How to Minister to the Rich
Imagine that it's your best friend's birthday. They have gifted you great gifts for all your past birthdays, and now you want to return the favour. However, every year around the time of their birthday, you get extreme anxiety because your friend is exceptionally wealthy. You struggle every year to figure out what to buy for someone who has everything they need.
Providing value to financially well-off people has been a continual problem for the church. Statistically, locations that have wealthy populations tend to have low church attendance.
There is a "chicken or the egg situation" often cited. Is it that the rich don't believe that they need God? Or is it that the church does not understand the needs of the rich? Let's look a bit deeper into these two ideas.
God is our Provider
The familiar message preached worldwide is that God is our provider, our great physician, and He will provide for all our needs according to His riches in glory.
This message resonates with the majority of the world's population since most people either live above their means or are just making ends meet.
In the United States, the world's most prosperous country, 64% of people live paycheck to paycheck. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 70 per cent of the population living in poverty.
The top 12% of the world's population owns 85% of the world's wealth.
On the one hand, we can see why the theme of "God as a provider" has been so effective. The needs of the poor are great and very obvious. But on the other hand, this message has also caused significant mental harm.
The desire to see God as our provider has been such a critical need that we as the church have forgotten to talk about what to do after God has provided.
The negative consequence of seeing God only as a provider is that it can frame God as a glorified vending machine. You insert a prayer request and out pops the provision to your prayer. After a while, many of us end up with so much provisions that we no longer need to go to the vending machine, so we no longer pray. But unfortunately, the slippery slope continues as we begin to see ourselves as the source of our provisions. God has blessed us with the skills and abilities to generate wealth, but we now attribute it to ourselves. We forget Deuteronomy 8:18, "But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth".
This growth into self-sufficiency is a cycle observed countless times across time and location. Contrary to popular belief, our members are not always to blame. In our lessons and presentations, we seem to forget to mention that when the Lord provides for our needs, it is to empower us to do the same for others. We can see that this purpose has been poorly understood since the time of the story of the rich young ruler. He had wealth, but when asked to give it to the poor, he went away full of sorrow.
As church leaders, we need to modify our message and see God as more than just a glorified vending machine provider. The reason he provides is to empower us to do service.
We can teach our church members how to find fulfilment in service by using the little means that God has provided for them. As their wealth increase, so will the impact of their service. They will find God through the calling on their lives to be of service to others. Our prayers will no longer be a means to an end but a process in the cycle of Christian service.
We find it hard to minister to the wealthy because many of us are convinced, like buying a birthday gift for our rich friend, that the wealthy are in need of nothing. Money does not change the fundamental nature of human beings. We all seek the same things:
We all want to love and feel loved—genuine human connection and friendship without expecting anything in return.
Break from the monotony of life. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. Even the wealthy will enjoy a simple walk in nature, into the forest, by the sea. Interaction with new people of different cultures and convictions, learn new things and see the world from a brand new perspective.
Everyone likes to feel special; we need to know that our lives matter and that we are not just here as an accident, without a purpose.
As humans, we all want to know for the purpose of safety, security, and predictability. It makes it easier to plan for the future, dream, and have faith in the unknown.
If we are not growing, we are dying. Growth is the constant need for progress in all aspects of our lives—the achievements of goals and dreams and the realization of our deepest desires.
Last but not least is the desire for contribution. We all have an inherent need to give back. To contribute to a cause or to find a purpose where we can make a significant impact.
These are some of the areas that we can use to make inroads into the lives of the wealthy. As humans, the things that we seek can not all be bought with money. If we take the time to investigate and implement methods to reach the wealthy in one or more of these areas, we should be able to find success.