As you know, we're about to embark on a very different ministry track in the next few months. As things change one of the areas we've been talking about is how we give and what constitutes giving in these changing circumstances. It would be very easy for us to declare that we can no longer afford to give in the way we have done in the past, and so to reduce our giving to something we consider more manageable.
I hope you feel as uncomfortable about some of those words as we do. We've never wanted our giving to be a matter of affordability or manageability. I remember the quote at the start of RT Kendall's great book on giving that says something like, "When someone says it's not about the money–it's about the money!" We will always keep tat in mind when we work out what to give and how to do it.
The question we face is more mundane in many ways than the simple affordability question. In reality we can spiritualise it by saying things like, "We can't afford not to give," but who wouldn't like a bit extra in their pocket to spend, especially when the mortgage is due and the utility bills are rising? Equally we don't want to become fixated on tithing as the only true measure of our giving. We can so easily fall into the trap of doing the maths and deciding that God must be pleased with us because we hit 10% again this month.
No, our question really revolves around the costs of retraining and the investment in church planting. If I'm doing the training, does that count as part of our giving? There we go again. Another interesting word, "count". It's so forensic, so legal, so accountancy-like, as if everything is reduce able to a measurable amount, a metic of some kind. When did our faith-walk with God become about metrics?
Somewhere along the line we need to rediscover the joy of giving and the sacrifice, but also the joy of life with God. I can't remember how we worked this out last time when i went to college to study theology. I do remember well God's faithfulness to us through those years and how he blessed us in ways we never imagined. And I remember too our friends who struggled. We were no more deserving of God's blessing than they were, but together we shared the blessing.
This time around we have decided that my training is an investment in ministry. We will keep an account of the cost and we will still seek to be generous, but we won't beat ourselves up about numbers. As always we will watch carefully how things unfold and in faith we will look to respond to what we see before us.