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.