As a pastor, I have consistently provided small group opportunities to help Christians struggling with debt. It has been a high priority to put them on the path to financial freedom with the application of biblical principles in money management.
In recent years, I’ve noticed a lack of these kind of discipleship opportunities for believers on the other end of the financial spectrum. I wondered what would happen if I were to create a safe environment for the affluent to talk openly about their unique challenges and temptations, bringing God’s word to bear on their situation.
After a season of prayer and seeking counsel from other experienced leaders, I decided to start such a Bible study using Howard Dayton’s “Charting Your Legacy” curriculum. I began looking for couples whom it seemed God had entrusted with much wealth, and who had also shown evidence of a desire for their lives to make an impact for the Kingdom of God.
One of the unique challenges we quickly discovered is how difficult it could be to bring this type of community together. Their lives often require them to travel extensively. We had to space the gatherings out several weeks apart, and at times use video conferencing technology to bring everyone together. At each gathering, a different couple would host the study in their home, and that same couple would lead the discussion of that Session’s material.
Throughout the study, I began to see the amazing potential this community holds to influence the world for the Kingdom of God. Here are four observations about the affluent community that I took away from our time together- they are easily remembered by the acronym LIFE:
Labor – The occupations of the affluent often revolve around high stress decision making activities. Several of these couples mentioned how much they loved simple, service-based volunteer roles at the church.
One of my friends described how he was initially offended when the church asked him to serve in the nursery. He told of how he was rocking a baby to sleep and murmuring to God about how much more he had to offer this church, reciting his resume to God in silent prayer. It was then that God reminded him that everywhere else in his life he was the boss, but here he would be the servant. He said, “Pastor, this church doesn’t need me to flex my leadership muscles as much as I need to flex my servant muscles.” Never think that you are offending the affluent by asking them to pitch in and serve like everybody else.
Influence – At each gathering, we would go around the room sharing prayer requests. On one occasion I mentioned a certain difficulty the church was having with a particular legal issue. After our study, one of the men hung around and mentioned to me that he knew the politician that was involved in the situation and that he would make a phone call on our behalf. The problem disappeared. Affluent people have worked very hard to develop a network that allows them to get big things accomplished. If they learn to see this network as a God-given gift to steward, they will use it to glorify God.
Finances – Obviously, this community has much to offer financially. We expect people who have musical talent to contribute to the musical needs of the church. In the same way, I always make it clear that we expect the affluent to do their part in meeting the financial needs of the church. Over the course of our study, one of the couples gave a one time gift to our church that is likely the largest single donation the church has ever received. I believe that broaching the subject may have helped them think about the large financial impact they are capable of making for the Kingdom.
Expertise – These people became affluent because they are really good at something that people are willing to pay a lot of money for. One of the men that I connected with was a high level employee with Wal-Mart. His office oversaw over 30,000 employees. Keep in mind he is a solid follower of Christ and has an impeccable testimony as well. Can you imagine the help he is bringing to the personnel team of our church? It really has taken things to a new level of excellence and productivity for the Kingdom.
These are just a few of the treasures we discovered during our time together. Let my story challenge you to consider ways you can disciple this unique community within the context of your church.