First, in October, I will ask the congregation to make a 3-year long promise to an “above-and-beyond” capital campaign, the goal of which is 1 million dollars.
Then, in November, I will ask the congregation to renew their promise of discipleship giving, the regular, week-by-week giving that supports the ministries of the church.
Next, in December, I will ask the congregation to keep track of the amount spent on Christmas gifts for family and friends, and contribute an equal amount to the town of Mellier, Haiti.
Sometimes it wears me out to think so much about money, and to ask people to give serious, prayerful, and intentional consideration to how they use their money. I sympathize with people who say, “All the church ever talks about is money!” I certainly understand why they feel that way. Sometimes it feels like that to me, too.
Part of why it wears me out is that I fear people will misconstrue my intentions. I don’t really care so much about the money; I care about the ministry the money makes possible.
First, the congregation needs this capital campaign in order to free up the thousands and thousands of dollars we are currently paying on interest, so that money can be put to work supporting ministry instead.
Then, the congregation needs to renew our promises of financial discipleship in order to continue and grow the wonderful ministries that are ongoing.
And next, the congregation needs to affirm that Christmas is about the presence of God, not the presents stocked on the shelves of the local Stuff Mart.
So none of the things I’ll be highlighting over these next three months is really “about the money,” although it surely seems that way on the surface. I believe that what we do with our money matters in the same way that what we do with our time, our talents, and our energy does. It’s about values. How we use our resources ought to reflect what we value.
To be honest, I don’t know exactly why talking about money makes me so nervous. In the Bible, Jesus was talking about money all the time. Money seemed to be one of his favorite topics, in fact. He quite obviously cared deeply about how his followers used their money, and so it makes sense that we should continue to do so today.
I’m reading (over and over again) Ephesians 3:14-21 in preparation for this week, and feel the power inherent in this brief passage. It is reminding me of what’s important, what the priorities are. It is truly an inspiring, amazing passage of scripture.
I am comforted by the thought that, wherever my mind might be at any given time, that God is “able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” Personally, that means all my talk about money shouldn’t freak me out so much; God’s got it covered! As a congregation, that means "we are limited only by the size of our imagination;" sometimes clichés say it best, which is probably why they are clichés.
In other words, we might not make our million dollar capital goal or increase our discipleship giving for the upcoming year or gather as much money as we might have hoped to be able to send to Mellier. But to get stuck on that would miss the point. The point is that whatever we give, God will use it to do something good.
And knowing that should call us to increase, not decrease, the space we create for God to work in our lives. Knowing that God can work miracles with my meager gifts inspires me to give more, not less! Just as, knowing that God will forgive my sin inspires me to sin less, not more. Just as, knowing that God loves me no matter what I look like inspires me to dress up for church, not go all scuzzy.
See if this works for an illustration: I’m in a musical with Springfield Little Theater the next two weekends. When a scene crashes, the actors find a way to go on somehow, ad libbing until everything is back on track. But knowing that we’ll make it work somehow doesn’t mean that we’ll just go up there and wing it every show. On the contrary, we will work our tails off in rehearsal so that will not happen.
It is the same principle at work in our faith life, I think. Knowing that God is who God is should not inspire us to “phone it in” because God is so cool and can take care of it all. On the contrary, it should inspire us to “comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
May we all be inspired to be more by the “miraculous more” that God is able to do with and through and among us!