A couple came to see me recently with a question about giving. They asked, “What should we do if we aren’t sure that all the money we give to a ministry will be spent wisely and prudently?” It’s a good question. In fact, it begs a larger question – “What’s my responsibility to ensure that my tithes and offerings are spent wisely?”
As soon as they asked it, it prompted a story. Stories stick in our minds like glue, and they resurface again and again over time. In fact, according to several leading researchers of our day, 80% of the world’s people – including 70% of Americans – are story-centric learners. That is, they learn and are most influenced by stories, rather than through reading and writing. I know I am. Maybe you are too. It’s the stories you remember. It’s the stories that stick with you. It’s the stories that connect us to reality. And that’s why 70% of all Scripture is in story form. Just think of Jesus! When God became a man He was the Master Storyteller.
The sad fact is, according to those same researchers, 90% of all Christian leaders communicate the truth of God’s Word through a recantation of facts, theoretical concepts, and exhortations.
Someone has said that the success of a sermon is in the pictures you leave in the minds of the listeners. “They’ll forget your words, but will remember the stories.” To communicate successfully, the story must be at the center of what is communicated. It’s stories that intersect with the listener’s own experience that make a lasting imprint on their minds and hearts.
So, back to the question about giving. I told them a story about my father and me in 1962. You may have heard it.
It was 1962 and we were at a tent meeting outside Pensacola, Florida. At the beginning of the meeting evangelist Leroy Jenkins came out through the curtain and announced that God just told him that there were ten men in that tent who would give $100 to his ministry. He said he wouldn’t start preaching until they identified themselves. At my urging, my father was the third one to give a hundred dollars. On the way back to my grandmother’s house that night I asked my dad if he would pray with me to receive Jesus, because God had used Mr. Jenkins to stir my young heart.
Twelve years later I was at home from college when I picked up the Virginian Pilot newspaper and read that evangelist Leroy Jenkins was arrested on embezzlement charges. Half laughing and half stoic, I took the paper to my father and said, “I’m sorry Dad. It seems like you gave your money to a crook.” My Dad skimmed the article, looked me in the eye and said, “Doug, I didn’t give that money to Leroy Jenkins. I gave it to Jesus.”
It’s been 45 years since that late afternoon in Virginia and 57 years since that night in Pensacola. And, yet, I remember both stories, and what they taught me, as if it were yesterday.
Everything we give, we give to Jesus. Our privilege is to give to Him a mere fraction of what He’s given to us. As for Leroy Jenkins, was he a crook in 1962 or did he make a serious mistake sometime later? Who knows? The answer to that question has nothing to do with my responsibility to give to Jesus out of a joyful, grateful heart. Besides, I bet my father would have paid far more than $100 for the chance to kneel beside his son’s bed and lead him all the way to Jesus.