Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tough talk

So, I volunteered us (The Alpha and me) to give a talk during our church's annual stewardship focus (for the uninitiated, that's the church version of the public television pledge drive). Our turn is one week from today.

Typically, people have been sharing what our faith community means to them, and maybe a little about giving.

The Alpha and I have strong opinions about what this faith community means to us. It means a great deal to us. We could have found various excuses or opportunities over the years to give up and walk away from it. Others have, but we haven't. That's not who we are.

The investments we make in this faith community mean a great deal to us, too. This is the place where we really began to understand that our lives and our money can make a positive difference in the world. That we really do have the power to help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. That it really is our job to do all those things.

I think where The Alpha and I tend to get bogged down, though, is that we notice all the ways in which we aren't, as a church community, living up to our potential. The average United Methodist gives less than 2 percent of his or her annual income. He and I realized years ago that we could do better than that, and started moving toward tithing -- giving 10 percent of our incomes. Now that we are tithing, it seems easy. It took years of working up to that goal to reach it, though. We want to encourage others to do the same... which is where the urge to rant begins:

We want to say, Seriously, y'all. Come. ON. Isn't our church community worth more than an average of 2 percent of our incomes? Don't y'all like having electricity in this pretty new building we moved into last year? Wouldn't you love it if the youth didn't come before you to beg for money for their mission trip? If we all gave up front, they wouldn't have to do that.

My personal favorite example of misplaced effort is the church auction
[which, this year, is the night before The Alpha and I are speaking to the congregation]. People spend a lot of time planning, gathering donations, and working really hard so we can essentially convince ourselves to give a few thousand more dollars to ourselves -- in the form of moving it from our own bank accounts to the church's account. What if all that time and work could be used on mission instead? If we all really took a hard look at where our money goes, we wouldn't need extra funds from a church auction, or a variety show, or a chili supper, or any other kind of fund raiser. Instead, we'd have the time we spend on those events freed up... to do more ministry!

As The Alpha likes to say, "This church has all the money it needs to carry out any number of ministries. The trick is getting it out of people's pockets."

Abundance, y'all. The vast majority of our congregation has it. There are people all around us who we could be reaching with the love of Christ if y'all would quit pretending you're poor when you come to church, but that you're rich when you go to the mall.

But I'm guessing all that shame would backfire on us.

I've got to quit fantasizing about grabbing people by the scruff of the neck, demanding to see last year's income tax statement, showing them how to calculate 10 percent of that number, and rearranging their checkbooks so it works out. That isn't our job.

That isn't our job. That isn't our job. That isn't our job. Really, it isn't. So we're not going to do it. It isn't our job.

Ideas for how to do what is our job, anyone?


zorra said...

What DO you do, besides quietly giving and quietly serving? Leading by example doesn't seem to work very well. So many people have said to us, "I'm so glad YOU'RE doing that..."

Great exhortation, IMHO, but yes, it would backfire on you.

RevAnne said...

Preach on!
Yeah, you and Zorra are right. We're doing a small group study of Maxie Dunnam's Irresistible Invitation this year, which focuses on more than just financial giving.
And maybe there's an avenue for you: talk very matter-of-factly about your experience increasing your giving to 10%, and then talk about other ways we are called to give in addition to money. The new UM membership vows might be a help there...

Hmm...mind if I join you on that soapbox, btw?

DogBlogger said...

RevAnne, we're using parts of John Ed Mathison's Treasures of the Transformed Life, with one Sunday focused on each membership vow. I think it's worked reasonably well so far, but I guess we'll really see in a couple of weeks.

Plenty of room on this soapbox for you to join me! ;-)

revhipchick said...

amen to what's already been said! i think RevAnne has some great advice as far as talking about your move to tithing. perhaps you might find something other than shame to focus on. i love the comment you made about if we gave 10% upfront then we wouldn't have all the other fundraisers. peace be with you and bless you for doing such a great and needed thing!

so if it works will you come and give the same talk at my church? ;)

Sue said...


When you're done, can you come and talk to my peeps as well??? Wow, do they ever need to hear this!