This is just one of the principles we made clear from the start with our staff. Staff don’t take gifts from the congregation.
There’s OK gifts like “let me buy you a coffee” or “It’s your birthday”… they are common gifts for people to give one another, regardless of position or authority.
It’s more about those gifts that are given in response to someone “being the pastor”. Things like, “I just wanted to say thanks for everything you’ve done”, or “I thought this would be really helpful to your future ministry”.
There’s a few reasons why:
- It’s unlawful (unless your declare the value of the gift when you do your tax).
- People’s hearts are very deceitful. They may not intend to, but the day may come when they think they have some right over you because they gave you this gift.
- Your heart is very deceitful. You may think it impossible, but the day may come when you give them special treatment because of the gift you were given.
- If they think that item is “valuable to your ministry” they should speak to your board/elders/etc. Otherwise, they are taking a gift that is meant “for the church” and rather than trusting God’s appointed leaders, they’re taking on themselves what should happen with that money/gift.
There is, however, scope for your board/elders/etc to approve gifts and things… that way there are other people who can keep you accountable in how you treat that person.
For any field you can communicate a spectrum of things; from abstract ideas to concrete things. And in this sense, bible communication and organisation communication are no different.
The trick is to realise that you don’t just have a personal bent to communicating one way or the other. Rather, chances are you prefer to communicate down one end of the spectrum in the “bible teaching” field, and down the other end if the spectrum in the “organisation” field.
We’ve realised that we’re really good at communicating “biblical abstracts” (e.g. Doctrine, atonement, sovereignty, etc.) but we’re not very good at communicating “biblical concretes” (this is how you get to church each week, this is what evangelism at work looks like).
On the organisation side of things, we’re fine at communicating concrete things (where, when, who) but we need to develop in communicating our abstract org ideas (why church is so important, why we do small groups, why…)
What are your communication tendencies for each of your fields?
Do you have something that you absolutely have to do? “I have to have a coffee every morning!”, “I have to go to the gym 3 times a week!”, “I have to be at work 40hrs a week!”, “I have to see that new movie this week!”, “I have to sleep 8hrs a night!”…
Those are all your spoken-minimums. They are the things that you have agreed with yourself that you have to do; “at least”, “at the very minimum”.
But your minimums are also your priorities. They are your highest importance. The sentence may as well go like this… “I at least have to do X because it is of highest priority.” The trouble is, most people have different spoken minimums compared to their spoken priorities.
So why not start with what you think are your real priorities… “God”, “Church”, “Family”, “Forgiving others”, etc… and then work out your minimums… “I have to pray every day!”, “I need to be at church!”, “I need to be at home with my kids 20hrs a week.”, “I need to devote at least one night a week to my wife.”
Don’t be defined by your felt-minimums, define your minimums from your priorities.
If you’re putting on an event for non-Christians, I think the most loving goal is “get a second date”. Make the big aim that they come back again. Make the big purpose that they don’t walk out thinking, “Well I’m not coming back to this next week!”.
If they tap out after one night, it becomes 100 times harder to ever get them back again. They think they’ve looked at it “enough”, they think they’ve given Christianity “a go”. But if they come back, even just one more time, that second date is when they really start listening. That’s when they begin to invest in relationships. That’s when begin to evaluate. Its really rare that ever happens on an evangelistic “first date”.
1. The strategy doesn’t change, just the goal. The strategy should always be “preach the gospel”. Having the second date as the goal will affect HOW you preach the gospel. Just like if you were preaching on the sinking Titanic, it would change HOW you preach the gospel.
2. Don’t let yourself think that God can’t convert people on night one. Of course he can! Pray that people would move from never even hearing about Jesus to trusting him fully in the space of 90mins!