"Carefronting" My Congregation

Michael Collins interviewed by Penny Brink

Penny Brink: Michael, you have an interesting story about a method you used in the beginning of your ministry to help people choose to be faithful stewards.

Michael Collins: Yes. As a young pastor I was wrestling with how to deal with stewardship ministry in the local church. I was out in a district on my own, so I just studied the topic as best I could from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and I realized that while tithing is not a test of fellowship in the Adventist church, it isn't an optional practice either, in terms of one's spirituality. I struggled with how to make that practical in the ministry. In my visitation program, an essential part of pastoral ministry, (of course I didn't just visit for stewardship reasons, but in my visitation with those that I suspected of having an issue with faithful tithing and giving), when I visited in their homes, I found that after making some inquiries about the family and other issues, at one point I would ask them a simple question. Can you help just reassure me, are you returning a faithful tithe? Are you being faithful to God

Penny: What kind of a response did your question usually generate

Michael: Their response was quite characteristically, first  a sigh, looking down at their feet for a few seconds, and then they would raise their head and say, "No, sorry, I'm not." And I could see the pain, the burden on their hearts, and I would say something like this, "Would you like to be rid of that burden tonight? Wouldn't you like to know that from today forward, that load is lifted?" And you could just see how they would love that. So I would say, "Would you be willing by God's grace to make a commitment that from today forward, you're going to return a faithful tithe?" And sometimes they would say, "Oh, I don't have enough money to go around, or enough to cover the bills, and then there's the debt," and yes there are issues we need to help our members with on the topic of family financial management, but in the end, I said, "Yes, all those are needed, but it's most important to be faithful to God first, and He's promised to help you with all the other things if you'll accept His help. Would you be willing to make that commitment?" I know it's not just me, but the Lord has really blessed. Time and time again, the responses have been, "Yes, I'm willing to make that committment!" 

Penny: How did you perceive that their commitment to faithful stewardship affected their spiritual lives? 

Michael: In almost every case, immediately their attendance became more regular. When they came, there was a smile on their face because it was like a load was lifted. They became more actively involved in the church, and in just about every way, there was just a tremendous improvement with regards to what was taking place in their spiritual lives. 

Penny: The most important thing I gather from your story is that you had a good relationship with your members in order to be able to talk about personal spirituality successfully.

Michael: If I had only gone to visit them to talk about their tithing practices that would have been disastrous. But they were accustomed to seeing me  in their homes on a regular basis, so when I asked these kinds of questions, while it was not necessarily comfortable for them, or me, I was a familiar and trusted friend. I've come to understand that God asks me, as a pastor, to ask those kinds of questions—in a kind way, and a loving way, and they accepted it that way.

Penny: Thank you for sharing your early pastoral experience with us. Your story will be an encouragement to others as they minister to their church members. 

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Michael Collins Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa Union
Michael Collins, vice president of the Middle East and North Africa Union speaks to the Dynamic Steward editor. Michael  also serves as Ministerial Secretary and Stewardship Ministries Liaison. 
Pr. Penny Brink  Assistant Director of GC Stewardship Ministries
Pr. Penny Brink, from South Africa, is the assistant director of GC Stewardship Ministries and the editor of the Dynamic Steward.