Breaking the “poverty” mentality . . .
The Old Tent
I was eight or nine years old when my parents were pioneering a church in Kansas City. We were poor. I remember that Mom had been cooking food that I wasn’t fond of for a number of days. She knew I didn’t like it, but it was all we had. Then a preacher came to stay with us while he preached at the church. One day he asked my mom if that was all we had to eat. So, he went to the store and bought steaks for all of us. Oh how I loved steaks. While we were sitting at the table eating these wonderful steaks a woman from the church came by for something and when she came into the house and saw that we were eating steaks she was offended. Her family quit the church because the pastors were eating steaks with the money people gave in the offerings. That is a true story.
Mike Neville and Mom in Tent
Throughout my childhood this idea that as a minister, if you were blessed it was offensive to God’s people and that offense should be avoided at all costs. You see, we used to think that doing without was pleasing to God and that it was simply a part of the ministry. Of course, there were the big Pentecostal preachers who were both admired and criticized at the same time. They were admired for the ways in which God used them but criticized because of the prosperity and blessings that came with their fruitful ministries. And of course, when people criticized their success and prosperity it only added fuel to the poverty mentality in those who were so critical. And somehow it justified the poverty and lack of blessing in the lives of ministers as well as the lack of fruitfulness.
Pentecostal preachers who were both admired and criticized at the same time. They were admired for the ways in which God used them but criticized because of the prosperity and blessings that came with their fruitful ministries. And of course, when people criticized their success and prosperity it only added fuel to the poverty mentality in those who were so critical. And somehow it justified the poverty and lack of blessing in the lives of ministers as well as the lack of fruitfulness.
The poverty mentality had such a strong hold upon so many members of the church. Even when Janet and I were getting married her mother told her, “If you marry that young preacher you will live out of the missionary barrels for the rest of your life.” Meaning that preachers and missionaries lived on second hand clothes and on gifts from other people. I can clearly remember that my dad’s suit pants always had holes in the seat and how he would constantly pull his suit jacket down in order to cover the patches.
Putting up the tent
During the early days of our marriage and ministry that is the trajectory that we were on.
I even purchased a tent. One day in Rogers, Arkansas I was out patching up the tent before we put it up for service and the same preacher who came by to Dad’s church in Kansas City (the one who bought the steaks) stopped by. He saw me out in the sun patching the tent and he walked up to me and said, “What are you doing? Didn’t you learn anything watching your parents trying to do these tent meetings?!”
That was a wake-up call for me.
I can tell you that it has been a journey to break away from the poverty spirit. Even in my life today I find these early beliefs and attitudes can creep up on me. That is why it is so critical that our minds be renewed continually with the washing of the word of God. If we don’t keep the Word in our minds our old mindsets will set in and attempt to bring our old bondages back.
The Ring that reminded me of the old Poverty mindset.
My wife has always had this thing about giving jewelry away. Over the years she has enjoyed giving her personal jewelry to pastors wives and to missionaries. So, about a year ago, a man gave Janet an old man’s diamond ring that he had inherited and didn’t want. It was in an old setting and looked like it hadn’t been cared for well. Janet took it to a jeweler to have the diamond put into a new setting. When she picked up the ring it was amazingly beautiful and the jeweler told her to have the ring appraised and then to have it insured. Needless to say, the diamond was worth a lot. It was worth more than every piece of jewelry she had ever had or given away all put together. And when she came home with that sparkling ring on her finger her faith preaching husband said, “Janet you can’t wear something like that! What will people think? That’s not right! What will people think!”
That old poverty spirit that has tried over and over to hold me back from receiving the rewards from my Father God was creeping up again.
A few days later Janet was in the kitchen washing dishes and said to herself, “Maybe Larry’s right and I shouldn’t wear this ring.” Immediately the Holy Spirit spoke to her and said, “Don’t you ever be ashamed of what I’ve blessed you with.” So Janet walked right into the living room and told me what the Holy Spirit had said to her, and then she told me: “Larry, I’m never going to take this ring off. I’m going to wear it 24/7 because my father gave it to me, not you.” I had to repent of that spirit and mindset that crept back in.
No one can receive God’s rewards when the spirit of poverty has got into their mind.
They can’t trust and believe and so when God tries to break through and bless them, they refuse to receive it because of false humility and the poverty spirit. I know that there are plenty of verses in the Bible about the dangers of money and wealth. Believe me, I have heard them all preached over and over and I, myself, have preached my fair share of them. We need to understand the Biblical dangers of wealth. But, the teaching is not there to keep us away from God’s rewards but rather to guide us in stewarding the wealth God wants his children to possess. So, be blessed!
Larry Neville – MondayMorning Club