Friday, April 27, 2012

Why we give…

A frequent question that makes pastors ponder is that of spiritual growth. Namely, “What can Christians do to grow spiritually? To keep deepening our commitment to God’s Love and Grace?” Presumably, this question interests non pastor-types too. I pray we all consistently seek new practices that broaden our spirits. But since my day job involves leading Plymouth Creek’s efforts to further God’s mission, the question of spiritual growth rumbles around my brain space often.

And I’ve discovered some wonderful ideas, if you’d like suggestions. There’s the old standbys- regular Bible reading, daily prayer, continuing Christian education, serving the poor and vulnerable. There’s the elaborate and evocative- weekly prayer walks, guided meditation and yoga, interfaith conversation, attending spiritually rich movies then discussing over drinks. Whatever your cup of tea, you have options! The key, of course, is finding something intriguing, then taking it for a test drive.

But the most effective spiritual growth program I’ve personally encountered is also one we rarely enjoying discussing. And that’s giving. By which I mean…Money! There are other forms of giving, obviously, of your time, talents and passions. But something about money stirs our hearts and raises anxieties in fundamental ways. For which reason, I’ve come to believe, it’s a unique issue to confront if you’re concerned about spiritual growth.

Think about it. Doesn’t spiritual growth imply offering to God something more of what matters profoundly to us? We give to God long-standing grudges, and grow more comfortable in the contours of forgiveness. We give to God anxieties about families and friends, and grow more familiar with trust. And if you ask people what really matters, practically, in everyday life, along with friends, families, love, etc., isn’t money high on the list?! I know that the more disciplined and courageous I’ve grown in giving my money to God’s work, the more hopeful and confident I’ve grown in relying on God’s grace. Which, of course, isn’t something I concocted on my own. It’s an ideal I learned from faithful disciples who’ve come before me- my family, friends, mentors, and folk like, well, you. So thanks!

But many people who write about the relationship of money to spiritual growth suggest that it works best when we name- specifically- why we give to what we give. Thus, rather than throw money at some organization because you like their promotional materials, you do better- for yourself and God- if you take time to learn their core values. And particularly, whether those values match your core.

This time every year, we ask Plymouth Creekers to make pledges for the next year’s operating budget. Our fiscal year runs June 1 to May 30, so May is when we need to know how much we can expect to receive next year, as we faithfully craft our budget for personnel, worship and mission. So you know, we’ll be asking you to turn in pledges on or before Sunday, May 20th. And this year, I’m hoping you’ll again ponder why you give what you give.

Therefore, each Sunday until then, our church will re-examine the core values we named and claimed during last year’s visioning process. In case you forgot, here’s that list (an impressive one, if I say so myself!)- Freedom of Belief, Unconditional Hospitality, Joyful Service to Neighbors in Need, and Friendly, Intimate Community. Remember, not every church puts its emphasis on these four areas. But to Plymouth Creek, nothing’s more important. When we plan worship, create programs, engage in mission work, etc., it’s these values that guide our decisions. So I’d like to believe it’s these values that attract you to our community, and therefore guide your decisions about giving. Which is to say, your opportunities for spiritual growth. So please, prayerfully consider what level of giving your family will be able to sustain next year, whether you’re in the position to grow your giving and, especially, why you give at all. Then, by May 20th, let us know your decisions, so we can create a faithful budget. And, as I say every Sunday, from the bottom of my heart, Thank you for your stewardship. Will you give with me?

Grace and Peace,


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