They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” — 1Timothy 6:18-19
The Apostle Paul was always looking to advise and encourage the fledgling churches he had started, and we see a good example in his first letter to a young man named Timothy. He offers what might be called “guiding principles” for local churches regarding worship, doctrine, qualifica- tions for leaders, and, especially about living one’s faith in daily life.
Much of what he says is true for our church, as well. It is because every church draws life from the good works, generosity and faith of its mem- bers. All of you are a blessing to your church. Your prayers, presence, giving, service, witness, and, yes, the spirit in which you offer these gifts define the kind of church we are.
There is another formula at work. As a pastor,
I have found that the more one is involved in the life of their church, the more likely they are to grow deeper in their faith. Ultimately, isn’t that the goal for every Christian? For Jesus, faith is always about growing and bearing fruit. That has never changed. That is what we are striving for in all we do as a church.
Exactly one year ago, our church received an amazingly generous gift of one million dollars. The donors, who wished to remain anonymous, were familiar with our church’s mission work in the community and our ministries to youth and children.
They were also aware of some of the critical needs of our church, such as the mortgage from the “Generation 2 Generation Cam- paign.” Thus, they wanted to help us retire our debt as soon as possible so that we could shift our full attention back to missions and building up our church for the future.
Now that a year has passed, I wanted to share with you some of the exciting ways this gift has blessed our church. In keeping with the wishes of the donors, the gift was designated for these areas:
1) Paying down the mortgage;
2) Providing for transportation needs to enhance ministry and programs;
3) missions and development for the future.
Here is where we are to date…
Immediately upon receiving the funds, a check for $600,000 was delivered to United Community Bank. At the time, we owed $725,000 on a mortgage of almost $1.3 million. Since then, as members fulfilled their pledges (with some continuing to pay afterwards), our debt has been reduced to about $30,000 (going into August). And, we anticipate this will be paid by the end
of the year, thank you, God!
In the way of transportation, we had none a year ago. The old van was on its “last tires.” After studying our current and future needs, a 15-passenger van was purchased in January for $44,000. It is used almost every day during the week for our youth, the Weekday Children’s Program, missions, and other groups. Recently, an order was placed for a 15-passenger bus ($65,000). The plan is to bring our members at College Walk to worship, and to provide for outings for older adults, Sunday School classes, youth and children, and more. These two vehicles will meet our needs well into the future and are available to all in our church.
Let’s talk about missions. This has been a primary focus of our church for some time; indeed, we have it in our mission statement— “moving out to serve.” It is who we are.
Even through these years of paying down the debt, we have continued to be generous in supporting many causes, especially here in our community. We were even able to create a special “mission endowment fund,” as part of our FUMC Foundation, with the intent of making a greater impact for years to come.
Brothers and sisters, it is already happening. Perhaps you have noticed the banner as you come into the Welcome Center; if not, take a moment to look at it. You will see that our church (that’s all of us) gave over $177,000 to missional causes in 2016.
And that is up from $143,000 in 2015! What do you think about that? And now, the opportunity is here for us to do even more, thanks to the generosity and vision of a family who wanted to see our church make an even greater difference for God’s Kingdom.
Now, as thankful as we ought to be, I feel the need to share a concern. We have been given
a wonderful blessing. At the same time, we have seen support for the church’s general fund actually going down. Thus, we continue to run a deficit through this year. Perhaps there are some who assume that since we received such a generous gift, that their giving is not needed; I pray this is not the case. Though we give to build up our church, Christian stewardship is really about our response to a gracious God.
Besides, it is important to remember that because the donors designated how the gift
was to be used, we cannot use the funds for any way we please, including our general budget (which pays for utilities, maintenance, curriculum, ministries, salaries, and the missions that are covered in the annual budget). As an aside, certain items in the budget have increased simply because we are blessed with growth in our church, especially in our nursery and ministriesto children. But isn’t that what we want?
All of this is to say, as I have said many times, our church is in a very good place right now. And the gift we received last year has made it even more so, now and for the future, by enabling us to shift our focus back to our main purpose of being in mission. We are building a good foundation for the future, as Paul said to Timothy, so that we and others can take hold of the abundant life Christ offers.
Thanks be to God,