Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Response to Grace

On Monday, our staff discussed bad experiences with church giving or pledge campaigns.  

It was mentioned that some congregations engage in 2nd or 3rd offerings.  In other words, the ushers counted the offering and if there wasn’t enough, they passed the plate again!  This practice assumes that people held something back the first time.  On the positive side, it recognizes that the congregation covenants together to support the church budget.  But woe to the visitor who attends and finds themselves in a kind of offering ping pong between the pastor and the congregation!
Other bad experiences happened through the pony express pledge drive.  The tradition of this is to pass the pledge “saddle bag” from family to family until it comes back to the church.  However, it had always gotten held up at one house or another.  And so, this person had instructions to wait at each house until the pledge was given and then they moved on to the next house!  Needless to say, it was a little awkward for the delivery person. 

One old practice I had heard of was that the congregation posted what each family gave on a bulletin board in the church.  Another person had heard that only the top five givers of each week were posted.  This can quickly devolve into power politics in the church.  Our giving becomes a kind of merit where we count ourselves better than others before God.

So what is a theology of giving that fits with Wesleyan theology?

Our giving is not to make us feel guilty.  Our giving is not to earn a seat at the table.  Our giving is certainly not to show up our neighbors in the congregation!

When we pray before a meal, it is from
thankfulness that we have something to eat.
It is a response to what we are receiving.
Our giving is ultimately a response to the grace we have received. 

It is done out of thanksgiving.  It is done out of the realization of blessing.  It is done through the sense of being caretakers and stewards of this world with which God has entrusted us.
And so, within the church, we pledge an estimate of what we will give to God because of the grace we recognize that we have been given.  It is a healthy response.

A pledge drive for a church is healthy.  Some antagonists to pledging say that we should take whatever we get on faith.  However, as United Methodists, we are methodical.  We appreciate data.  We believe that making informed choices is smarter than making uniformed ones.  God gave us our brains to use to bring about the transformation of the world!  We often pray something about “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

A pledge allows the church to more greatly fulfill God’s mission.  We make it in faithfulness as a percentage of the income we expect to receive in the coming year.

This year, First United Methodist Church will celebrate the theme, “Connecting More People with God and Neighbor”.  This celebrates our vision and acknowledges our growth.  We’ll look at the Gospel reading for this week, Luke 17:5-10, and the specific theme will be “Connecting our Expectations”. 

I hope that you’ll join us at 8:30 or 11:00 am in the sanctuary or at 10:50 am in Wesley Hall and we'll trust that you gave what you intended the first time!

In Christ,


Photo used through the Creative Commons license through Flickr.com.

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