Allen: Considering year-end contributions
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jason Allen is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- The Christmas season is now upon us, which means year-end solicitations are upon us as well. I know this all too well. I am on the receiving end of scores of appeals and, as president of Midwestern Seminary, I am on the requesting end also.
With so many pressing needs and viable ministries to which you can give, how should you discern which causes are most deserving of your financial support? How should you consider year-end giving in light of biblical principles of Christian stewardship?
Be pre-committed to biblical stewardship
First, consider your giving in light of the broader, biblical principles of Christian stewardship. Ultimately, your resources are not your own. They are the Lord's resources, with which you have been entrusted as a steward (see Genesis 2:15; Psalm 24:1–2; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
Be honest with yourself, your income and your giving opportunities. Sheltering money from the government may work on earth, but it doesn't work in heaven. God does not desire excuses; He desires obedience. He's not looking for us to negotiate or enter into private arrangements with Him. He is looking for us to be faithful, sacrificial stewards with all He's entrusted to us.
Give to your local church first
Second, prioritize your local church. In the New Testament, we see by prescription and by pattern God's people giving to their local church. The apostle Paul repeatedly instructed and celebrated this pattern. Though I lead a theological institution dependent upon the generous donations of God's people, my wife and I prioritize our local church and encourage others to do the same.
Doubtlessly, you are confronted with many worthwhile opportunities to give this Christmas season. As you pray through these options, do not let any of them displace or curtail your giving to your local church. Through your church's contributions to Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program, you will be supporting missions, ministry and witness in your state, across the nation and throughout the world.
Look for optimal impact
Third, look for optimal impact. Don't give to fill ditches. Give to build mountains. Every Christian entity faces seasons of unusual need or unanticipated challenges. But, if an entity perennially engages in crisis fundraising, odds are they do not have a donor problem, they have a business-model problem. Be leery about throwing good money after bad.
Look for organizations that have a track record of good financial management. Moreover, look for ministries where your gift will have a ripple effect. Why settle for making a short-lived impact if you can make an ongoing one?
Be fully informed
Fourth, be fully informed about the cause you are considering supporting. Are they a distinctively Christian organization? What is their vision? What is their mission statement? What is their doctrinal statement? Where do they stand on pressing social issues like marriage and abortion? Are they committed to the Word of God as absolutely true and the exclusivity of the Gospel as the only message that saves?
And specifically, how will the gift be utilized? Be on the lookout both for what they don't state publicly as well as what they do.
As a donor, no question should be off-limits. In fact, if there is an inappropriate question for a donor to ask, I have yet to be faced with it. There are too many great Christian ministries with pressing needs to settle for making ill-informed contributions.
Run from manipulation
Finally, run from manipulation. Making needs known is entirely appropriate, but placing undue expectations on potential supporters is not. If a solicitor resorts to heavy-handedness, it may belie duress or something much worse. Don't allow yourself to be pressured by such tactics. Instead, pray, reflect, inquire and seek the will of God.
Christian stewardship includes more than generous giving, it includes wise, discerning giving as well. The power to give is the power to impact lives. The upside can be unlimited, and that is good. In fact, the upside is too great to be careless. Be a generous -- and wise -- steward of all God has entrusted to you.