Create a Culture of Generosity Now!
An article in my local paper recently caught my eye: “Laid-off Man Wins $1 million in Oregon Lottery.” I’m not quite sure why I started reading the article – maybe it’s because I never play the lottery and thought I could live vicariously as a millionaire for a moment (probably why I watch “American Idol” too). It wasn’t until I got to the 13th paragraph that I had a “gasp” moment. “[Riley and Misti Gunn] deposited the $670,000 – their winnings after taxes – in a bank, then wrote a check for 10 percent of that amount as their regular tithe payment to their church.”
Now I am not saying that encouraging your members to play the lottery is a good way to balance your budget (surprise, it isn’t). Nor do I believe that gambling is a way to pay off debts (it rarely works, dang it). But, my take away from this story is that somewhere along the line, the Gunns were part of a church culture that emphasized returning to God in thanks for God’s abundance. An out-of-work man immediately giving 10% of his winnings to his church? By any secular cultural standard – that is crazy thinking. But clearly the Gunns were taught to live by John Wesley’s mantra “Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but how much of God’s money will I keep for myself.”
Even though Jesus talked about money, wealth and possessions quite freely, we are part of a timid church culture when it comes to talking about those same things. So, how can you take some steps to create a culture of generosity?
- Start with new members. Take seriously each aspect of becoming a part of the Christian community. Talk openly about the Biblical principle of tithing. J. Clif Christopher in Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate (2008) says that “churches who unabashedly say that all members are expected to attend worship every week that they are well, to serve society in at least one area outside the local church, to be in at least one small group that is studying how to grow as a Christian, and to give at least 10 percent (tithe) of their income,” those are the churches that are growing.
- Educate your congregation. There are some serious misconceptions about what the Bible does or does not say about money. And, I would guess your congregation would be really uncomfortable knowing just how often Jesus brought up the subject. Here are 250 scriptures to get you started on your preaching and teaching schedule: http://christianpf.com/money-in-the-bible/
- Pray about what God would have you give. If you don’t believe in tithing, don’t complain when your congregation doesn’t either. I remember hearing a horror story of a pastor who felt that bringing chocolate donuts to the service every week was a satisfactory tithe (no kidding). Your personal generosity has a powerful seen and unseen impact on your congregation.
Let’s pray the Gunn family no longer feels the need to buy a lotto ticket in hopes of covering their bills. But, let’s also pray that we, and our congregations, might be inspired by their commitment to knowing who is the Owner of all things.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.