For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
For several months, I have written about an approach that was related to me as, “The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” The book, of the same title, by Robert Schnase was highlighted at the UCC Annual Conference in Green Lake. The point is that there are five essentials that are critical to our fulfilling our mission as a church. The book offers a practical framework and common language to help churches understand their missions and fit it into their lives in a practical way. These are the things that lead congregations into health, vitality, and fruitfulness. I have written to you, in turn, of each of the concepts. They are: radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service. This month we consider the fifth and final concept: extravagant generosity. This church is very generous, but there are ways we can grow in the way we think about and deal with money. The following is a summary of the books major points.
Vibrant, fruitful, growing churches thrive because of the extraordinary sharing, willing sacrifice, and joyous giving of their members out of love for God and neighbor. Extravagant generosity describes practices of sharing and giving that exceed all ex-pectations and extend to unexpected measures. It describes lavish sharing, sacrifice, and giving in service to God and neighbor. Every scriptural exam-ple of giving is extravagant, and churches that prac-tice extravagant generosity teach, preach, and prac-tice the tithe. Such churches teach and preach giving that focuses on the abundance of God’s grace and that emphasizes the Christian’s need to give rather than on the church’s need for money. Tithing helps the followers of Jesus understand that all things belong to God and that, during their days on earth, followers are entrusted as stewards to use all they have and all they are in ways that glorify God. What Christians earn belongs to God. What Christians spend belongs to God. What Christians save belongs to God. What Christians give belongs to God, and they need to give generously, ex-travagantly, and conscientiously in ways that strengthen the Body of Christ.
Did you know that:
…if your great-grandparents were active in the faith, they likely tithed? How were they able to do that and we have difficulty tithing? We struggle with tithing because our hearts and minds are more powerfully shaped by our affluence. We find it harder to give extravagantly be-cause our society’s values shape our perceptions more than our faith’s values do.
…those who are new to the faith may find the practice of tithing extremely challenging and should ease into it slowly?
…the keys to effective and spiritually strengthening campaigns are the same in all churches, large and small: an unapologetic but gracious emphasis on proportional giv-ing and tithing, an emphasis on giving on the giver’s walk of faith, an emphasis on the connection of money to a compelling and clear sense of mission, an emphasis on widespread participation in planning and leading, and a heavy reliance not just on the pastor, but lay leadership?
Ideas From Other Congregations Who Practice Extrava-gant Generosity. We could:
…address the challenge of growing in giving to long-term members as well as to adults who are new to the faith.
…invite young adults into leadership and planning, allowing for a contrast of patterns in earning, spending, and giving between the generations.
…offer seminars, workshops, and retreats that help peo-ple deal with excessive debt, financial/estate planning, or preparing wills as well as offer support groups for those struggling with bankruptcy, compulsive gambling or un-employment.
Questions to Ponder:
- What’s the most fun you’ve ever had giving money? What made the experience meaningful, memorable and delightful? How do you feel about giving money to UPCC?
- How do you feel about how UPCC teaches about money? What values/themes guide our efforts to encour-age giving and tithing?
Jesus preached about money more than any other topic. I think that is because what we do with it is a good indi-cator of will. I am thankful for how this church is gener-ous to those in need- with time, talents, and money. Alt-hough this conversation is more difficult than how the Vikings or Packers did this year, it also leads to more spiritual growth. Thank you for what you have done to make God’s love and event through UPCC.
Grace and Peace,