 has so much in store for our church and we are excited about this year. Our ministries continue to grow and each week more are joining. This year there will be many opportunities for us and we will be challenged. Our first response to these challenges is for each of us to be involved in our current 2006 Stewardship Campaign.
This year’s campaign theme is FBCBF: A Place of Grace. Our campaign verse, 2 Corinthians 6:1, says “We appeal to you NOT to accept the grace of God without using it.” This verse talks about working together. God has graced us with our time, our talents and our tithes. Working together we can use His grace to make a significant impact in Colorado Springs and throughout the World. As our campaign verse says, don’t accept His grace without using it. What will you do with His grace in 2006?
Our campaign continues throughout January and into early February.
January’s Life Messages — FBCBF: A Place of Grace
Testimonies each Sunday.
Life Group Lessons in late January.
Sunday, January29 — Grace Commitment Sunday
Turn in Commitment Cards
Sunday, February 5— Super Grace Sunday
Super Offering — Goal: $30,000 Budget Offering
Super Sermon — “Proclaiming GRACE through FAITH” by Dr. David Cox
Sunday, February 12— Grace Stewardship Banquet
Big Time fun at FBCBF, Western Theme (go get that new Cowboy hat)
“More Fun than Christians Ought to Have!”
Our campaign goal is for every FBCBF member to give of our time, talents and treasures — specifically a tithe (10%) of our income to the ministry budget of FBCBF.
Join us in exceeding our goals together. We are looking forward to working with you in these exciting days in the life of our church.
James and Mary Smith, Campaign Directors