Monday, July 16, 2012

We're Not Doing Church RIGHT Anymore

Impromptu theo-sophical conversations at church on Sundays.  They are really one of the MANY reasons I look forward to "cresting the Ridge" every Sunday morning.  I know that my daughters look forward to absconding with "Mr. Steve" to get a popsicle (the breakfast of champions), which is generally washed down by donut holes.  I know that my wife sincerely cherishes every moment she is allowed to serve on the Worship Team.  And, of course, so do I.

Then again, on those weeks when I'm not serving on the Worship Team, and I'm standing behind the Hospitality Desk (or sitting and drinking coffee would probably be more accurate), I find that I often become engaged in some pretty hefty discussions of a practical spiritual nature.

And this week was absolutely no different.  My friend, Randy and I were discussing how much the modern American church just "doesn't get it" anymore (Randy probably won't read this for another two and a half weeks, since he's on a "media fast" during the month of July).  No, I'm not talking about evangelism or discipleship (although we tend to do very poorly with the latter of the two).  I'm talking about our actual mission in today's society.

It seems to me that we get wrapped up in the most absurd things, and it steals our focus from the things in which we should be engaged.  We get all up in arms about social policy, and argue till we're blue in the collective face, but nothing comes of it.

But one social policy has come up recently that should literally make us hang our heads in shame:  The Affordable Health Care Act.  I'm not here to sermonize regarding whether or not it is a good idea.  But what I am here to talk about is how much of a "gut punch" this should be to true believers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Greatest Commandments

What did Jesus say was our most important commandments?  Let's take a look at Matthew 22:36-40 for the answer:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So did you catch that?  Obviously, loving God with everything we have is the first commandment, but the second is "Love your neighbor as yourself".

Guess what?  The modern American body of Christ in general is doing an awful job of loving our neighbors.  If we truly loved our neighbors as ourselves, we might find the following things happening:

  • You might see less people begging for change on the corner of every major interchange of every city in America.  Why?  Because the local churches would be housing and feeding them.  They might even be getting treatment for any substance abuse problem they might have, also through the local church.
  • You might find fewer people declaring medical bankruptcy, as the local church would collect funds to help with medical bills.
  • You might find less neglected senior citizens, as the local church would be offering time and money to help the elderly among us who might have needs they are simply too proud to talk about.
  • You might see foreclosure rates drop, as the local church would offer resources to prevent those in desperate situations from losing their homes.
Let me tell you what we see instead.

  • We see poor people begging everywhere because we've left their care and welfare to social programs run by the government, which never have enough money or personnel to see to the needs of everyone who needs it.
  • We see the federal government trying to intervene in a monumental way to "fix" the American healthcare system.
  • We hear stories of retirees who, even though they collect Social Security from the government, still don't have enough money to live on, and are forced to make seemingly inhuman cuts to their living situations.
  • You see ham-fisted programs from the federal government to help beleaguered homeowners.
You see, the federal government has been left to do what we in the church should be doing.  We should be providing for the needs of the homeless and poor.  We should be providing for those who can't afford medical treatment.  We should be out in our local towns and cities offering assistance to the elderly.  We should be using our combined resources to help homeowners in dire straits.

Jesus called us to love our neighbors and to serve "the least of these".  After all, His life was a life of service, even service to us in His death.

So, where have we failed?

  1. We've failed in our giving of money.  According to a Christianity Today study, 247 million people in America claim to be Christians.  That number is ridiculous beyond imagination, since a great number of those are probably people who claim to be Christian, but do so only because they attend church once or twice a year, but who otherwise have no concept of what it means to follow Christ.  However, let's assume that 30 million households are true Christ-followers.  The average household income in the US as of the last quarter of 2011 is right around $50,000.  If every Christian household tithed on their income, the American body of Christ as a whole would have $150 BILLION.  Realizing some of that has to go towards paying pastors and staff and funding other local ministries in the church, let's say that HALF of that was left over to fund the above-mentioned initiatives.  Really, don't you think $75 BILLION EVERY SINGLE YEAR might be enough to radically change the face of poverty, hunger, homelessness and medical bankruptcy in America?
  2. We've failed in our giving of time.  Even though money is a highly sought after resources, especially in today's economy, we should never underestimate the value of our time.  As Christ-followers, we should be willing to sacrifice our time for others.  We should seek to serve others by giving of our free time to those who truly have needs to which we can minister.  Instead, we find ourselves "hoarding" our free time under the auspices of "deserved relaxation".  I'm not saying that a little earned rest is a bad thing.  What I'm speaking of is the systemic and consistent willful ignorance of the needs around us as we tend to our own wants and fritter away our time on ourselves.
  3. We've failed in even CARING.  Have you ever found yourself driving by one of those hand-written-sign-wielding people on the corner and just shrugged thinking "What can I do?".  First of all, that question is always posed as an internal exercise in rhetoric, but in reality, the answer to that question is a mile long.  The real problem?  We just don't care.  Is it possible that the person would take any money you gave them and spend it on booze?  Of course.  Did you take the time to find out more about their situation?
How can we fix it?

There is no panacea, no magic bullet, that will solve this problem.  Every individual has their own struggle and their own weakness when it comes to serving their fellow man.  But I think it starts with point #3 above.  We actually have to care.  And, if honestly examine yourself and find that you don't care, then you really need to spend some time examining your relationship with Christ, who made it His mission on earth (aside from dying on the cross) to serve everyone (who was willing to be served).

And it's time for churches in general to stop worrying about growth and numbers and start worrying about meeting needs.  If we stopped looking to the next enormous building project and started looking to the next great humanitarian project in our community, things would change.  It's time to stop thinking about outreach in terms of knocking on doors to invite people to church and start thinking about outreach in terms of humbly serving the community.  If we, in the church, conduct ourselves with humility and a willingness to get our hands dirty for the betterment of those in our community who are in need, we won't be able to stop the influx of new people darkening our doors to "check out what's going on with that church".

I'm pretty sure, at the end of everything, when we stand before the Lord God Almighty on Judgment Day, we are not going to hear Him say, "Oh, by the way, great job on that enormous arena you built for your Sunday services.  That was a great use of resources."

Jesse S. Greever is the CEO of eLectio Publishing, a digital publisher for Christian authors.  If you are a Christian author and have a manuscript that you think is worthy of publication, check out the submission guidelines and follow the directions for manuscript submissions.

Greever is also a co-author of the book, Learning to Give in a Getting World, and numerous fiction titles from Untreed Reads publishing.
You can become a fan of eLectio Publishing on FaceBook:
You can follow eLectio Publishing on Twitter (@eLectioPubs):!/eLectioPubs

Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:

CreateSpace (paperback, $9.99) (paperback, $9.99; eBook, $2.99) 

Directly from eLectio Publishing (eBook $2.99 in ALL formats for one price)

Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.

You can also become a fan of the book at

Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So, Do Health & Wealth Preachers Want You to Go to Hell?

I know this topic has been covered by some of the greatest writers and most eloquent speakers, but I just have to ponder the sheer absurdity of the Prosperity Gospel.  In the DFW area, I'm surrounded by churches, many of which are truly wonderful gatherings of believers, who truly desire to worship and serve.  But, then there are those...

That's right.  You know what I'm talking about.  The "Health & Wealth" churches.  Those "plant your seed of faith" churches that want you to somehow believe that God is some sort of cosmic mutual fund with dividends and returns in the 10,000% range.  Those "feel-good, ear-tickling" churches that want you to think that the greater your faith, the more car and house you can afford.

Of course, this is all complete nonsense.  There isn't a single verse in the Bible, when read in its appropriate context, that indicates that God's plan for His people is fabulous wealth (this side of Heaven, at least).  But, I think there is something even more invidious about these charlatans that present themselves as preachers of The Word.  Let's look at Mark 10:17-27.

17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 19 You know the commandments:
Do not murder;
do not commit adultery;
do not steal;
do not bear false witness;
do not defraud;
honor your father and mother. 
20 He said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”
21 Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 So they were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.” (HCSB)

So what part of this passage of Jesus's own words indicate that it is part of God's grand plan for His faithful followers to amass great worldly wealth?  It would almost seem to me that "Health & Wealth" ministers, in fact, want their followers to have an even more difficult time entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  Or, to put it another way, these purveyors of the Prosperity Gospel want to increase the probability that their followers end up enduring an Eternity of Hell.

All right, maybe that's a bit extreme, but in effect, if you believe the above passage to be true, you have to wonder what kind of enormous disservice they are doing to their congregations.

Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:

CreateSpace (paperback, $9.99) (paperback, $9.99; eBook, $2.99) 

Directly from eLectio Publishing (eBook $2.99 in ALL formats for one price)

Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.

You can also become a fan of the book at

Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Opportunity Cost for Disobedience

When I was in elementary school, we had this really incredible field trip to an educational facility called Exchange City.  Exchange City is this brilliant place where school-age children occupy a "city" and take on the challenges of adult life (working, personal economics, ethics, work-life balance, etc).  When I was (I think) in Fifth Grade, I had the privilege of attending a day there, and learned a great deal about how the world works.

Before any child goes to Exchange City, they generally go through a curriculum that teaches them various concepts they will need to function effectively during their day there.  I remember learning about how to balance a checkbook, how to budget and other personal finance concepts.  One of the learning modules I remember clearly dealt with the concept of "The Opportunity Cost".  I could go into a sprawling explanation of Opportunity Cost (wikipedia has a great article on it HERE), but a quick example should suffice.

You have $100 cash in your pocket.  You are faced with a decision.  It was just announced that the complete series of Seinfeld was on sale for one day only at Amazon for $100 (don't go looking...this is just an example).  On the other hand, you could take that $100 and spend it on a lovely date-night meal and movie with your spouse.  Whichever option you do not choose is the opportunity cost.  If you choose to buy the Seinfeld complete series, then the opportunity cost was the date night with your spouse.

(By the way, if you are ever faced with this exact scenario, I hope I don't need to tell you that the wiser choice is the date night.  Just sayin'.)

Well, opportunity cost does not just relate to money.  You can count opportunity costs in terms of time spent (for example, a choice between using an hour to go workout at the gym or using that hour to watch an episode of Fringe).  There are innumerable ways to figure opportunity costs.

What about your giving?  Sure, you can figure out what you have to give up in order to tithe or give over and above the tithe, but that's not really what I'm talking about.  The point I'm trying to relate in this post is this:  there is an opportunity cost when you decide not to give to God.

Let me give you a very concrete example.  Our church is about to put on Vacation Bible School, and invariably, among the 400 - 500 children who attend each year, there are a dozen or so who come to accept Christ during that week.  Vacation Bible School is offered each year because of the giving of our church membership.  But what would happen if the giving fell off, and we were no longer able to offer Vacation Bible School?  Would the eternal destiny of the dozen or so children who would have accepted salvation be irreversibly changed?  Not necessarily.  There may be other opportunities for them to come to know Christ as their personal savior.  But how can you be sure?  How can you be certain that one of those children might have had their only opportunity during Vacation Bible School?

Are you willing to live with that opportunity cost?

This week, as you think about giving to God, be aware that there is a cost for disobedience, and it may have nothing to do with you personally.  But, it may be someone else's eternal destiny.  Whatever it is you are thinking about diverting that money towards (instead of the tithe or offering), stack that up against the opportunity cost of a soul saved.

Does that change your perspective at all?

Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:

CreateSpace (paperback, $9.99) (paperback, $9.99; eBook, $2.99) 

Directly from eLectio Publishing (eBook $2.99 in ALL formats for one price)

Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.

You can also become a fan of the book at

Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Interview with Mark Brooks, CEO of The Charis Group

Encouraging believers to practice generous, Godly stewardship is tough.  And most pastors in America don't like talking about giving, much less rebuking disobedience and encouraging more sacrifices on the part of the church members.  And yet, that is what God calls us to:  generous, cheerful giving.

What many churches don't consider are consulting firms that can help with many aspects of encouraging faithful stewardship.  One of those is The Charis Group, headed up by Mark Brooks.  Mark has an impressive pedigree, having worked with John Maxwell at his INJOY.  Following that, he felt a great burden for helping church leaders realize budgetary goals (both in annual operating expenses and large capital campaigns), and so he founded The Charis Group, which offers "stewardship consulting" for churches looking to increase the charitable giving of their congregations.

In his latest book, The Top Ten Stewardship Mistakes Churches Make (available at Amazon), he outlines ten common errors made by church leaders in promoting stewardship within their respective churches.  Concise, yet profoundly impactful, Brooks "hits the nail on the head" and offers practical advice for ministers and administrators to pull themselves out of the death spiral many find themselves in financially.

I've had the privilege of having an online conversation with Mark after reading his book, and the transcript of that interview/conversation appears below.  I hope it blesses you!

Jesse Greever:  First of all, let me just express my gratitude for taking the time to share some of your wisdom regarding stewardship in the modern body of Christ.  In your book, The Top Ten Stewardship Mistakes Churches Make, you present some compelling arguments that the recession may not necessarily be the root cause of the shortfalls in giving.  I’ll just jump right into the thick of it:  do you think that some (but certainly not all) givers in the church are using the recession as a rationalization for cutting back on tithes and offerings?

Mark Brooks:  Frankly, there have not been any studies that I have seen that has tracked this.  Most of what we see is surveys which are based on opinions and emotions, not facts.  So, the most we can do is guess at this.  However, I do think giving to God through the local church is the first thing many people cut back on.  The basic problem here is one of spiritual maturity.  Spiritually mature believers understand that the tithe is so important that they would not fail to give it.

What people also fail to realize is that we need God’s blessing especially during economically challenging times.  Failing to be obedient in your giving causes you to miss out on some of the greatest promises of God’s blessings.

JG:  Throughout your book, you refer to most stewardship methods used in churches as woefully behind the times.  This is particularly troubling as a vast number of churches are having trouble motivating their younger members to give faithfully.  So many churches have been willing to alter their worship strategies (music, more casual environments) to cater to younger generations.  Why do you think it is such a huge leap to tailor stewardship programs to people in the “Under 40” bracket?

MB:  Sadly, we in the church lag behind in so many things.  Change is simply difficult for churches.  We tend to think that change somehow dilutes the Gospel.  However the change I talk about is not theological but practical.  It is simply a truth that the world of commerce is changing whether I like it or not.  How many checks do we write these days?  So, churches must change as society changes.

I firmly believe that we must continue to preach and teach stewardship to this next generation of Christians.  However, at the same time we have to realize that this generation does commerce completely different from their parents and grandparents.  Most of them are never out of reach of their smart phones.  They are online and electronic everything they do.  As a result, to make it easy for them to give we need to have giving portals allowing them to give as they normally spend money, online and with their smart phones.  The easier we make it for the younger generation to give the more likely they will start giving.

JG:  In many churches I’ve attended, there is always this tip-toe dance around the older generation any time new technology is introduced at the church.  In fact, I remember one particular situation when many of the long-time church members became upset when a screen was installed in the sanctuary to project song lyrics and Scriptures (even though they were more than welcome to use a hymnal and open their own Bibles).  When you are consulting with a church on updating their giving methodology, even in light of maintaining the traditional offering, do you have a strategy for avoiding that feeling of alienation especially amongst a demographic that is generally strong in faithful stewardship?

MB:  It is funny that you should mention screen being installed for worship.  I am old enough that I remember when we did that.  You would have thought we ripped a page out of the Bible.  However, after time I noticed even the Senior Adults were looking up reading the words not looking at the hymnal.

I think the main point is that we should never let any segment of our church determine what we feel a needed and correct path of action.  I do think however that a key here is to emphasize that we are not doing away with traditional means of giving.  I am, and will always be, a huge supporter of passing the offering plate.  Some will always give that way and there is no reason to discontinue its use. 

I think the key for getting all members on board is simply to educate them on why you are implementing new technology into the giving process.  When people learn that your overall goal is to increase both the amount of giving and the number of active givers they will readily support that process even if they themselves do not use it.  Frankly, many of those that might oppose new means of giving utilize this technology in some manner themselves.  Again, whether we like it or not our society is moving towards a much more digital footprint.  All of us are adapting just as we adapted to moving away from the horse and buggy to the car.

JG:  You state in your book that one of the effective ways to motivate people in casting a vision for future projects is to “trumpet your wins” and past successes when asking church members to participate in any sort of giving campaign.  Most pastors I know would struggle with this, afraid that touting past accomplishments might sound a bit boastful.  How do you counsel pastors who might also have the same hesitation?

MB:  First, I am not suggesting that we boast about our own accomplishments but in what God has allowed us to accomplish.  All the credit belongs to Him and we should always remember that we labor in vain unless the Lord builds the house.

What I am saying is that we rarely tend to help our people see the positive return their gifts accomplish.  Helping people see that their gifts make a difference and that they matter increases my willingness to give over and above.  The tithe I believe belongs to the Lord and I give out of obedience.  Additional gifts are given as I am moved but frankly I am often moved by compelling stories.  Studies show that people give to causes that they not only believe in but that they see are accomplishing much.  So, celebrating your wins, in Jesus name, is one way to make giving easier and in a sense fun.

JG:  Very well put.  Shifting gears a bit, if you had to name the single most common mistake churches make when putting together their annual budgets, what would that be and why?

MB:  I am afraid I could not name one single most common mistake as several are often made concurrently!  However, as I state in my book, I do believe that "the disconnected pastor" is the biggest pitfall.  Too many pastors do not see stewardship as their responsibility or they simply do not feel qualified to handle stewardship issues.  What results is that churches fail to develop a plan of action.  That leads to other mistakes. It is similar to lining up dominoes and then pushing the first over.  It stands to reason that all the other dominoes will fall when the first one falls.  A disconnected pastor leads to other stewardship mistakes and a domino effect.

JG:  I’ve often looked at major capital campaigns that have failed and wondered to myself, “If it failed, was it ordained by God?”  What are your thoughts on this?

MB:  I use to say, “I trust God; it is people I wonder about!”  We should never base whether or not something was ordained by God by the response of people.  For instance, I might preach an evangelistic sermon because I felt led by God.  If no one comes forward did I miss God or did the people miss God?

I don’t want to over-simplify your question, but first I think we have to determine what is success or failure in terms of a capital campaign.  In my book I have a whole chapter on unrealistic expectations.  My experience is that many of the “failures” churches experience are due to unrealistic expectations.

I do believe, though, that campaigns can fail because of mistakes made by the leadership.  Sometimes the mistake is an unresolved issue in the past, and other times the project fails as a result of poor planning.  At even other times the vision is not clear or compelling.  Also, sadly, some pastors have simply burned so many bridges that people refuse to support a capital campaign.  It is my experience that church members see capital campaigns as an optional opportunity to give.  Thus, they might continue to tithe to the church but refuse to give for whatever reason to a campaign. 

JG:  That’s funny.  Many times I say to my wife, “Church would be perfect if it weren’t for all the people!”.  One of the delicate issues that you tackle in your book is the idea of segmenting donors.  This would include the pastor inviting high-capacity givers to lunch to discuss campaign details personally.  I will admit when I first read that, my mind immediately went to James Chapter 2, and I was delighted when you addressed that issue with compelling clarity a few paragraphs later.  That being said, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that lower-capacity givers might still feel slighted.  What are your suggestions for making sure that people don’t see donor segmentation as donor segregation?

MB:   This is perhaps one of the most difficult and delicate matters a connected stewardship pastor faces.  The reality is that the few give the majority of the dollars.  However, we are to treat all donors equally in terms of the value we put on their gift.  At the same time pastors need to realize that those with the ability to give significantly have a different set of questions and concerns that need to be addressed.

The key to handling this properly is the heart and attitude of the pastor.  If he has a pure heart then I find it rarely is an issue.  Frankly most pastors spend so much time with all their members that it really is not an issue.  I don’t track who my pastor eats lunch with nor do I mind.  I don’t feel slighted if I hear he took someone from my Sunday School class to lunch and not me.  Part of my lack of concern there is that when I am in the presence of my pastor he makes me feel that I have his attention.

I have never met a pastor yet that will look at a member's giving record before he will visit them in the hospital.  My advice to pastors is to not make a big deal out of meeting with top end donors.  Balance it out and meet with more than just that group.  The key, especially in a capital campaign is to communicate with as many people as possible in a venue that best helps them catch the vision.

JG:  Changing gears yet again.  At a certain point in your book, you hit on a topic that I feel very passionately about.   In describing giving as a necessary spiritual part of discipleship for all believers, you allude to the fact that many churches are VERY good at evangelism, but poor at discipleship.  And when I look at this fact, I think of things like Multi-Level Marketing companies, who thrive on the concept of geometric progression to build an enormous organization of direct sellers who seek to replicate their own experiences with new recruits.  If I can ask you to wax “theosophical” for a moment, why do you think that the church has a hard time duplicating disciples and companies like Amway seem to have no trouble with this concept of duplication?

MB:  I am not sure how “theosophical” I can be.  I think that discipleship is simply not an easy thing for many to grasp.  Part of the fault is with churches that simply downplay discipleship.  The other part I think is that being a disciple involves sacrifice and commitment, and that is something that is difficult for many not only to grasp but to adhere to.  For companies like Amway the benefits of duplication are seen immediately.  With Christianity the “benefits” are often unknown this side of eternity.  So, when people cannot immediately see results, they often discount or are not interested in.

JG:  That’s an interesting perspective.  I think this fleshly desire for immediate gratification is perhaps getting even worse as our society continues to hurtle towards a model of everything being “immediate”.  So, how do you think church leaders and lay leaders overcome this lack of discipline when motivating church members to give, whether it’s general giving (tithes and offerings to the operating budget) or large capital campaigns?

MB:  First, the Senior Pastor has to get over his fear of talking about money.  Many churches spend more time telling people that they do not have to give than they do challenging them to give.  The Red Cross talks a lot about money and no one complains because they know the money goes to a good cause.  The church needs to tell its story of all that we do with the money we get.  Then people will more willingly give.

Secondly, we simply need to pass the plate.  One fallacy of the Contemporary Church Movement was to devalue the offering.  The feelings were that taking up an offering would drive people away.  That is far from the truth.

I go to Andy Stanley’s church that is one of the largest churches in America Week after week they take up an offering and the church continues to grow at an explosive rate.  If you set the stage well for the offering, even guests will put in money!

JG:  Finally, since you are the CEO of The Charis Group, I want to give you the opportunity to tell our readers what you do and how you can help them with their stewardship campaigns.

MB:  We state simply that our mission is to help churches raise more money so that they can do more ministry!  Our focus is on making giving easy and fun.  When it comes to stewardship and the church, we basically do it all.  For instance, more and more of our work is simply coaching pastors and key leaders towards increasing giving in their church.  We have basically become the Minister of Stewardship for many churches.  We have just launched Charis Giving Solutions that provides apps, Mobile websites and online giving set up for churches.  As always we do capital campaigns for those churches that need to raise capital dollars for either debt reduction or new facilities.  So, basically we attempt to provide all the stewardship help a church might need. 

Thanks Jesse for this opportunity not only to share my thoughts on stewardship but also to share about our company The Charis Group!

A prolific writer, Mark has written four books, The Top Ten Stewardship Mistakes Churches Make, Turbo Charge Your Giving, Stewardship Myths and Recession Proof Your Offerings.  In addition to his four print books, he has also written several e-books.  He also writes a monthly online column for Christian ministry leaders entitled, “The Stewardship Coach”.  The columns focus is on the current trends impacting leaders today and gives practical advice on how to solve them.  He also maintains a blog by the same title.

As the founding partner and president of The Charis Group, Mark Brooks brings not only a rich background of ministry experience but also years of successfully helping Christian ministries raise funds for capital projects.  With creative, outside-the-box thinking Mark has helped scores of ministries achieve maximum financial and spiritual results.

Learning to Give in a Getting World
, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:

CreateSpace (paperback, $9.99) (paperback, $9.99; eBook, $2.99) 

It is also available to Amazon Prime members as a free eBook download as a part of the Kindle Lending Library.  Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.

You can also become a fan of the book at

Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Gift of Giving (and the Excuse it SEEMS to Provide)

Sometimes I read through the weekly report of giving at our church, and it makes me smile.  When we constantly rise above the needs of the church (maintenance, staff payroll, regular ministry costs, etc), it indicates to me that a large number of people who are members or regular attenders are heeding God's plea with them to honor Him with their financial resources.  It says to me that (for that week at least), CrossRidge Church members are putting God's Will before their own fleshly desires.

And then there are other weeks, like the most recent week, when I look at the weekly report of giving, and my heart sinks.  Last week, our giving was off by more than 40%.  In fact, for the entire year, we are something like $60,000 behind cumulatively, and this is only the end of May.  With the most expensive months of the year coming up (summer electric bills, Vacation Bible School, multiple foreign mission trips, camps, etc), there are some pretty serious issues if we do not figure out how to pick up the slack.

Well, really, there's nothing to figure out.  It's pretty clear.  While I know that there are many families in the church who are faithfully answering God's call to responsible stewardship, with nearly 400 households in the church that represent the core of the regular members and regular attenders, it is clear that many of these households are completely missing the mark when it comes to giving God's way.

Let me throw a couple of pieces of info at you:

  • According to 2009 statistics, the top 25% of wage-earners in the US paid a total of 87% of the total taxes paid for the year.
  • In any organization, it is often said that 20% of the people take care of 80% of the workload and the other 80% fill in the other 20%.  In other words, there are those who do MORE than their fair share of the work, and then there are others who skate along and expend little effort, knowing that the hard workers in the organization will fill in the gaps.
Is this what the church has become?  Have we gotten to the point where many rely on the few to take care of the church in a financial sense?  Do 20% of the givers in the church take care of 80% of the financial burden of supporting God's ministries?  Do the other 80% just "chuck in" a few bucks here and there?

Is this model God-honoring?  Absolutely not.

Let's look at Romans 12:3-8 for a second.

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.  Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.  Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way, we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.  According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

If prophecy,
use it according to the standard of one's faith;
If service, in service;
if teaching, in teaching;
if exhorting, in exhortation;
giving, with generosity;
leading, with diligence;
showing mercy, with cheerfulness. (HCSB)

Wait, did you see that?  Is Paul saying that only those who have the gift of "giving" should be the only people giving?  Is he saying that if we don't have the spiritual gift of "giving" that we are "off the hook" for giving to the Lord, so to speak?

If this is the way you are thinking, then this is a grotesque perversion of Paul's intent in this passage of Romans 12.

Think about your own body for a moment.  Have you ever picked up something off the floor with your toes when your hands were otherwise engaged?  Have you ever been plunged into darkness, rendering your eyes useless, only to find that your hands and ears served to help you find your way?  You see, every part of the human body has specific tasks for which it is designed.  In addition, because God made our bodies to be very versatile, there are also hundreds of other things where our body parts can play supporting roles.

So, just because generous giving is a spiritual gift doesn't mean that only those who have the gift of generosity should be supporting the church financially.  Everyone who professes Jesus as Lord should be giving sacrificially to the further God's Kingdom.  True, there are those who have a special gift for giving way above and beyond what any reasonable financial analysis would determine to be sensible.  But giving God's way is for every single believer of every stripe in every type of financial situation.

Don't be deceived!  It's time to stop relying on others to do our part.  It's time to step up and declare that we are putting God FIRST in our finances.  Stop trying to figure out how you can afford to give to God after you allocate your paycheck to all the other things in your life, and start trying to figure out how you can afford all the other stuff in your life after you give faithfully to God.  It's time to stop "thumping the collection plate" when it passes.

Your tithes and offerings are going somewhere, aren't they?  Where are they going?  McDonald's?  Satellite/Cable TV?  Starbucks?  Video games?  Keeping the house 2 degrees cooler in the summer time?  So what is McDonald's, Starbucks, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV or EA Games doing with your money?  Are people coming to Christ and getting their needs met through these organizations?

I don't think so, and if you do, you probably need your head examined for some blunt force trauma.

Let's start putting our money where our hearts are.  And if our hearts aren't in it, then let's take a step back and start by examining our devotion to God's Will.  Stop pretending that you are putting God's Will first in your life and fall on your knees and ask Him to empower you to evaluate your motives with the money that you continue to think is yours (it's not, by the way).  Ask for the strength to sacrifice luxuries, comfort and non-necessities in order to support God's work in your community, state, nation and world through your local church.

Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:

CreateSpace (paperback, $9.99) (paperback, $9.99; eBook, $2.99)  MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND SPECIAL:  the eBook version is only $1.79 until Tuesday, May 29.

It is also available to Amazon Prime members as a free eBook download as a part of the Kindle Lending Library.  Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.

You can also become a fan of the book at

Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Dreaded "E" Word?

I recently had an email conversation about a particularly divisive issue among Christians with someone whom I respect quite a lot.  As we expressed our viewpoints, I asked a great deal of questions, which is part of my nature as a highly inquisitive human being.  Some of my hypothetical questions were pretty philosophical in nature, and as I am a very direct person, it was felt by the other participant that I was somehow transformed into Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition.  (In all fairness, I was awfully blunt, but the only way I've ever learned is through questioning, so it is the main tool in my arsenal of learning and understanding.)

Anyway, I digress.  At a certain point during the email volleys, I was dubbed an "Evangelical" Christian.  At the time, I didn't really dwell on it too much.  But, as time has passed, and as I've thought about how that word is spat out of people's mouths as an epithet, I began to wonder:  When did "evangelical" become a swear word?

I started digging around a bit to discover the roots of the word "evangelism".  I'll spare you all the boring details, but the Koine Greek word "evangelion" is derived from "ev" (good) and "angelion" (I bring a message). Put those together and you have something akin to "a bringer of good news".

Obviously, Christians who read that "good news" in the context of Christianity refers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, put the etymology together with the context, and evangelism is the telling of the good news of Jesus Christ.  

Okay, now that the word study is over, you can re-engage your brain (for those of you who slept through the last two paragraphs).  The greatest single New Testament reference to evangelism (and there are many) is Matthew 28:18-20, and they are the words of Jesus Himself.

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (ESV)

Here, we see Jesus commanding His followers to go out and spread the message of His death, burial and resurrection, and the subsequent gift of salvation to all mankind ("all nations").  It would appear that "evangelism" would be very descriptive of this command.

So, let's put the pieces together, shall we?  Jesus commanded His followers to spread the good news, or evangelize.  Believers in Jesus Christ should take the commands that are issued from Jesus's mouth pretty seriously, I would say.  So, in essence, anyone who proclaims that they are a Christian would necessarily have to be an "evangelical Christian" (or at least should be).

So, I guess my question is this?  What is a "non-evangelical" Christian?  It seems the two terms are incompatible, doesn't it?

As I write this, I'm thinking that perhaps the word has become perverted because people don't really know what it means.  In fact, I'm relatively certain that most who spit it at others like some sort of venom are actually meaning to call that person a "fundamentalist".

A fundamentalist Christian, I am not.

An evangelical Christian?  I wear that badge proudly.

Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:

CreateSpace (paperback, $13.99) (paperback, $13.99; eBook, $8.99)

It is also available to Amazon Prime members as a free eBook download as a part of the Kindle Lending Library.  Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.

You can also become a fan of the book at

Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So Let Me Get This Straight: Episode 2

Real quick one today:  Joel Osteen and his church paid $93 MILLION to acquire and renovate the former Compaq Center to become the home for the church.  $93 MILLION!  I sure am glad that there wasn't a need for such money anywhere else in Houston.

Jesse S. Greever is the CEO of 3G Publishing, a digital publisher for Christian authors.  If you are a Christian author and have a manuscript that you think is worthy of publication, check out the submission guidelines and follow the directions for manuscript submissions.  Greever is also a co-author of the book, Learning to Give in a Getting World, and numerous fiction titles from Untreed Reads publishing.
You can become a fan of 3G Publishing on FaceBook:
You can follow 3GPublishing on Twitter (@3GPublishing):!/3GPublishing
Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:
CreateSpace (paperback, $13.99) (paperback, $13.99; eBook, $8.99)
It is also available to Amazon Prime members as a free eBook download as a part of the Kindle Lending Library.  Pastors and church administrators can contact me directly at to find out about discounts available for churches that wish to use this for teaching and small group curriculum.
You can also become a fan of the book at
Follow me on Twitter:!/JesseSGreever