by Margaret Pittman, Guest Blogger
Occasionally churches get it right–they do something so significant that it makes you stand back in awe and amazement. And as a critic of the way most churches operate–as self-serving institutions, the event that occurred at my church did just that.
“Give Back Sunday” could have been a cheesy superficial marketing tool–allowing the congregation to take a little money out of the offering plate instead of giving money to the church. Whoopee. I get to take a buck and buy someone a cup of coffee–but oh wait, I can’t even do that with a dollar. I can get someone a stick of gum … maybe. What can I get someone for a dollar?
Anyway, everyone was invited to participate in taking an unmarked envelope out of the offering plate. There was a sense of palpable skepticism, as well as anticipation, in the congregation before we opened the envelopes. When we finally peeked inside, a stunned silence filled the pews. Wow. $20, $50 and $100 bills were in the envelopes–a total of over $13,500, with the instruction that we could not spend it on ourselves. We were told to bless someone this week because you have been richly blessed.
As the 300 or so people filed out after the service, many were crying, humbled and dreaming about how they could use their cash to help someone in need. Many were in need themselves, so the challenge will be for them to release the money to someone else in greater need. Perhaps for a large, well-established congregation this would not be so amazing, but this church is brand new and shares space with a Baptist church. This church is able to give generously because it is not bogged down with building expenses and debt. This church is doing something right–taking the message of Jesus Christ outside the walls of the church and investing in the local community.
Stories of how folks have spent their ‘talents’ are being posted a on web site. The testimonies are pouring in.
This successful effort has made me think about what churches can learn from each other:
- Don’t get bogged down in debt.
- Give generously.
- Take a step back now and then from frenzied ministry activities and ask yourself “Why? Why are we doing this? Why are we spending all this money?”
- Make serving the poor a priority–no matter how big you get or how big your budget. It was important to Jesus (it was the topic of his very first sermon), so it should be important to us.
- Oh, and yeah–it is more blessed to give than to receive!