A $1,600,000 Gift. What Would You Do?

A $1,600,000 Gift. What Would You Do?

Let’s say you receive a surprise windfall of $1.6 million dollars. After you are picked up off the floor, what will you do? Well I know what I’d do. I’d put most of it in the bank. Yep. That’s what my mom and dad told me to do, because you know, you can never have too much money. OK, maybe I’d go buy myself something new at Goodwill – excuse me, I mean GW Designers – but for the most part, I’d be banking it. That is, until I read this book.
Getting an unexpected gift is the premise of the newly released, Love Let Go: Radical Generosity in the Real World by Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell. In 2014, LaSalle Street Church in Chicago learned that land they owned with four other churches was being sold. Their share of the profits would be a whopping $1.6 million dollars – all of it undesignated.
After much discussion – some of it contentious – the church leadership voted to tithe its first ten percent. The way they decided to do it brought them international attention. In September of 2014, over 300 members and regular attenders of LaSalle Street Church were each handed a check for $500. Their only instruction:

Do good in the world.

I thought when I purchased this book that it would tell stories of how people spent their $500. It does do that, a little. But the primary focus of Love Let Go is revealing how this church decided to spend their remaining $1.44 million. The two key things that helped guide them in spending this unbelievable gift were:
1. Recalling their identity and
2. Moving from a scarcity mentality to one of abundance.
Those two things alone transformed not only the individuals within the church but their Chicago neighborhood as well. And, it will ultimately do the same for those who read this book.
Sprinkled throughout with relevant biblical references, Truax and Campbell lay out a compelling case for generosity. Acknowledging that coming to such a place is a process, they nonetheless are clear that the Lion King’s Mufasa had something important to say:
“Remember who you are.”
“…we intentionally rooted ourselves in identity. We listened closely for ideas aligned with LaSalle’s DNA…: sharing the gospel, meeting immediate needs, advocating for others and for Jesus, addressing racial and economic disparity, and reducing violence…Our attempt to root ourselves reflected our desire to stay true to our core identity as a church. Whether or not the press found it newsworthy.”
Calling themselves “peddlers of grace,” LaSalle’s $500 giveaway allowed their congregation to understand abundance anew. With $1.44 million in the bank, they faced a key decision: Should the church’s mortgage be paid off? Their decision on the mortgage – moving from a position of scarcity to one of abundance – is well told.
“We had just received an enormous windfall. More money than the church could ever have imagined. And here we sat, afraid. Afraid of how we’d make budget by the end of the year. Afraid of what we would have to give up if we didn’t. Afraid of tomorrow’s trouble. The immediate fear made our collective memory short. We saw scarcity ahead and forgot the abundance right behind us.”
In the end, LaSalle chose not to pay off the mortgage. They were being true to themselves and to their mission. They ultimately did set aside $100,000 for the property and finance committee to assess and come up with a way to finance their future needs. Their example certainly challenges us all.
With discussion questions offered, Love Let Go is designed to be read and grappled with in community. As the authors say, “The sweet spot of generosity comes at the congruence of identity and unmet needs.” Love Let Go will push you to think about where your church has been and where it should be going as it practices the fine art of generosity.
Having a $1,600,000 undesignated gift dropped in your lap can force you to discover who you are, whose you are, and what you are called to do. But you don’t need to wait – here’s a book to help you think about it now as you celebrate the abundant resources you already have.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. It’s half-off day. GW Designers is calling her to visit. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.