A stewardship letter to Beaver Lake Lutheran Church encouraging people to be faithful in the stewardship of the whole life and to be a growing generous giver.
Break the Giving Barrier
Dear People of God of BLLC:
As you are in the process of making your Financial Faith Promises for 2008, I would like to respond to a question I hope you are prayerfully asking yourself. "How much should I give to God through the Church?"
The bottom line is that the amount of money you give, and the quality and quantity of your time and talent offerings, are very personal decisions. These decisions are based on your intimate relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and your sense of accountability to the people of God for the many gifts and blessings you have received as we share our ministries in mutuality and interdependence. No one can tell another what they can or should give. It is an awesome responsibility, glorious privilege and prayerful opportunity. But before you make your decisions, let me share with you some specific information and biblical guidelines for our giving.
The central message of stewardship is:
Stewardship is recognizing that all that we are and all that we have come as gifts from God. God has called us to be good and faithful stewards of the gospel, the earth, our lives, our relationships, our time, our property, our talents, and our money.
This calls for a basic, life transforming management decision in your life and mine:
"Here I am, Lord, take me, all of me,
all that I am and all that I have."
Once we make this decision and commitment, our lives will never be the same again.
"God owns everything, God owns me. Period."
I want you to know that as your Pastor, I am praying that the members of BLLC, you -- me -- us, everyone, will give our entire lives to God, all our relationships, and 100% (yes, you read that right, 100%) of our annual income and earthly possessions to God for God's glory. Luke 14:25-33. Jesus said it: "None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." God wants it all!
In Romans 12, Paul admonishes us to present our entire lives (who we are and all that we have) to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God as our spiritual worship.
If we do, God will receive us and our gifts, bless and transform them and return all of them to us in the new paradigm, the kingdom of God, saying...
"Thank You, you needed to do that. (Notice carefully what I said. I didn't say I needed it;I said you needed to do that.).
I now return them all to you in the new paradigm, the kingdom of God.
Now do with them what I would have you do with them:
Enjoy the precious gift of life.
Love and serve people (be a blessing to them).
Take care of yourself and your family.
Pay your taxes.
Witness for Christ.
Walk softly on the earth (relating to the natural world with reverence.)
Give a joyful, sacrificial, meaningful, proportion of your time, talent and money for Christ's mission and ministry in and through the People of God at BLLC and other benevolent and charitable causes."
Rather than picking a figure for your offering to God at BLLC out of the air, I invite, encourage and challenge you to become a percentage giver. This means that your financial offering will be determined by the specific percentage of your gross or net income that you choose. That's the biblical formula for growth in the grace of giving... i.e., give as God has blessed you. Christians for centuries have considered the tithe giving (giving 10% of gross or net income) as the launching pad for generous giving and I assume some of you are tithers plus. As a reasonable first step toward the tithe, I recommend that you start your journey of being a percentage giver at 3% to 5%. Note the chart. In the years to come you can grow and mature your giving up to and beyond the tithe. Of course, you can begin giving a higher percentage now if you choose to do so.
Whenever I talk about percentage giving, two big questions always arise.
1. "Are we talking gross or net income?"
2. "Does the percentage include or exclude other charitable giving to United Way, Cancer Fund and other important humanitarian causes?"
My standard response is always the same.... "Who cares!" Once you accept the principle, discipline and blessing of percentage giving, you will continue growing in the grace of generous giving, always asking "how much more?" rather than "how little can I get by with?"
It is important for you to know why I am asking you to grow from your present range of giving to giving from 3% to 5% or more of your gross or net income. There seems to be a "giving barrier" similar to the sound barrier, which is encountered by high speed planes. Up to a certain speed -- the speed of sound -- the air in front of the plane creates a drag or resistance that increases with the speed of the plane. But, once the speed of the plane exceeds the speed of sound, the craft moves on with unprecedented freedom to greater and greater speeds. In a similar sense, we can get caught in a drag or resistance to growth in giving by getting stuck in a lower range of giving. I invite and encourage you to break the "Giving Barrier" by becoming a proportionate giver. Enjoy the freedom of generous giving. (based on LCA stewardship pamphlet).
Must you have great faith in order to be a percentage giver? It's exactly the opposite. Most people begin giving a percentage with a fair bit of nervousness. But then they discover that there still is food on the table and that the bills can be paid. In the process they see how God can take their gifts and use them to minister to the needs of others. The result is a stronger faith, a faith that calms the anxious heart and looks to the God who cares about lilies, birds, and all our human needs. (Luke 12:22-31). A side benefit/blessing/bonus of this biblical giving is the fact that you will end up with more money than you know what to do with. Am I proposing a get rich quick gimmick? Not at all. The fact is that if you give generously first and off the top, you will become much smarter in your money management by setting financial priorities. You will get off the financial tread mill of buying stuff you really don't need with money you really don't have to impress neighbors you really don't like made with diminishing natural resources that should not be used for non-essentials which cause pollution in a land fill when they are thrown away. It's the blessing of the Christian virtue of frugality (economical in use or expenditure, prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful; entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager). You become "de-thing-afied." This should not be mistaken as anti-materialism. The material stuff of life are good gifts from God but they must be shared for the sake of justice, fairness, compassion and peace.
Do yourself a favor. Make the commitment to become a 3% to 5% (or more) giver now. You'll be glad you did. Let your motive for and method of, giving be based on God's blessing to us:
"You are blessed to be a blessing.
"Freely you have received from God, freely give to the needs of people."
If we all adopt this biblical paradigm for giving, we could joyfully and faithfully fulfill the mission and ministry God is calling us to do by making a maximum, compassionate response to the needs of God's hurting people in the congregation, community and world. Before you fill out your financial commitment card, let the "Ten Biblical Principles for Stewardship" help you decide what you should give. Remember:
Give yourself to the Lord by accepting him as your Lord and Savior.
(2 Corinthians 8:1-7).
Then Give: Regularly(1 Corinthians 16:1,2), Proportionately(2 Corinthians 8:7), Confidently(2 Corinthians 9:8),Increasingly(2 Corinthians 8:7), and Joyfully(2 Corinthians 9:7).
Generous giving based on these biblical guidelines is actually good for you. As you give you are blessed to be a blessing and grow in your relationship to God and God's people.
Give . . Give . . Give . . ! ! !
It seems like that is all we hear in church: "Give! Give to them. Give to those. Give to this. Give to that. Give to everything and give to everyone." Why so many choices? We provide a smজrgࣲsbord (a good Scandinavian word) of giving opportunities because different people have different giving needs. There's something for everyone to give toward for the glory of God on behalf of people. There's something for you. Christians are givers, just like God. God so loved the world... the Son was given. Let us rejoice and give. God bless us, our giving and our gifts.
Love, Joy and Peace,
George E. Thronson, Pastor at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church
P.S. A Letting Go Prayer
"I submit/surrender/release myself into your hands, O Lord. Here I am Lord. Use me. You are my Master. I am your slave/servant/disciple. Do with me as you see fit. Let only your will be done in me as in all your children. Regardless of what happens, I can give you thanks because your grace is sufficient for me to creatively and constructively handle anything and everything to your glory. My precious, abundant, resurrected and eternal life is your gift to me. I offer myself to you now, just as I am. I give you all that I am and all that I do and all that I have. I give you my pocket change, billfold/wallet, checkbook, paycheck, social security benefits, my home, automobile(s), insurance policies, investment portfolios, all my other assets, including my gidgets, gadgets and gismos, even my credit cards, bills and debts and anything and everything else I mistakenly think I own. I give you my Faith Promise to the Church and my charitable/benevolent giving to other worthwhile causes. I give you all I have been and all I have done and left undone. I give you my memories and my hopes and dreams. I give you my sickness and my health. I give you my good traits and characteristics and my bad habits, dysfunctions and addictions. I give you my lifestyle and death style. I give you my complaints and my gratitude. I give you my job, hobbies and avocations. I give you my talents, skills, interests and abilities. I give you all my intimate and casual relationships with you, myself, others and the environment. I give you my pain and my joy. I give you my sin, my sinfulness and my saintliness. I give you my wholeness and my incompleteness and dis-ease. I give you my faith and my doubts; I give you my victories and my defeats. I give you my past, present and future. I give you my life, my death and my resurrection. Help me to surrender myself with confidence and without holding back, for you are my Creator, the Redeemer and the Great Physician and the Advocate and Comforter...the One, Holy, Triune and Eternal God. Amen.."
(by George E. Thronson, based on a prayer by Chaplain Ken Meece in a pamphlet Toward You Healing)
August 29, 2007ښ George Thronson
George Thornson is a retired ELCA pastor who is currently serving as an interim pastor at Beaver Lutheran Church, Maplewood, MN when this letter was sent.