Name + role: Van Moody, Senior Pastor, 10+ years
Church: The Worship Center
Location: Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Congregation size: 4k
New! Watch or read Pastor Van's responses!
What’s your giving philosophy?
Giving is a dynamic of our relationship with the Lord. My giving philosophy rests on a couple things:
1. Every spending decision is a spiritual decision. When Jesus said “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also” it isn't because God is only concerned with one aspect of our lives. He’s concerned with our whole lives.
For most people, money, how they spend it, manage it, whether they keep it or give it away, is a big part of their lives. Part of the behavior of true believers, particularly in becoming Christ-like, is generosity. When we want to study the Scriptures for what generosity looks like and how it was modeled, Jesus is the greatest example.
The famous Scripture that everybody knows, John 3:16, (“for God so loved the world that He gave His only son”) is a Scripture about generosity. God loved us so much that He gave His very best, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice typifies the behavior of believers and why we ought to be generous.
Ultimately, it's not just giving 10%. It’s how you manage the 100%. That’s really what we’re talking about. If you’re a tither, yes, that 10% goes to the Lord, but He’s still looking at how you spend the 90%. That’s what I mean when I say all spending decisions are spiritual decisions.
2. Our relationship with money indicates our maturity level as believers. Giving and generosity have a lot to do with how you’re growing in Christ. Growing in Christ means it’s less about you and your agenda and more about God and His agenda. God is generous. God really wants us to be His ambassadors, which is what Corinthians teaches us, “for we therefore are Christ’s ambassadors” so God will make His Kingdom through us. And so because that is the case, because I am called to represent Christ to a world, one of the ways I do that is through generosity.
What are some of the most important things for givers to understand about their giving?
We want to raise our church not to be selfish but selfless. As it relates to the goal of discipleship, that’s what being Christ-like means. Part of the end goal for all believers is that we resemble Christ. So the very act of me being willing to be generous as a giver is very much an indication to God that spiritual formation is taking place. It’s an indication that I am progressing down the road God wants me to be on, that I am being conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.
When we talk about spiritual formation as a concept, that’s one thing, but then you have to walk it, you have to live it out. You have to practice it and make it a daily habit. Your ability to do that as a giver is really taking that step and saying, “You know what, I feel really good about this. That, man, I’m honoring God and that I’m more Christ-like in my spending and the way I approach money."
There are so many blessings that come on the backside of giving. I don’t like to lead with that, because I think when you teach giving that way, you’re never able to move people away from the agenda of themselves. If I’m giving just to get, then I’ve missed the discipleship component. That being said, those benefits are there. And they’re clear throughout Scripture.
God promises so much in His word to those that are generous, those that are faithful in their giving. You can’t excuse it, you can’t look over it.
One of the things I often teach is that out of the 37 or 38 parables, 16 were on money and stewardship. There are 500 verses on prayer, another 500 or so on faith. There are over 2,000 Scriptures on money and stewardship and possessions. Giving is a big deal to God.
I really believe, and I won’t know this for sure until we all get to glory and get a chance to ask Him, but I really believe that part of the reason God emphasizes money and our relationship with it is because, for many people, money becomes the master of their lives. Money becomes an idol. When we talk about Jesus becoming Lord over our lives, you can’t really submit to Him as Lord apart from using the word of God to guide your spending decisions.
There’s an old cartoon I often share with the church any time I teach on giving. It’s of a man being baptized and as he’s going under the water, he’s holding up his wallet.
I share that because, for many believers, that’s their approach. They say, "We will let Jesus be Lord over every aspect of our lives...except our money." Lordship means He’s Lord over all.
How do you teach the tithe at TWC?
We do a lot to help educate our congregation through the 90-Day Tithing Challenge.
We can’t get around the fact that the Bible talks about tithing—Old and New Testament. The significance of it. The spirituality. There’s so much there...You can’t ignore that. If you're coming through the door and are just starting a journey with the Lord, this notion of giving 10% of your money can be daunting. It’s like going 0 to 60, “Woah, slow down! I just invited Christ into my heart and I don’t know if I’m ready for that stuff.”
We asked ourselves, how can we make tithing understandable to people who have just come into the faith? That's where the 90-Day Tithing Challenge came in.
When it comes to tithing, I make a conscious effort to teach on Malachi. What people often miss is that tithing is the only thing that God says we can test Him in. So all throughout the Old Testament—over and over and over again—God says don’t test this, don’t test me on that, "Test not the Lord your God." I mean, it’s over and over and over again, and then you get to Malachi and He says, “but you can test Me in this.” And it’s the only time God says, “You can test Me.”
So I always raise the question: "Well, why?" And once again, I think it’s because God knows that for many people, money and giving is an area of severe struggle. So he says, “just try it.” That’s what the word, "test," literally means. “Just try it out, and see if I won’t do it. See if I won’t prove My Word and fulfill what I promised.”
That's how I explain it: "If you’re new to tithing, and that’s a big concept for you, try it for 90 days. If you tithe for 90 days, and God doesn’t do what He promised, let us know and we will repay you every dime that you gave.” We tell people to sign up using an online form, and then every week we send them encouraging emails to cheer them through the 90-day period.
In the 15 years I've been doing this, the greatest testimony (and we hear a lot!) is that no one’s ever come to me and said, “God never did it.” We live in a time now where there are a lot of people who are not honest and nobody has ever asked for their money back.
The 90 days allow people to wrap their minds around a big concept and say, “I’m going to try this for three months. And if it doesn’t work, I can go back to living the way I was living and have all the money that I did before. But let’s see.” And what happens? God moves in such significant ways that tithing becomes a lifestyle for people. We help them over come the hump of trusting God in a sensitive area, and we do it in a non-threatening way.
We're grateful for our time with Pastor Van (and Sly King, who pulled out all the stops to welcome us to TWC!). If you like what you read, check out our conversations with other pastors during Inside the Offering!