It’ll soon be tax time again, and already I’ve had a couple of folks ask me about giving statements. They should be finished this weekend, and by next weekend they’ll be winging their way to you!
This year we’ll be distributing the statements to church members a little differently. My hope is that you’ll receive your giving statement from either myself, or a member of the Stewardship team. At the very least you’ll receive a phone call to let you know that it’s in the post.
Why? Well, for two reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, to say Thank you. Last year, in the most difficult economic climate, we were within only a few hundred dollars of our budget. Because of you we were able to open the doors every Sunday, pay church expenses, and be Christ in our community. The Gospel was preached, the hungry fed, and we continue to be a witness to God’s love.
I want you to know that I appreciate your faithfulness. More than that, your community appreciates your faithfulness. From the children who met Santa in our Christmas outreaches, to the families struggling with the effects of HIV/AIDS that received Thanksgiving dinner gift boxes. Last year Narcotics anonymous increased their meetings here at the church to two a week, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) now meets every month. PFLAG have now moved into their permanent new home in Frederick – and would like me to thank you very much for helping them through their time of transition.
Of course, it’s nice to read all of this, but I want you to know what a difference you make personally. Your gifts and tithes are so appreciated, you have no idea.
The second reason I want to talk to you is I want to make sure that you are aware of the ways in which you can support your church.
Of course, you can put money in the plate every week, but it’s not the most effective way to give. Even if you don’t attend church regularly I would encourage you to use an envelope (available in the foyer) and write your name on the front. That way the church can keep track of your giving over the year and print a report out for you. You may not need a tax receipt for your giving this year, but taxes can be reviewed over the coming years and you may find in the future that a tax receipt for this year’s giving is very useful. Circumstances change, so even if you don’t need a receipt right now, be aware that you may find a 2012 receipt very useful sometime in the future.
Another way to give is by direct deposit. If you’re on a regular salary you can have the bank take a set amount every month and direct transfer it to the church. It’s easy to set up, especially if you use internet banking services. This is an especially generous way to give to the church, because it makes sure that even if you take off for a time that the church is still supported. After all, when you’re away from home you don’t stop paying the rent, mortgage, utilities – if you did that there soon wouldn’t be a home to come ‘home’ to! If you are a member of the church then this is your home in the same way. It’s your church. It belongs to you. (This may be very difficult to understand if you come from a longstanding tradition like the Roman catholic Church where you belong to the church and not the other way around!) You decide the future of the church by the way you support it.
I also want to make sure that you understand what tithing is and have the opportunity to tithe if you would like to. Tithing is not the same as giving. Giving is an act of charity. You put your hand in your pocket and give whatever you can afford to give. It springs from a grateful heart and is very much appreciated, but it is not a spiritual discipline. If you want your church experience to be a part of a much deeper spiritual walk then tithing is a way of connecting more intimately with God.
When we tithe we vow to set apart a portion of what we earn before we receive it. We choose to put God before money. You see, when we choose to give to the church our giving is limited by what we can afford to give, and what mood we’re in. Feeling broke, we give less. Feeling flush, we give more. Tithing is different in that we covenant with God to give a percentage of what we earn to God before we do anything else. We do it both when we feel like it, and when we don’t. We do it when we’re flush and when we’re broke. We do it because we want our finances, as well as everything else in our lives, to come second to our relationship with God. When we receive more we give more, and when we earn less for any reason our tithe is less. But in each situation our covenant to give is not affected by how much money we may earn.
Do you ever find that the amount of money you give to the church is dictated by what you have in your pocket? You may want to give $20, but only have $10. Our giving to God is dictated, not what we choose to give, but by how much money we have. It’s not us, but money, that has the control! But – when we tithe a percentage (traditionally a tithe is 10%, but I know folks who covenant 5% and some who covenant 15%, and percentages in between) then the decision to keep our covenant with God is always ours. We earn $100, and if we’re tithing 10% we give $10, or if we earn $1 we give 10c. In each case we are true to our covenant, and money is never comes before our relationship with God.
There are also spiritual benefits to tithing that we don’t often see by simply giving. Peace, joy, love, and all the fruits of the Spirit are waiting for those who are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to be the guiding force in their life. I want you to have those gifts. Even if by tithing the church receives less money I want you to be blessed. But, in my experience the church doesn’t lose out. I’ve found that faithfulness always wins out and the church is as blessed as the one who chooses to tithe.
Thank you for giving so generously through 2011. I hope you are as blessed by your church as your church is by you. I pray that as we move forward that you fall more deeply in love with God every day, and that your giving and tithing may be a reflection of the wonderful gifts that God blesses you with throughout the year ahead.