A Quick Theology of Money for Church Planters

By Travis Cunningham

Money, money, money. Church planters have to have it. Here's how the gospel impacts our stewardship, generosity, and peace of mind regarding finances.

The Gospel Basics

When thinking about the people we disciple, we typically think through the storyline of the Bible. We begin with creation. God created everyone and everything (Genesis 1:1). People are image bearers whom God declared “good” (Genesis 1:27; 31). Sin then entered the picture and fractured everything. Though still “good,” we are now fallen (Genesis 3). Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Redemption comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). After redemption, we live in the in-between, growing to look more like Christ yet yearning for the consummation and recreation of all things (Romans 8:19-23).

Do we think of money in the same terms? Well, I think we should.

A Good Gift from God

God created, owns, and oversees everything (Psalm 24:1)… money included (1 Chronicles 29:12-16). As the Father of lights and the Giver of good gifts, money is also declared “good” (James 1:17). For many church planters, it is easy to see money as a necessary yet distracting part of our church plant. But if money is God’s idea and a good gift, then shouldn’t we view it as a fundamental and beautiful part of our church plants? As I’ve heard it said before, “Money is missionary ammunition.”

A tension, then, is that we are fallen people handling money. This is why money (or the love of it) can be a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). It is easy to misuse, pervert, or ignore our church finances. Church planters must resist the love of money and use of God; rather, we must love God and use money. Guard your heart and have a wise plan for the use of money in your church plant (Proverbs 4:23).

Though money can cause havoc, it is not evil. I want to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), and I am of the conviction that more money means we can achieve this goal more effectively. I desire to do justice, walk humbly, and love mercy (Micah 6:8). I hope to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27). We want to plant more churches everywhere (Acts 1:8). If we’re honest, so much of these goals requires money. A proper heart posture towards money only comes when Jesus regenerates our hearts and redeems our view of money.

Christlike Stewardship and Generosity

Finally, we find ourselves in the in-between—the now and not yet. We are growing to look more like Christ with our use of money. I think this means growth in three primary areas. First, we must grow in our stewardship. This entails growing in our understanding that we do not deserve or earn our money but that God entrusts it to us to steward well (Matthew 25:20-23). This means we are Spirit-led, prayer-saturated, fear-of-God people when it comes to our handling of money. Second, we do not anxiously serve money or derive security from money. Rather, our security and service are to God and in God (Matthew 6:24-25). And lastly, looking more like Christ with our money means growing in radical, sacrificial, and joyful generosity (Mark 10:21-23; 2 Corinthians 8-9).

We as planters, along with our churches, should display the radical generosity of God to us in the sending of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Our first impulse should be to give, not hoard. To be benevolent, not withholding. To deny self for the good of others. To glorify God in our use of money.

The Fiscal Matters of Faith

The more and more we allow Scripture to inform our theology of money, the more comfortable we will become in discipling our congregations in what Jesus demands of us when it comes to money. But each church planter must first firmly solidify himself in what Jesus demands of us regarding money. Do you have a theology of money? Have you worked this out in both your heart and mind?

Here’s my one-sentence guiding principle when it comes to a theology of money: money is created by God as a good gift for His children to steward for His glory and the good of others.

Following this resource will be three more articles on church planting finances. We will consider the financial areas of fundraising for your church plant, moving to sustainability in your church plant, and stewarding finances in your church plant. My hope is that we will walk away from this time loving God more deeply and walking in His ways more faithfully—especially with the combustible and essential topic of money.

Published March 25, 2024

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Travis Cunningham

Travis Cunningham serves as the Lead Pastor of Story Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He is married to Katy and has two kids: Peyton and Owen. He earned a Master of Divinity from Western Seminary. Story Church was planted in 2019 and desires to see the Inland Empire region of Southern California transformed by the gospel of Jesus to the glory of God.