If you haven't seen "The Marge & Donna Stewardship Video," take a few moments to watch it. Marge perfectly captures what many of us think the moment we hear that it is stewardship season at church. "Oh...that again? Didn't we just do that?"
It's not uncommon to feel that way toward important things. Healthy eating, exercise, household chores, whatever...they are important routines that we return to again and again for the sake of our health and happiness.
We are entrusted with many responsibilities. Families, homes, careers; none of these allow us to coast... at least not for long. As stewards, we take time to care for the things that are important to us; we tend the gifts with which we have been blessed.
As God's people, we do likewise: we set aside a few weeks to be attentive to the way in which we are called to care for our church home. Ultimately, stewardship is a discipline of faith.
What the World Needs Now
The times they are a-changing, the old song goes. Indeed they are, and that is apparent especially in the church. Studies show that fewer and fewer folks identify with established religion, at least in the ways that they used to a generation ago. The church is increasingly seen as irrelevant.
And yet we see how important it is to BE the church, to be a community grounded in God's love, living out the promise of life in Jesus. In these anxious, unsettled times, it is clear why it's so important for us to be the church, joyfully receiving the gifts of God's grace, generously sharing this gracious Word for all who are hungry to hear it, and loving and serving like Jesus.
At Redeemer, we are not perfect, but we gather with the perfect love of Jesus at our center. We are fed with his very life, and we open ourselves (as best we can) to be made new by the Holy Spirit. And we are most completely US when we share what we've received. Our weary world needs this wonderful thing we have!
Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple...
Most of us learned that simple children's rhyme a long time ago. It's cute, but it perpetuates the idea that the church is a building with the steeple.
The church is the people on the inside, the baptized, gathered children of God. We are the "household of God." (Ephesians 2:19) We are bound together on a common journey as disciples of Jesus. In this household we WORSHIP together, we PRAY for each other's needs and joys. We gather together to LEARN, to deepen our understanding of our faith and the world around us. We seek to ENCOURAGE one another, SERVE our brother or sister in need, and INVITE all to participate in this community of grace.
In addition to those marks of discipleship, we are called to GIVE, to live our lives with generosity modeled on the giver of all good things.
What's the Challenge for 2017?
A clear sense of mission has called us to step out boldly and takes risks for the sake of the Gospel. This missional posture hasn't always been easy; in 2015 we suffered a serious cash crisis. But in faith, and because of the generosity of so many, we weathered the storm. Through 2016, Redeemer's financial situation has been relatively stable, but we operate on a thin margin, a margin that leaves no room for error, no room for growth.
Growth is important. "He not busy being born is busy dying," to quote another old song. In 2016 we received into our community 30 new members. Consistently, those who are new to Redeemer tell us that it was the size and vibrancy of our youth program that drew them. This is a church that is busy being born.
Growth doesn't happen by accident; it is intentional, the result of an attitude of growth. We take seriously the call to grow in faith, to grow in all the dimensions of our discipleship, and yes...to grow in generosity.
Making a "Plan for Giving"
You plan your household spending based on your expected income. The only way the church can plan its spending is by asking its members to make a "plan for giving," or a "pledge." We ask all of our members to prayerfully make a plan for their giving for the coming year. A "plan for giving" is commitment made in good faith, but circumstances change; it is non-binding and can be changed at any time.
On Reformation Sunday, October 30th, we will celebrate what we call "Commitment Sunday." During worship, we invite our members to offer their pledges during worship. It is, truly, and act of faith, a witness to how God has blessed you, and forward-looking response to your blessedness.
What About Electronic, Automatic Giving?
Please consider setting up automatic, electronic giving, sometimes referred to as "EFT" (electronic funds transfer.) Automatic giving helps you stay current and regular in your support of that which is important to you, and it also helps your church by evening out seasonal variations in giving. It's easy to set up; go to www.redeemeronline.net, click on "give online," and set up an account. You have full control of your giving and can adjust the amount and/or frequency of your giving at any time.
What Does the Bible Teach About Giving?
Giving is a private matter between you and God; no one can tell you what you must give. We can, however, encourage you to consider your giving carefully and prayerfully, and to consider how it impacts your church. Some principles to keep in mind:
Commitment Sunday is October 30th, 2016
We invite you to bring your "Plan of Giving for 2017" with you to worship, and join us following worship for breakfast! Thank you for all you do to make Redeemer a special place of grace!