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One preacher I know calls it, "The Burden of the Bag". Many Pastors are familiar with this burden even if they are unfamiliar with the expression. The "burden" to which I refer is the matter of financial giving (survival?) in the local Church situation and to the overall work of the Kingdom of God. The "bag" is a reference to the offering bag (or its equivalent) that is passed around Sunday by Sunday.

This burden might be summed up by a question. "Will there be sufficient funds each week to maintain the work of the local Church or will we have to find ways to further cut costs?"

My observation is that many Pastors live with this tension every week - this "burden of the bag". For the majority of those Pastors the issue of funding the ministry of the local Church is further complicated by the fact that they themselves are, to some degree, dependent upon what's in that "bag" each week to provide for their family needs. Will they have to cut back on the number of hours they work each week? Will they have to get a part-time job to supplement their income? Will their spouse have to work for the same reason?

Some Pastors respond to this weekly tension by constantly preaching about stewardship. Others feel that to do so would be misinterpreted by the members of their congregation as an unhealthy and unworthy emphasis.

I am somewhat energized to write on this theme because I want to acknowledge that there is a certain awkwardness involved in preaching on this subject. Part of that difficulty is that the Pastor is usually preaching to those who pay his/her wage or stipend. Further, there are those to whom he/she preaches who believe that this is a private matter and, if pushed on the subject, would see this as an invasion of their privacy. Those same people may say otherwise, but deep down (no, in fact, just below the surface) they resist that kind of invasive preaching.

  Please Note: While it's true that this subject is much wider than the money aspect (e.g. stewardship of time, spiritual gifts, caring for the creation etc.), everyone knows that, most often, the priority issue is money - cold, hard cash. In fact, I believe I could make a case that how we handle the money aspect of stewardship (which is so 'now' and so tangible) determines how we respond to those other dimensions. So, while I recognise the necessity of embracing the wider understanding of stewardship, I am focussing in this article on the immediacy of money. As I write, I have in mind those Pastors and Church Leaders who, week by week, feel that they have the responsibility of the burden of the bag.

 How do you respond to this following statement? "I don't know why we read Matthew 6/19-34 because most of us don't believe or practice the principles that Jesus taught in those verses! We say we do but how we live and what we do with money and possessions is the true index of what we believe. So the book that really tells the truth about our beliefs and convictions is our cheque book. Could this be one reason why the subject of money is often a 'no go' area of secrecy and privacy?"

Any Pastor who chooses to preach about the Biblical principles of financial giving has to know that there will be at least some who will be offended and resistant. If that teaching is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then their values will be challenged, their beliefs will be questioned and their lifestyle will be threatened. For some, there will be a willingness to re-evaluate and make changes as they re-align their beliefs and behaviour with the teaching of God's Word. For that we give praise to God and may their tribe increase. For others there will be that resistance mentioned above. So, why preach about the stewardship of our finances if there is an increased likelihood that our motivation for doing so is called into question, our ability to "trust in the Lord" is challenged and we are portrayed as 'always preaching about money'?

In part 2 of this article I want to offer six compelling reasons why we need to address this issue as part of our overall preaching plan.

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