Brian Kluth is Senior Pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church of Colorado Springs. Prior to this time he was involved in Christian leadership positions and a national and international speaking ministry. He has been a speaker at Promise Keeper events, university campuses, leadership conferences, and Christian camps and retreats. Over the years his ministry travels have taken him to cities across America and to more than 35 countries. Having just come home from a speaking trip in South Africa regarding generous living, Pastor Kluth was gracious enough to take the time to answer these questions. He has written a booklet - A 40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life. He also has a website - Maximum Generosity.
1. NSR - When did God teach you about generosity?
Brian Kluth - The Bible says that we are to “excel in the grace of giving”. After coming to Christ in college, God has graciously led me to growing levels of generosity in my life. From the first $20 I put in the offering plate as a new Christian to times when the Lord has called my wife and I to give gifts that were equivalent to 50% and 100% of our annual income, I/we have found ourselves on a God-led and grace-filled journey to living a generous life. God’s transforming power has been amazing in my life since as a teenager and college student I was very materialistic and would steal (from family members, shops, and employers) to get the things I wanted.
2. NSR - What led you to write the book?
BK - In the last fifteen years, I have spoken to thousands of pastors and church leaders at conferences and leadership seminars on church giving in the U.S. and overseas. Wherever I’ve gone, churches did not have a way to inspire greater levels of generosity by putting God’s Word on finances/giving into people’s hands. The result has been growing levels of materialism and indebtedness while giving to the Lord’s work has been declining as a priority in people’s lives. While I am a great advocate for churches offering financial classes/courses/studies/seminars for their congregation, I found that these programs will only reach a handful of people in the congregation. I felt a great need to produce something attractive, affordable, filled-with-Scripture, and easy to read that every person or family in a church could easily go through and allow the Word of God to touch and transform their attitudes and actions on giving financially to the Lord’s work. Sidebar note: I was hoping a Christian publisher would publish and promote this book and submitted proposals to 7 publishers. I received a rejection from all of them indicating that no one would ever buy this book because there is no market for books on generosity. So after praying about it, my wife and I took some inheritance money from my mother’s home going and printed 15,000 copies of this booklet. By God’s grace, over 80,000 copies have been ordered in the first 8 months by churches (ordering copies to every household/family in their church), denominations (sending copies to every pastor) and ministries (sending copies to every donor). The booklet has been or is being translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Mongolian, Serbian, Croatian, an African tribal language, and South African Afrikaans. One denomination is planning on using it worldwide in 11 regions of the globe. An international ministry is planning on working with 99 seminaries across the world to have copies distributed among each seminary’s students and supporters.
3. NSR - If you could get one point across from your book, You Are Invited on a 40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life, what would that be?
BK - Every Christian believer is called and encouraged by God to faithfully and generously give to the LORD from whatever God has entrusted to them. I do not believe any church has a “money problem”, only a faithfulness problem.
4. NSR - What are things that parents can do to teach their children to be givers (along with going through your study)?
BK - Going through the study as a family during a meal time will be a great first step towards moving a couple or a family towards greater levels of intentional and inspired generosity. We did this with our family when our children were 7, 9 and 11 and it was a great way to help our children understand details about our income, lifestyle and giving priorities. Since our children were little we have had an envelope system for their finances. We gave each of them 3 envelopes and had them draw pictures on each envelope. The first envelope was for the Lord’s work, the second envelope was for savings, and the third envelope was for spending. Wherever they received any money (birthday, Christmas, allowances, chores, etc.) we would take them and have them divide up the funds into the 3 envelopes (10% or more for the Lord, 10-40% for savings, and 50 to 80% for spending). At Thanksgiving, we would get a Samaritan’s Purse catalog of giving opportunities to help people in need. Each child would be told they had $100 (or whatever amount we decided) and they would be able to look through the catalog and determine how they wanted to invest their giving dollars in the Lord’s work. Each person would then take time to tell everyone what things they’ve chosen to fund (i.e. purchase Bibles, buy a goat for a family in need, pay for school supplies, etc.). Recently, we told our children (now 10, 12 and 14) that they would have an extra $1000 this year to give to the Lord’s work (for missionaries, relief work, a family in need, a special project at church, etc.). For several years, we have also had our children involved in shopping for Operation Christmas Child gifts.
5. NSR - You taught one of the video sessions in Crown Financial Ministry’s “Discovering God’s Way of Handling Money”. You said that if people do not learn to give their tithes & offerings first, learning about budgeting & saving will not help their finances. Why is this?
BK - A person can become a great budgeter, a great saver, and a great investor, but if they don’t learn to be a great giver to God what’s the point? We’re not to live for ourselves in this life but to live for the glory of God and the benefit of others in our generation. We’re blessed to be a blessing.
6. NSR - What do you see as a crucial topic facing the evangelical church at large today?
BK - Teaching God’s Word on finances and generosity is a vital area of spiritual transformation and Christian discipleship that is being avoided by most pastors and churches today. This has been the “silent subject” and the “Great Omission” in the church for over 50 years. Martin Luther is reported as having said, “People go through 3 conversions. Their head, their heart and their pocketbook - - unfortunately, not all at the same time.” Many of our churches are filled with unconverted pocketbooks. This is not an issue of budgets, bills, and buildings - - but an issue of spiritual transformation. If Jesus is not Lord over 100% of what we have is He Lord at all in our lives? One man told me that until he learned to faithfully and generously learn to give to God he was only “playing church” but wasn’t fully committed to Christ. When I have been a speaker for PromiseKeeper events around the country or a guest generosity preacher at churches, I have had people at the end of my message take out their wallets and dedicate them to the Lord. With their wallets in their hands, I lead people in a prayer to dedicate all they have and all they ever will have to the Lord.
7. NSR - After a person / church learns about giving, do you have any recommendations on books or studies on finances as whole?
BK - I would encourage every church to offer a financial class/course/study that people can go through to get their finances in order. I recommend Crown, Good $ense Ministry, or Dave Ramsey.
8. NSR - What are your feelings in general about the prosperity gospel?
BK - I feel the prosperity gospel isn’t a gospel at all (it’s not good news) - - it is a distortion of the whole truth of God’s Word. In September 2006 the cover of Time Magazine asked the question: “Does God Want You Rich?” and on the inside article examined the current trend towards pastors preaching the prosperity gospel. On my MAXIMUMgenerosity.org website, I contrast 4 stewardship views operating today - - Poverty Theology, Prosperity Theology, Consumer Theology (this is the one most practiced in evangelical churches), and Balanced Biblical Theology. I believe the first 3 views miss God’s intentions for mankind whereas the last view best represents God desire for people everywhere, The link to this handout is here.
9. NSR - In speaking to other leaders & pastors, how often should a pastor speak to his church about finances, especially in regards to giving?
BK - Since there are 2,350 verses in the Bible on finances, material possessions, and generosity, the Lord must have intended that as spiritual leaders we help people understand how God Word and will intersects in their lives in this important area. At my church, I am preaching through all the books of the Bible over a 4-5 year period, so I find that it is normally a point within a sermon has to do with an overall perspective to finances/possessions, but only once or twice a year is it the whole focus of the sermon on giving financially. In churches that use a topical approach to preaching, it would probably be wise to have a financial sermon series once a year, with one of the messages focused on giving. But in a worship service, I have found that the power of a generosity testimony (having someone answer one of the weekly questions from my GenerousLife.info) booklet has a tremendous ability to influence a congregation’s attitudes and actions about giving to the Lord. I also encourage churches to use PowerPoint offertory slides when they pray for and collect their offerings. Sermonspice.com also has some excellent video clips on finances and generosity.
10. NSR - Do you feel that the tithe should go to the local church and excess giving can be given to individual missionaries and missions, or does it matter?
BK - In my GenerousLife.info Bible devotional booklet that churches are using to help teach all the families in their congregation about generosity, I encourage (but do not mandate) that people to give 10% or more of their “main income” (expected salary) to their main ministry (their local church). I then encourage them to use “extra income sources” (2nd income, bonuses, overtime, investment returns, etc.) to the “extra” ministries and people in need that they care about. My wife and I have done this for years and we have found that this approach allows us to be generous and faithful to our local congregation while at the same time generously supporting other ministries and people that God lays on our hearts. Over the years, I have also learned to avoid using the word tithe because you quickly become embroiled in theological debates with some people in the church (i.e. tithe = OT Law, etc.). But I do teach and encourage people to give 10% or more to the Lord’s work. I have found even in counseling with people in deep financial troubles that giving the first 10% of their income to the Lord’s work is the beginning step to invite God’s help in their finances. I have also learned that giving 10% is not the finish line, but only the starting point of faithful giving to the Lord. Ultimately, we’re to excel in the grace of giving and in my own journey, I started at the 10% level but over the years God has graciously worked in my heart and life to cheerfully give far more than 10%.