The 'Triple A' rating
Alphabetical ratings have long been used in the financial sector to assess the strength of investments. AAA (better known as 'Triple A') is the highest possible rating indicating financial strength.
At Stewardship, we have taken the concept of the 'Triple A' rating and applied it to churches. Here it is not a measure of financial strength but is shorthand for three attributes important for churches and church leaders to live by when it comes to handling money. The three A’s stand for:
This is not something that we have simply dreamt up, the basis for the 'Triple A' rating can be found primarily in 2 Corinthians chapter 8.
2 Corinthians chapter 8
In verse 2, the attitude of the Macedonian church is explained as one of rich generosity. It is made all the more remarkable as it came during a time of severe trial and extreme poverty. The Macedonian equation is not one which is easy to get your head around, particularly for the prudently trained accountant. However, we can see that generosity is a heart attitude where we recognise God’s provision and:
- don’t grasp it for ourselves;
- apply it to bring about good;
- use it to enhance Kingdom values on Earth; and
- intentionally seek to store up treasures in heaven.
Generosity is a theme that is returned to time and time again throughout the Bible. At Stewardship, we often hear from church members, regulators and the media, that it is those churches with a good attitude that tend to be more energised, exciting and effective. They are the beacon on the hillside. Our fourth blog will explore this further.
In verses 17 and 18, we see that Titus and another well respected leader were sent together to receive the offering. But why was there a need for two leaders? Could Titus not be trusted on his own? Was his character being questioned? We would suggest that this arrangement was not a reflection of Titus’ character but rather a reflection of Paul’s wisdom recognising some of the benefits of accountability as:
- providing reputational protection for everyone involved;
- building confidence and trust;
- doing what is expected and right in the eyes of man as well as God;
- avoiding criticism (internal and external) about the way the gift is handled; and
- not allowing the rumour mill to start turning. We see this impacting individual churches in the 21st century in the way they do, or don’t, seek to build teams and encourage openness. Our fifth blog will un-pack this further.
Verses 19-21 speak of the administration of the offering where Paul:
- Sees it as honouring the Lord himself.
- Recognised the importance of handling money well in the eyes of man.
- Understood that good administration is not the enemy of generosity.
- Wanted to ensure that money did not simply “drain away”.
Often administration is perceived as an unwanted and unnecessary constraint. Our experience is completely the opposite, churches with good administration are:
- Effective but still “safe”;
- Free to make intentional and good decisions about money;
- Ensure that what is 'Caesar’s' is indeed paid to 'Caesar'. Blog Six explores administration in more detail.
What Can Possibly Go Wrong?
In our next blog 'What goes wrong when we aren’t active in handling money well?' I consider what can go wrong in churches where money is not handled well and there are weaknesses in attitude, accountability or financial administration.