Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Joyful Giving

I began the day yesterday with more apprehension regarding a sermon than any time in recent memory. Most Sundays, I'm just excited to share what I've learned through the studying the Bible, but yesterday was different. While I was excited to share, I'm also aware that the church at large has a reputation for being preoccupied with fundraising, and that this is one of the main reasons people don't give Christianity a chance. I was a pastor back in the 80's when church financial scandals were common fodder for Time and Newsweek. I saw the fallout firsthand as people whose view of Christianity ranged from ambivilant to hostile gained ammunition for rejecting the faith outright.

So I've been hesitant to preach and teach on money in the past, as I haven't wanted preoccupation with dollars to supersede vision. This past three weeks have been good for me, however, as I've come to discover a couple of important truths:

1. What we do with our money is a matter of deep spiritual significance
2. While money matters can become a preoccupation that supercedes vision, clear vision for ministry isn't really clear at all if resourcing the vision isn't addressed, and the resource question is, of course, a money question.
3. If I fail to teach on money, I fail to teach on a subject that is addressed in the Bible more often than heaven or hell, or divorce, or homosexuality.

Yesterday's teaching on joyful giving was an invitation to enter into a lifestyle of generosity, motivated by relationship, and belief that our God is both active, and a God of abudance, and that our involvement in His Kingdom purposes (seeking first the kingdom, as we're admonished to do in Matthew) is the only way to live our lives to the fullest extent possible. It seems that a devotion to God's Kingdom purposes will mean a generous involvement in those works where the Kingdom of God is breaking in to the World, and there are many such works supported by Bethany (Word Made Flesh, International Needs, and Torchbearers Romania all come to mind, though there are many more). We're hoping to support Agros in the future as well. My firm belief is that by strengthening our home base so that we can more effectively train leaders, and then begin a strategy to plant churches, we will have a multiplying, exponential, impact on the kingdom. That's why, right now, the home base needs attention.

Meanwhile, we continue to work with Bagley Elementary School to help keep it open. Special meetings continue to occur, and we contiue to hope, pray, and offer a voice for keeping the school open, as healthy schools are vital to the strength of the neighborhood. You can have a voice in how the schools should solve their budget woes by going to their worksheet web site and filling it out.


At 10/5/05 00:44, Anonymous dave said...

I must agree. Even though I'm all for the fundraising, I have to admit that I was a bit put on guard by all the money talk recently (after none at all for so long!). But I think it’s only because I’ve been trained to feel that way… For one thing the church rarely speaks about money (maybe once a year for most churches). Even though money is a big topic in the bible and is certainly the topic for our culture. We love it. Most of the time we don’t know how much so. But when the church speaks about needing money for its own needs, something in the mind says “maybe this is some kind of trick!” Just as if a telemarketer had called, I feel the same cautious reaction. This warning goes off like “why does my church need my money?” It’s kind of sick really. Broken. Personally I’m all for giving to the church, and I still get this sense of the matter from time to time.

It’s like loving, caring, sharing, fellowship, nature, etc. are all the domain of God, and therefore wide open to preaching and teaching. But my money? Isn’t that between me and my bank? Obviously there are some very big and fundamental things that need to change in me, and our culture in regards to money and stewardship.

Anyway, this is all meant as an encouragement to continue to keep the topic of money open for discussion. We need to hear it! Especially if it’s hard for us to hear. I’m very thankful for your careful and thoughtful treatment of the matter these past weeks. You’ve been quite clear and open about where your priorities and vision are focused.

At 10/5/05 11:52, Anonymous Seth said...

Let me just share what has happened since this focus on
stewardship started.
There were some clues that this was going to be a year that God
wanted me to focus on giving. So when I heard what the church had in
mind I knew it was an opportunity to become a better at giving.
I have been unemployed for 5 months so it was hard to come up
with a number to commit to every month. At a stewardship meeting
someone said "Ask God to show you how you can give more then you
thought." So we did. Within a week 2 part time jobs lined up and even
a side project. Coincidence?
One thing I have been wanting to tell people is that if all that
happens is that everyone digs a little deeper and the building gets
built it will be sad. However, if everyone finds that attempting to
out give God results in blessing after blessing then I think we will
have lives that make others want what we have.


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