In 1966, it was my privilege to help revise the first handbook on professional Christian fund-raising. From that moment, I have never been far away from the grass roots of the fund-raising ministry. I have helped churches organize to raise money, and I have spoken at uncountable pledge banquets and consulted with pastors, all the while leading my own congregation—our beloved First Baptist Church of Houston—to give about $250 million from 1970 to 2000 to budgets, buildings, and missions.
Additionally, God has given me the acquaintance and lifelong friendship of some of the finest fund-raisers in America. By experience, by conversation, and by observation, I have had the opportunity to learn the business inside out. But perhaps even more than all this, I am compelled to write this book because, frankly, I love to raise money for the cause of Christ and to help others do so as well. This will sound foreign to the ears of many pastors, because I find the mention of money to one's congregation to be perhaps the single most difficult part of the ministry for most pastors.
Let me say again, I love it. I really do. There are, I think, two reasons why this is true: One, I love to see the kingdom of God grow. Ours has always been an unselfish church and ministry. Here in First Baptist, Houston, we believe that the kingdom of God is first, and our own church is second. I have the joy of pastoring the most unselfish congregation on the globe. Our people give themselves away in money, in time, and in service. Every Sunday I give two invitations: one to join the church and one to leave the church. I love to send our people out to serve. The lovely young Christian woman who is at this moment typing these words just shared with me the joy of her personal involvement with one of our local missions. We have sent millions of dollars and hundreds of our people, not only to the distant foreign mission fields of the world, but to the remote corners of our own city's scores of ethnic mission opportunities. On any given Sunday, nearly as many persons worship the Lord and find him as Savior through our mission ministries in Houston as in the home facilities of our own local congregation.
There's no greater joy than living with a kingdom mind-set, and I love to help expand the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit certainly made no mistake when he birthed the church on the day of Pentecost. He knew we would need one another. And not only do we need one another other within our own local congregations, but we need one another within the larger kingdom, in other churches and other denominations, in other places, in other cities, and in other states and lands. As you think through what you are reading, I am breathing a little prayer in my heart that God will expand your horizons and give you a kingdom mind-set as well.
Christianity is about a cross, and a cross is "I" crossed out. Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35). To the veracity and validity of that promise, I attest by my own personal experience, with glad joy and great faith.
Give, give to others. Help others; give away your time, money, talents, resources, expertise, and gifts. If you're giving for the kingdom of God, it's good. Jesus' great priority was that the kingdom of God would come on earth and his will be done on earth as both his kingdom and his will exist in heaven.
At this writing, I am involved in helping raise funds for First Baptist Church, Houston; Spring Baptist Church, Spring, Texas; First Church of the Nazarene, Houston; International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention; a prison administered by Christians in Sugar Land, Texas; the ministry of Jeanette Cliff George's After Dinner Players; First Baptist Academy; Houston Christian High School; a city-wide crusade in Asheville, North Carolina; Falls Creek Assembly; Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth; and an educational center which will honor, among others, Dr. Harry Piland, former minister of education at First Baptist Church, Houston.
People ask me, "Why are you not protective of your congregation? Why do you not try to insulate them against other fund-raisers who are trying to get the same money from them for their causes that you are for yours?" The answer is simple. I don't have a selfish heart. I am for the kingdom. If it's for God's glory, the honor of Christ, and the souls of men, I'm for it and I'll support it. First Baptist Church of Houston will not win everybody in Houston, let alone the world, to Christ. We need one another, we need to help one another, and we need to support one another. And I find no greater fulfillment in my life than doing that.
You do not hurt your own ministry when you help other ministries. In teaching your people to be generous with other causes, they will be generous with your cause. In learning to open their hearts to the Lord, to give in one place, they will be more generous in giving every place. And, remember, you don't have to protect people's pocketbooks. They will do that very well for themselves, thank you. The problem is not that we have to protect them from giving more than they should, more than they can, or more than the Lord wants them to; the problem is to protect them against giving less than they should, less than they can, and less than our Father would have them give.
Giving is a joy. Giving is a delight. You cannot outgive God. Remember the promise of Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." So I can honestly say that I give, and I enjoy inspiring and teaching people to give because I love it. And I'm praying right now that you, as pastors and church leaders reading this book, will learn to love it too. Don't apologize. Lead your people to give and give generously.
But there's a second reason I love to help people learn to give. Not only do I love the process and love to see the kingdom grow, but I love it because I know when I teach people to give, I do them a tremendous favor. I believe the greatest thing I can do for people is to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ. The second greatest thing is to teach them how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the third best thing I can do is to teach them how to be rightly related to God in their finances.
Dear pastor, hear me. When you teach people to give and lead them to give sacrificially, joyously, abundantly, and gregariously, you're not hurting them. You're helping them, and doing them a great favor. As they learn to give, the Father will increasingly give back to each of them. So pray that God will give you a heart for giving and a heart for the joy of leading your people to give. Nothing will be more important than your positive attitude as you lead your congregation through the steps of the fund-raising program for your capital needs that I outline in this book.
Remember, three things are important: attitude, attitude, attitude. Be positive, be joyous, and don't apologize. You can do it. The resources are there and the need is great. On a recent Sunday morning, I shared with our congregation that we were about $300,000 short on the funding of our new Christian grade school. I said it like this: "Well, church, today I've got some bad news, some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we're about $300,000 behind on our giving to the building fund. The good news is, however, that God has abundantly provided, and we have the money. The bad news is, it's in your pockets." Of course, everyone laughed, but there's more truth than humor in my announcement. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. His people control trillions of dollars of God's capital. It's there, and we can access it. The key is to explain to the people the need, present a logical, reasonable, thought-out plan to meet the need, inspire them to meet it, and give them the opportunity.
For over a third of a century of pastoring churches, I have lived by this philosophy: God's people, given the facts, will normally do the right thing. Tell the Lord, tell the folks, be positive, be joyous, and above all, remember that your positive attitude is critical. Don't apologize. You're not just expanding the kingdom; you're helping the people as well. Fund-raising builds the kingdom and blesses the folks. Don't be fearful and don't be negative. Positively, joyously, abundantly, and expectantly, go to the Lord and go to your people, and watch what God will do.