It’s that time of year again. It’s fundraising season for the charities and non-profit and service agencies of our communities. As we close in on the end of the year, the direct mail and email appeals have begun to fill our mailboxes with requests for our dollars to support their worthy causes. Their glossy oversized postcards and prepared return addressed envelopes make it easy for us to boost our annual charitable giving tax write-offs.
And we in the church also participate in this season of fundraising, but we often dress it up with the fancy church word of “stewardship.” I would argue that we miss out on the full meaning of stewardship when we only focus on fundraising for the church.
First of all, fundraising for the church is good and worthy! We should have glossy postcards, online buttons on our websites, weekly offering collections, and ______, and _____, and all the opportunities in the world to request and give funds to the life affirming, gospel promoting, eternally loving mission of our congregations! Our churches need money to do their important and holy work!
AND, God doesn’t need our money. Remember, God created the heavens and the earth, without a single dime. HOWEVER, in order to boldly follow Jesus, WE need to give our money away.
Jesus talked about money more than he talked about any other topic recorded in the gospels. And he wasn’t working a fundraising campaign. Jesus understood humanity in a profound way, and he understood our relationship with money as more than a convenient exchange for goods and services, but as an expression of our values.
Jesus also understood that in order for us to be able to grab ahold of the abundant and eternal life of intimacy with God we need to open our hands and allow our possessions, our money, to flow freely from us.
As a Christian, I have found profound spiritual experiences await me in my regular disciplines of prayer, study, worship, and generosity, specifically giving of money.
Joe and I have a regular habit of giving a percentage of our income to our local church and other organizations that match our faith and values. We give regardless of the financial needs of those organizations because we need to practice putting our money where we claim our hearts are. For this giving, we decide what to give based on what comes into our lives, not based on the appeals or requests we receive.
We also practice the discipline of saying “yes!” with abandon. We have landed on a number that is comfortable to us so that whenever we’re asked to support a worthy project or program we can easily say, “Yes! Here is our donation!” That number isn’t huge, it roughly matches a convenient pizza dinner we’d just as easily say “yes!” to at the end of a long day, but the size of the gift isn’t what matters. What matters is the practice of giving and freely saying, “Yes!” to opportunities for generosity. You see, when we stretch our hands out, we also stretch our hearts.
Have a blessed stewardship season this year, friends. May your heart be stretched!
Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister