Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Interview with Brad Brestel

Brad Brestel is Personal Stewardship Pastor at Lincoln Berean Church (LBC) in Lincoln, Nebraska. He heads up the church’s Generous Living Team. In this interview he talks a little bit about what he does as a stewardship pastor and then adds some insights on generosity and money for missions.

Propel: What are your responsibilities as Personal Stewardship Pastor?

Brad: The Generous Living Team is responsible to help build a culture of generosity in our local body. When we wake up in the morning, we are the group that is thinking about the church’s income. We teach classes in theology of stewardship, cash flow management, preparing wills and building a master financial plan. We are currently working more on how to serve the members of our local body who do not have cash flow issues yet need to hear and understand the theology of stewardship.

Propel: How do you teach people the importance of giving as an integral part of The Great Commission?

Brad: I’m uniquely positioned for this one. I serve both as the stewardship pastor and also on the missions team. Our missions team includes a “Resource Team” that I lead which is concerned mainly with the financial resources needed to fund our global outreach projects. Since stewardship and global missions are my main two passions at LBC I naturally include the Great Commission as part of the theology of stewardship taught in the “Intro to Generous Living Class” at LBC; that is our “Stewardship 101” class. I remind people of the two great commandments and the Great Commission in the first five minutes and build everything from those cornerstones.

Propel: In your opinion, should people tithe 10% to the church before giving to missions, or do you consider giving to individual missionaries or para-church organizations part of a tithe? Please elaborate on your thoughts.

Brad: I’m glad you asked for my opinion. I’ll give you an opinion. The new testament does not teach tithing. I believe it is a matter for prayer and individual calling as to how much each believer should be giving. Jesus raised the bar on the old testament laws, such as adultery (if you even think it you are guilty). I believe we are free now, free to give all of it because it all belongs to Him. All use of money should come under prayerful consideration, including giving.

As a second opinion: If believers are running the “para” organizations, they are part of the universal church, not a part outside the church. LBC is part of Christ’s church, and so are the many local Christian ministries we are partnered with here in Lincoln. Our theology of the church recognizes no distinction. Same goes for giving to missions. Each believer should give prayerful consideration as to how much to give to their local church, the missions budget at their local church and other areas as God directs. Pray, listen, obey.

Propel: How much of a church’s budget, generally speaking, would you like to see directed towards cross-cultural missions?

Brad:I believe the Elders or governing leaders of a local church should seek God in prayer for how the budget should be allocated. Some churches will be called to different levels of giving to cross-cultural missions. I’m on the missions team of my local church so I’m biased in favor of sacrificial giving to missions, but I’m under our Elders and will work to accomplish the calling God gives our local church.

Propel: Some people have suggested that Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 6 to give in secret was contextual and that we need to have “out loud” givers in the church in order to help disciple people with the spiritual gift of giving. Others believe that it’s a command to do all of your giving in secret. Should all giving be done in secret, or is it important to hold generous givers up to younger generations?

Brad: The “out loud” giving mentioned in scripture is Barnabas giving land, and Ananias and Saphira giving publicly also. One follows immediately after the other. I believe our cultural taboo of not talking about what we are worth can be used to hide behind the secret giving approach. I think we could use a lot of transparency in the church. I am so encouraged each time I attend a Generous Giving event. The testimonies of the givers lift me right to the throne room where I do business with God about my own giving.

Propel: How do you identify people with the spiritual gift of giving?

Brad: Over an extended period of time. Since it is a discipline as well as a gift it is hard to tell the difference. If you can tell the difference send me the memo!

Propel:: How, specifically, do you disciple people with the spiritual gift of giving?

Brad: I like to invite people to the Generous Giving events. There they meet others who are incredibly generous and the peer to peer synergy is powerful. We don’t have a successful follow up program for after those events. We are working on that.

Propel: How do you encourage people who may not necessarily possess the spiritual gift of giving?

Brad: Our belief is that giving is part of the overall spiritual formation of a believer. Our teaching pastors focus on stewardship two times each year. Basically we ask people to invest in things that will matter for all of eternity, not things that will eventually end up in the landfill. Our people are very responsive to our teachers.

Propel: Can you share one of the more encouraging generous giving stories from your tenure as stewardship pastor?

Brad: I will attach an email I received from one of our attendees. She and her husband came in for counseling because they were broke running their own small business.

      Growing up in a very legalistic church, one that taught their children the song, “Six days we have to work and play, but the seventh is for Jesus,” it was a major change in thought process to learn and accept Christ’s plan of salvation through grace alone. Grasping the concept that every day is meant for worshiping Christ and that He is part of all hours of our days — every day. Not just 15 minutes for devotions daily and then one day a week spent focused on Him. It is a life transforming concept and a radical change in thinking for believers to learn and accept this teaching.

To some degree, learning the concept of true biblical stewardship can be just as life transforming or thought changing, coming from a church that teaches tithing at 10% and offerings of 2-3%. You are frequently taught to give your 10% (from gross not net so that you don’t cheat God out of what is rightfully His), and then give offerings as you are “blessed” or impressed to do so. It still leaves you 88-90% that is “yours” to do with as you like. Learning and grasping the concept that all of it is God’s and He expects you to be accountable for the full 100% changes how you view every financial decision you make. It makes using your money for God’s kingdom a much bigger joy and it also makes a person more dependent on God. When you grasp that all of it belongs to God, you are more likely to consult Him on every financial decision — which of course, leads to consulting Him on more non-financial decisions as well. I think teaching the concepts of biblical stewardship is a key component to helping individuals develop a closer daily relationship with God. It is not just to increase giving to the church or other Christian causes, but it is more importantly taught to teach individuals how to bring God into their daily lives.

Money is usually such a touchy subject for people, learning to truly bring God into this stressed area of your life can be transforming!

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