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Looking Beyond: Finding Faith for His Promise

By Randal Ross

I will call her Ruth. As a widow in Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois, Ruth just gets by on her Social Security check. She stretches her money to the last penny.

Ruth would seem like the last person to commit $2,500 a year to missions. But she did just that during one of our missions emphases. She trusted God to give her the resources to give $50 a week.

God honored her faith and her obedience. Money began to come in the mail and through miraculous sources. Even though Ruth never shared her faith promise publicly, people continued to pour blessing into her life. At the end of that year, her income had increased.

I will call them Jake and Mary. They are small-business owners, moderately successful entrepreneurs, and not rich by any stretch of the imagination. For them to commit $180,000 was sacrifice squared. The ink was hardly dry on their faith promise card when their business dried up. They could have withdrawn their faith promise and we would have understood. That is the reality behind faith promises. You make a commitment to God — not to a church, a pastor, or a missionary — and you trust God with the results.

Jake and Mary determined to trust God. As far as they were concerned, there was no going back. And God agreed with them. The sudden plummet in their business completely reversed itself. By the end of the year they had received the funds to honor their faith promise with money left over.

Then there is Henry. He had been unemployed for months when he made his $100,000 faith promise. I have heard people make large commitments out of emotion, and I am quick to caution them to seek God’s guidance. Henry hardly had a dollar to his name, but he was convinced God had led him to promise a six-figure offering to missions.

A lawyer called Henry and told him he was the heir to a relative’s estate. The first payment alone from his inheritance covered that $100,000.

Looking Beyond the Red Ink

Years ago, at a previous church, I discovered the blessing of faith promises. That discovery came during a time when our congregation was struggling to meet monthly expenses. Under those circumstances, many pastors will not lead their people to make faith promises because they believe it will take money away from the church’s general fund.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Faith promises will energize a congregation to increase its giving. The key is to move ahead steadily and focus on faith, not on hype or emotion. Start small, determining you will increase your giving as God provides. Trust me, God will provide. When you put the kingdom of God first in people’s hearts, it comes back and blesses your church financially in tithes and offerings. It is an amazing process.

Every church has bills and salaries to pay, and a building to maintain. Those are important issues, and there is nothing wrong with being honest with God about one’s concerns and fears. But as you commit your church’s needs to God, as you read the Word and let it fill your heart, you will begin to sense Him leading your church into uncharted territory of generosity and blessing. Perhaps you will sense the Holy Spirit leading you and your church to give $1,000 or $10,000 or $50,000 for missions this month or this year. Seek the Lord, and let those first steps build a foundation.

We were a struggling church. We thought we were stretching ourselves to the limit when the congregation committed to give $50,000 that year to missions. But God provided. In the years since, I have seen God continue to provide. Today at Calvary Church, our faith promises amount to more than $50,000 a week. And God responds with even more blessing.

Looking Beyond Local Need

It seems counterintuitive during a time of financial stress to loosen a church’s purse strings rather than tighten the collective belt. But God is at work in the hearts of your people. Steady, disciplined giving that stretches beyond local vision to encompass a lost world is spiritually powerful. It produces a healthy long-term environment of faith in the church. An external focus on others’ needs is always healthier, and a healthy church will grow. More people will be drawn to an environment of generosity.

We use two special emphases a year to connect our people with worldwide need. In the spring, we have our annual missions emphasis and give people opportunity to make a faith promise for the year. In the fall, we make the people aware of several special ministry projects. Many families in our church sense that God is leading them to make additional commitments toward those needs.

Our people look forward to these annual events as a chance to see what their money and their prayers have accomplished. I mention prayer because faith promises are about far more than finances. God is bringing about tangible life change in our people’s hearts, and they see that long-term commitment as the means to a Kingdom harvest.

Looking Beyond Single Faith Promises

Living with a faith promise mentality quickly becomes a lifestyle. Our people understand their giving is not just for that year; they are building the Kingdom by supporting missionaries and their work year after year. It is rewarding. Calvary Church has been supporting some missionaries for 35 to 40 years.

We build long-term commitment into our families by consistently providing teaching and opportunities to give. We begin 2 weeks before our main faith promise service by leading people into prayer and heart preparation. All our small groups have prayer for missionaries and for God’s will in how those missionaries need to be supported. Our people are praying that others will be saved and an impact made beyond any dollar amount.

A faith promise is not primarily about money; it is about reaching the lost for Christ and making them into His devoted followers. A faith promise never begins with money; it begins with the heart. And it does not focus exclusively on the believer’s heart. Giving in faith is finding a special connection with God’s heart. Our lost world is God’s passion as demonstrated on the Cross; our lost world is why Jesus died for all people; our lost world is our mission.

The church that starts with prayer and vision will find the faith to believe for the money. When your congregation takes on a passion, vision, and a heart for the lost, when they are faithfully praying and talking to God, they will come to the place where they joyfully open their resources to reach a lost world.

Looking Beyond the Few to the Many

Have you ever daydreamed of starting into a building program or having a heart for a significant ministry project? You know it is going to cost your church a huge sum of money, so you enter your prayer closet and wait for God’s provision. After a suitable season of prayer, someone knocks at your office door. You open the door to find your administrative assistant holding a check. Some wealthy member of your church or community has caught your vision and decided to completely underwrite your project.

There are true stories to this end. But I am convinced that in a healthy church everyone gives — above their tithes and offerings — to missions. This key value of distributing a large need among all of God’s people energizes a church far more than one or two spectacular gifts could. In fact, I am convinced a spectacular gift could discourage many of the members of your church from giving.

At Calvary Church, we teach on faith promises as every new believer and family becomes a part of the congregation. It is part of our new members class. It is part of our teaching from the pulpit. It is part of the scriptural truth studied in our small groups.

For example, we give occasional reminders when we receive our tithes and offerings: “Don’t forget your faith promise now that we’re getting toward July. Be faithful.” As we move toward our fall missions emphasis, each month we put a missions article in our newsletter about faith promises. We remind the people where the money is going, what is happening, and we encourage them.

Looking Beyond Giving to Going

People need to see that missions giving is not only about money; it also concerns the results of their obedient giving. When they see those results enacted through the missionaries we sponsor, they soon begin to sense they can be part of that action in a more personal way. Because of this, every year we take dozens of missions trips.

Imagine the excitement when we feature a testimony from our own people before we take an offering. We say, “Twenty people just returned from Africa; 100 were saved. We had such a great time seeing God’s work done there. This was accomplished because of your faithful giving in faith promises.”

Relate their giving to a Kingdom result, and offer them opportunity to move beyond giving to going. People do not want to give toward neutral things; they want to see lives changed. They want to see that their faith promises are eternally effective. They want to see people reached, as well as bodies ministered to through humanitarian outreach. What better way to do this than to join a short-term missions trip and go where their offerings have been going?

Looking Beyond Goals to God

When people make a faith promise in the right environment, they should never need to worry that someone will call them or demand money from them. We make this clearly understood at Calvary Church. A faith promise is a commitment between that person and God. As they make progress on that promise, God will provide, and they will continue to give. It is a faith journey.

God can lead in different ways. Encourage people to pray about what God wants them to do. Let Him give them an amount to commit to or a project to give toward. They may not know how they will raise the money; they just ask God to provide and watch for a miracle.

Miracles can occur weekly, monthly, or yearly. Hourly employees may want to base their giving on each paycheck. Business owners may want to schedule their faith promise for every quarter or every 6 months. At Calvary Church, we make a point of showing what people’s commitments will go toward, and we ask them to pray over their gift, trust God, and let Him speak to their hearts.

When that kind of focus on God is in place, we feel comfortable asking people to fill out faith promise cards, or take the cards home and return them later. We trust the Holy Spirit to impress them with the right size gift to be given over the right amount of time.

In the final analysis, the heart of a faith promise is not tied to raising money. As a church leader, you need to promote faith promises to honor the Lord and to grow your people. As noble as missions ministry is, faith promises are not just about getting money for missionaries. Faith promises are also about blessing your people and growing in them a sense of Kingdom values.

If you do not believe giving is a central part of your spiritual journey — that it is good for your people to grow through their giving — then you cannot teach on faith promises with integrity. But if you pray with integrity, “Lord, I believe this is Your plan,” your people will sense it. Something happens in a congregation when a pastor discovers that missions giving is not primarily about money; it is about growing a passion in God’s people for reaching the lost.

Looking Beyond

In the end, the joy of a faith promise is looking beyond any limitations to an unlimited God. The joy of a faith promise is looking beyond the superficial number crunching that would place your church’s giving in some kind of pecking order with other churches. The joy of a faith promise is looking beyond the challenges of today to the hope of what God will do in lives around the world tomorrow.

Be obedient to the Lord. Grow in Him. Help your people grow in Him, and let Him take you and your church on a wonderful journey.

Money is involved in God’s plan for every Christian. When you have a passion for Christ and you are growing disciples, money will be part of that equation. God wants us to be givers, and He wants us to use our resources for Kingdom purposes. As you build a heart for Christ and teach your people to live devoted lives for Him, the Holy Spirit will convict them to make financial giving and serving a part of their spiritual journey.

Faith promises from your congregation will come together in a mosaic of giving inspired by the Spirit. It is part of God’s plan to connect this hurting world with the healing power of the Cross.

RANDAL ROSS, senior pastor, Calvary Church, Naperville, Illinois

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