People will talk about anything in the world except money. It would get really quiet in church if you told people to turn to the person beside them and ask them how much money they made last week. However, we are good at spending it. One guy said, "I don't spend more than I make, I just spend it faster than I make it." My family says they don't overspend, but that I underdeposit. The problem is that it is difficult to get people to give. The easiest way to get 300 people to lie at the same time is to have them sing, "Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold," then pass the offering plate. Most people will give God credit but not cash. How does a pastor keep from feeling like his life's verse is, "So it was that the beggar died" (Luke 16:22a)?
Most fundraising projects aren't much fun. I heard about a pastor who had a building program going. He told each couple to pray individually that God would reveal to each of them what God would want them to give together. Then they were to get together and find out how close they were. The next Sunday, one man stood up and gave a testimony. He said, "My wife and I were only one dollar apart." The pastor was thrilled. The man continued, "God told her to give a dollar and told me to give nothing."
The stress of a major financial campaign sends you to the richest people for contributions. One pastor's prospective contributor responded, "I understand why you think I could give $50,000. I own my own business, I even own my own banks. But what you don't know is that mother is in an expensive nursing home and my brother died leaving a family of five with no life insurance." The pastor responded he didn't know that. Then the man said, "Did you also know that my son is deeply religious and has gone into social work and lives on less than the national poverty level and cannot meet the needs of his family?" The pastor said he didn't know that either. The contributor went on, "Well then, if I didn't give any of them a dime, why do you think I'm going to give you anything?"
Well, I have some techniques that might make it a little more fun. Ask people to pledge to give 10 percent more than last year and if they would, could they signify by standing to their feet. At the same moment have the organist start to play the Star Spangled Banner. Or you could order one of those new offering plates that makes no sound when you drop a check or paper money in large amounts but a whistle blows when a quarter is dropped in and a dime sets of a siren. If you drop in a penny, it will fire a shot; it doesn't say in what direction. Or you could get the offering plate that has the message inscribed on the bottom, "Straighten up your tie, stupid, we're taking your picture."
Of course, the idea is to get the message across that you can't take it with you. You could tell them about the old mountaineer who told his wife that he wanted to take some money with him when he died. He told his wife to place a box of money in the attic window and he would get it on his way up. Several days after the funeral she remembered the box and went to the attic to check to see if it was still there. It was and she mumbled to herself, "I knew I should have put it in the basement."
I admit that during fundraising campaigns I've mumbled a few words about the basement myself. But then I remember how good God is and I tell about giving figs to my mom and how she would take those figs and make wonderful preserves and serve them to me on hot biscuits. I tell them that is what God does. If you give him figs, He'll give you preserves and hot biscuits. I ask them to make their choice. It seems to work. Of course, I use the illustration right after my Ananias and Sapphira message titled, "When God Said, 'Make My Day.'"
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Church, Albuquerque, N.M., www.charleslowery.com