I once heard Rick Warren wisely say, “People respond to vision, not need.” His statement resonated deeply with me, and I’ve seen it to be true in every ministry setting where I’ve served.
“We need more small group leaders” never works as well as “God is calling us to launch 20 more groups and we believe you should be a part.”
“We need 10,000 dollars for a new global partnership” does not preach like “God has burdened us to reach these people in this strategic location and 10k will give us an effective start.”
I agree with the “vision not need” statement, but I fear that only preaching vision in relation to generous giving can adversely affect the spiritual discipline of giving in a congregation. Please don’t misread me. I do believe we should tie giving to God-ordained vision and direction. I am simply saying that vision shouldn’t be the only motivation for giving.
If vision is the only motivation for generosity, what happens if I don’t believe in the vision? Is my obedience in the area of generosity related to how visionary the spokesperson is? Or is it related to something much deeper?
Church leaders are bombarded with advice and insight on “raising capital,” “developing donors,” “cultivating generosity,” and “teaching stewardship.” Rightly so as giving is a clear mark of spiritual health. And a church needs resources to be all she should be in the community in which God has placed her. If the apostle Paul were at the table hearing church leaders bemoan the lack of giving in their churches, he would probably say, “The people have either forgotten the gospel or not truly embraced it.” Paul emphasized the gospel in his appeal for believers to be generous in giving:
Now as you excel in everything–faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us–excel also in this grace. I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:7-9 HCSB)
Leaders who view discipleship through the lens of the gospel apply the gospel to finances by constantly reminding people of God’s great generosity. He who was rich became poor to make us rich, eternally. When the “per capita” giving drops in a church, these leaders are more concerned with the lack of gospel internalization in their people than the budget implications.
In fostering generosity, vision must not be all that is preached. I am not anti-vision. I believe wise leaders connect vision to generosity. I just don’t want to build a group of people who are vision junkies and devoid of obedience connected to the grace received in Christ.