Giving in Good Times and Bad

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 John 2:15-16 (NLT)

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.


It’s obvious that Covid-19 has impacted our ability to worship. What may not be so immediately obvious is that the pandemic also has created a stress test for the typical American approach to church giving.

Folks, at this point it is safe to say the stress test has revealed a lot of cracks.

As a pastor, I was concerned about giving patterns long before the pandemic came along. As Methodists, we do not talk about the link between money and ministry the way we should, and we certainly don’t talk enough about what our relationship with money says about our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let me jump over hurdle number one as quickly as I can. There always will be people who complain when church leaders, particularly pastors, talk about money. But the devil had a good day when he convinced church people to behave as if money is unmentionable.

Sixteen of Jesus’ 38 parables are about how to handle money and possessions. Ten percent of all the verses in the gospels deal directly with the subject of money. How we handle money and possessions needs to be discussed in church regularly.

The Problem

Now, it’s obvious hard times can affect giving in a direct way. When people lose their jobs, it is difficult or impossible for them to give. These are people possibly in need of church assistance, and they should never feel pressured to give.

I’m convinced however, that there are other factors behind the declines in giving some churches are seeing:

First, there’s what I call the movie theater effect. Giving is treated like buying a ticket, so if you don’t go to worship, you don’t buy a ticket. We see this attitude impact giving at other times, too, for example, when there’s prolonged bad weather in the winter.

Second, there’s the impact of increased anxiety—”We had better hold on to everything we have.” If that’s your situation, I will simply ask you to consider who it is that gives you the greatest hope, and how it is he works in this world through us today.

Third, the vision for what we do as the church is fading.  We aren’t entering the building regularly and mixing in Christian community, and we can forget why the church exists. This is largely a communications challenge for church leaders.

The Prayerful Solution

Let me offer us a quick, two-part formula for how to plan our giving. The great thing about this formula is it helps us keep perspective on money and possessions in good times or bad.

Let’s begin by establishing our committed support. Don’t think in dollars, think in percentages. Nearly everyone has some form of income, regular or irregular, a paycheck or a draw taken from a retirement plan.

Make a prayerful, firm decision about what percentage you can share with the church, and then follow through. I encourage people to write the percentage down on a piece of paper and stick it in the corner of a mirror used daily. The number is between you and God.

Here’s why I like for people to think in percentages—your commitment remains the same regardless of whether your financial situation improves or worsens. Years ago, a friend of mine, a committed tither (a giver of 10 percent of his income), lost his job, and was lamenting, “It kills me that I can’t tithe.”

I asked him, “Hey, buddy, what’s 10 percent of zero?”

“Well, zero,” he replied.

“You’re tithing!” I said. “Your commitment remains the same, just as it will when you’re working again.” He’s now doing very well financially, by the way, and I’m sure he’s a tremendous blessing to his church.

We also need to ask God’s guidance regarding our special support. This is when we recognize how blessed we are and go beyond our committed giving to fund something extra we think is important to the kingdom.

When we take committed support and special support of the church seriously, we position ourselves to better understand Jesus’ teachings about the role of money and possessions in our lives. We learn from the experience of planned giving. To some degree, you’ll just have to trust me—try it, as if you’re laying a fleece to receive guidance from God.

Regarding a vision for what the church does: As a pastor, I’m working to do a better job of communicating how churches truly change the world. There are great stories out there. Help me tell them!

Lord, committed givers have sustained your global church in the brightest and darkest days, in the most affluent and in the poorest parts of the world. Help us to better understand how your Spirit provides. Amen.

What We Desire

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 63:1-8

A psalm of David, regarding a time 
when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

The word “desire” may evoke a powerful feeling in you, one likely tied to some important event in your life.

Maybe someone close to you had a strong desire for alcohol, ruining relationships. Or maybe it’s a positive association, your lifelong desire for someone else making you a better person.

It is easy to see that desire is neither good nor bad in and of itself. What matters is what we desire.

The psalmist here demonstrates a deep desire for God. From the psalm’s introductory heading, we know it is by or about David, the valiant shepherd and eventual king of Israel.

Despite the passion for God expressed here, we also know David had moments where he could forget about God and make terrible decisions, his baser desires overwhelming what should have been, on a rational level, easy choices.

David has been famous for thousands of years, but he’s also much like us, isn’t he? Where we choose to aim our desire can turn our lives in one direction or another very quickly. 

There is another danger where desire is concerned, too. If we suffer from a general lack of desire, we may find ourselves twirling aimlessly, like a sailboat with no wind.

It is good to be passionate in holy ways. Many Christians remember that initial passion for God and God’s word after coming to a belief in Jesus Christ. If desire has faded, it can be restored by a deliberate effort to spend time with God in his word and in prayer.

Desire propels us. We just need to be sure we are moving toward God.

Lord, where our desire is wrongly aimed, pull us back toward you, and where the flame for you has died down, fan it to new heights. Amen.

Spiritual Gifts

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 (NLT)

Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.


During last Sunday’s Holston View UMC worship service, I talked about spiritual gifts. Part of my sermon was an invitation to explore what gifts we have among us, using what some may think of as Covid-19 “down time” to study, train and prepare.

I’ve long been perplexed by Christians who remain disinterested after learning that spiritual gifts await them. I have a working theory about the problem.

Some Christians are like kids who fear they may get push mowers for Christmas. Open that present and there’s nothing ahead but work, work, work.

If I’m right, we need to get past that unfounded fear. If I’m wrong, one of Satan’s most influential demons must go by the name Apathy.

I’ll not spend much time on specific spiritual gifts today; there are about 30 described in the Bible. Sunday, I mentioned the ones Paul listed in Romans 12:1-8. First, let’s understand the great gift we are given, an ongoing encounter with the Holy Spirit.

The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is received in a moment, but it’s also the gift that keeps on giving. Through our belief in Christ, we open ourselves fully to the influence of God’s Spirit. We are offered ongoing transformation.

This first great gift includes a kind of freedom we cannot experience otherwise. We live securely as people who know they will live forever. Even if we find ourselves with challenging God-given work to do in this life, we can trust our tasks will ultimately be joyful because of this promise.

Opening spiritual gifts, which God may bestow at different times in life, also brings a sense of renewal. Even if you’re already a highly skilled person, you may find the gifts of the Spirit flowing through those skills in new ways. Spiritual gifts often become a holy enhancement of the person you already are, reinvigorating you.

I’m praying some of you feel a new sense of excitement about your unopened spiritual gifts. I am willing to devote some serious time to those of you wanting to explore this subject. I’ve made this offer to the Holston View UMC family, but as so much of it will have to happen online, I’m also making it to other LifeTalk readers who might want to join us.

Just let me know, and we’ll open those gifts together, knowing all of our churches will be stronger in the process.

Lord, bless us with a renewed sense of excitement about the gifts you give every follower. May we long to open these gifts and use them! Amen.