A Message from Pastor Harvey
Greetings My Brothers and Sisters..
You probably noticed that during the month of August, our lectionary readings from the Gospel of Luke centered around money, wealth and the kingdom of God. Jesus understood that our relationship toward wealth affects our relationship with God and with each other. The point, of course, is Jesus wants nothing to stand in the way of our relationship with God and with each other. This is why Jesus taught that your heart is going to go and abide wherever it is that you store your treasure. If you spend all your treasure on yourself, on earthly things, your heart will abide there. If you use your wealth for the kingdom of God, your heart will abide there. Therefore, seek the kingdom of God. Store up for yourself treasure in the dominion of God.
So, let us examine that. What ought I to give? How much is expected? (These are two very different questions.) How do I work through this? These are tough questions. The following is meant to help inform and help members discern as the council begins work on the 2020 budget.
In my newsletter article for July/August, I began to talk about our congregation budget for this past year. Our budget for 2019 was approved for $108,320. And in 2019, the income we’ve received in offerings is right in line with the budget. This means that the approximately 48 families and individuals who give regularly at St Paul Evangelical Lutheran gave an average of $188 each month or $47 each week in order to meet the budget. But that average of $188 is only a statistic. Some individuals gave more and some less.
Please pay attention to this: church is supposed to work this way, with some giving more and some giving less. We are not a club with membership dues. It is extremely harmful to the body of Christ to even think we should operate as a social club. We are a church, a congregation, who welcomes every single person regardless of their disposable wealth, as well as their social status, their gender, race, orientation, etc. We do not desire to limit our membership to wealthy patrons.
Additionally, some non-Lutheran congregations actually require members to give 1/10th of their income to the church. When you become a member, you inform the church of your annual income and the church tells you what your monthly offering will be. This is called a tithe and comes right out of the Bible. I don’t teach this. Why? Two reasons. First, because a person who makes $5,000 a month can probably afford $500 to the church, but a person who makes $2,000 a month struggles to pay rent, medical, car and buy food, let
alone give $200 to the church. And secondly, because Jesus taught that people need to take care of their families before they give to the church. Giving generously to the church is a good thing, unless you do it for the prestige and glory of being a big shot at the expense of your family.
But it is important to inform members about the budget and how it functions. For example, for many years, I didn’t know better. I was making more than a living wage and I had disposable income. I attended worship regularly and gave $5 a week, thinking that I was being generous and doing my share. But I was ignorant and didn’t know anything about the budget or what it would take to meet the budget. (And let me add, this is not for the sake of the budget itself, but for the sake of the ministry of the church. ) Once I became more informed about the budget, I knew, first of all, I could afford to give more in offerings. I knew I wasn’t doing my fair share. But more importantly, I believed in the ministry my church was doing, and I knew I wanted to support those ministries. I wanted to help and participate in the kingdom of God.
In your discernment about giving, it is important to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. The Bible says 6 the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:6-8 NRS)
When I was giving only a small portion of what I could afford, I never did feel like I was fully participating in the kingdom of God. I was reaping sparingly. I had no spiritual growth. I had no joy. And I think that lack of joy was because I knew subconsciously that all I was doing was the bare minimum. I was giving enough to help keep the lights turned on at church. What joy is there in utilities?
But I believed all along that Lutheran World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response were both doing great ministry (along with many other ELCA ministries). When I gave more generously, I felt like I was contributing and participating in the work and ministry of the ELCA and the kingdom of God. The paradox is that when I gave generously, I was more joyful in my giving.
I don’t know what the 2020 budget will be, but I suspect it won’t be greatly different from 2019. We, the council, want to be good stewards of the offerings the congregation members all make together. But we don’t want to merely keep the lights on and pay staff. We want to participate in the kingdom of God and the ministries of the church. In order to meet this 2020 budget, the congregation will ask for the help of everyone. We ask members to pray and discern with the Holy Spirit and only then, joyfully give to God for the sake of the Gospel. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Your shepherd in Christ,