Daily Devotional for Friday July 27, 2007
Feeding the Sheep - Not Fleecing the Sheep
Feeding the sheep, not fleecing the sheep. For many years, in addition to preaching in churches around the country, I was heavily involved in the Christian television world. I produced programming, consulted with most of the networks and stations, as well as many of the top TV ministries in the area of fundraising. What I saw during those years were huge infrastructures of buildings and people that had to be fed, and heads of networks and TV ministries that lived extravagant and opulent lifestyles. Of course, the money for all this came from the people they were there to minister to. The focus of the planning meetings I sat in on were not about how to minister to people, but how to get them to give! It was not about feeding the sheep, but fleecing the sheep!!!
Listen, nobody understands the need to raise money to spread the Gospel like I do. That is why I don't have a building, but still operate out of the back of the same used car lot owned by one of my board members we started in almost 8 years ago. That is why I don't have a huge staff of people, but have managed to use technology to streamline the operations and depend on several key people to perform multiple jobs. That is why I don't live in a million dollar home and drive brand new luxury cars or fly around in private jets. I have done everything humanly possible to bring God's Word to this lost world and share the hope and love of Christ with the lost masses in the most efficient and inexpensive way possible!
THE MONEY PEOPLE GIVE TO LIVEPRAYER DOESN'T GO TO SUPPORT THE TEMPORAL THINGS OF THIS WORLD BUT DIRECTLY INTO THE ETERNAL SOULS OF MEN!
Many people have asked why we struggle so much just to meet our budget each month. Simple! Despite knowing every trick there is to raise money, I refuse to prostitute the people we minister to by selling their information to marketing companies or trying to get them to buy every kind of product and service known to man. Everything we do at Liveprayer is FREE! I am not here to sell people anything, but to GIVE them the Word of God and the hope we have in Jesus! I am not trying to reach people to generate money from them, but to bring God's truth into their lives. People know if you really care about them, or if you only care about how much money they can give you! I refuse to look at people as "giving units," but as souls to challenge and encourage, to help along life's journey. The day I begin to look at the people we minister to as nothing but a group of people to generate money from, I'll leave the ministry.
From day one, God told me to share our need and let Him move on the hearts of people to give. For 94 months now I have watched Him do just that. We literally operate month to month and I only ask people to give what we need to get through that month. Each month is a testimony in and of itself of how God provides. People ask me how I sleep when we need $40,000 in a few days to pay the bills. I tell them one advantage to only sleeping 4 hours a day is you sleep real good for those 4 hours! But seriously, I know I have to do my part and share the need, contact people who I know who have the ability to help, and then trust God to move on hearts. God has honored our faith and commitment to trust Him, and as we start each month, I know His Spirit is guiding us since He is the one who sustains what we do each month.
I am excited since we are close to finalizing some incredible situations that will allow us to reach even more souls each day for the Lord, to bring His Truth to an ever larger audience, and in the process, generate some revenues to help take the pressure off of those who support God's work here each month. I see a day very soon when we will have advertising dollars and other sponsorship revenues that will support all of our ministry efforts, and we can focus on special projects a few times a year to ask people to donate to so that we can be a blessing to those who are hurting and need a helping hand.
My first personal encounter with big time Christian fund-raising came 15 years ago. I was backstage with a friend at a Telethon being put on by one of the larger Christian television stations. They were only moments from going on the air when all of a sudden a rather large man with an Irish accent came up to me and asked me what 1000 divided by 12 was. It seemed like a very odd question, but I thought for a moment and told him it was 83 and about a third. He thanked me, and just moments later he was on the set to the host of the Telethon on "live" television. After exchanging a few pleasantries, the host asked this man if he had anything special to share with the viewers that evening.
The man with the Irish accent then began to share how he had been in prayer in his hotel room all afternoon, seeking a special word from God for the viewers that night. He stated that after many hours on his knees, God spoke into his Spirit to share Psalms 83 Verse 18. I opened my Bible and read the verse and was a little confused what was so special about that verse, but the preacher began to share that through Christian television people all over would know the name of Jesus.
I was still a bit confused, until he began to challenge the people that God wanted them to make a pledge of $83.18 over the next 12 months to that Christian television station. It finally sunk in that the only reason he chose that verse was not from some great revelation God had given to him, but it was to try and generate $1,000 pledges from the viewers. I have to be honest when I tell you that it took every ounce of self control that I had, not to run onto the set and call this man a liar. It literally made me ill.
Let me tell you right now that major crusades don't take the offering AFTER an hour of powerful praise and worship by accident. The largest Christian television network CANNOT get you out of debt by you giving them $2,000. There is NOTHING Biblical about "burning your debt!" NEVER make a pledge with money that you DON'T HAVE! NEVER EVER, let any church or ministry intimidate you, or "guilt you" into giving!!! THAT IS NOT OF GOD!!!
So much of the fund-raising and financial pleas I see take God's Word totally out of context. Giving to a ministry does NOT guarantee that you will get back that money plus so many times more. God blesses our obedience in MANY ways, not just financially. Our health is a GREAT blessing. The health and safety of our family and friends is a GREAT blessing. Our old car starting and getting us from place to place each day is a GREAT blessing. God moving in a situation at work or school is a GREAT blessing. The point is that God DOES bless us for our obedience and faithfulness, God DOES bless us when we are faithful and obedient in our giving. But His blessings come in many forms, NOT just financial.
From day one in my ministry, I have done my best to follow the Biblical formula for giving. First, giving is an act of worship. It is a way to honor God for His provision in our life. Second, ALL that we have belongs to Him. When we give, we are simply giving back to God a portion of what He has entrusted to us. Third, the Bible says to "give according to your ability to give." You can't give what you don't have, nor does God expect you to pledge money you don't have!
And yes, we are told to give God a portion of what He gives us right off the top, but God also expects you to take care of your day to day living needs as well. It makes no sense to give God $30 when you have no more money and you have an electric bill for $30. PAY YOUR ELECTRIC BILL. DON'T EVER SEND TO LIVEPRAYER THE MONEY YOU NEED TO PAY YOUR BILLS OR TO FEED YOUR FAMILY! TAKE CARE OF YOUR NEEDS FIRST! When you are faithful in tithing to God each week, you will be amazed how God will bless your finances. God WILL bless you for your obedience in this area. Giving IS important, but giving for the right reasons is just as important.
I love you and care about you so much. I am sure that I probably greatly upset some people in the ministry today. But God never intended people to give out of guilt, or give because they have been manipulated or tricked. We are to give because of our love for God. We give because God has entrusted each of us with a certain amount of provision during our life, and it is an act of obedience when we give a portion of that to Him. The Bible teaches that we give our tithe to the place where we are fed, which in most cases is our home church. Our gifts are what we give to those additional works of God outside of the church that the Lord uses to feed us spiritually and gives us a burden for.
When God directed Moses to build the Tabernacle, when God directed David to build the Temple, He told them both the same thing. Share the exact need with the people and challenge them to give. THAT my friend is the Biblical example of how to fund God's work. Go to God's people, share the exact need, and challenge them to pray and give as God leads them to give. We are to give out of our love for God, we are to give because all that we have belongs to God, we are to give with a joyful heart . . . NOT out of guilt!!! I count it a great honor to come into your life each day and share God's Truth and Christ's love with you. I am not here to fleece you but to FEED you!!!