Thursday, October 16, 2008

Running on Empty

Just a few weeks ago the Nashville area ran out of gas.

There was lots of talk about whether there really was an interruption of supply due to the hurricanes south of us, or if there was just rumors that were flying. Rumors that there wasn’t going to be enough, so that everyone took every car and every container to the gas station on the same day to hedge their bets. Whichever reason was correct (probably a combination of both) the results were the same. Long lines, frayed nerves, curtailed travel plans, and some panic.

When that scarcity mentality grabs a hold of us, there is no telling what we might do. We had some police officers stationed at gas stations by me. I didn’t see anyone act up. In fact, when a young driver ran out of gas while waiting on line, some of the other drivers got out and were helping him inch his car up in the line until he got his turn at the pump.

Now all we hear about is the economy, stocks in the toilet, banks going under or getting bought out, Congress bailing out financial institutions. It’s not hard to get alarmed, to be frightened, to pull our heads into our shell and say, “it’s time for me to worry about me and mine.”

That’s not what the church does. We follow that guiding principle that when things get tough, you stick closer together. There is a whole world that is being rocked by the unstable nature of the financial realities. And there are more opportunities for ministry now than ever. There are more reasons for United Methodists to pull together, to let our strength and our numbers empower our ministry, than in any time in recent memory. The challenges are great, but the potential for life changing ministry is even greater.

I think of Jesus on that hillside along the Sea of Galilee. The crowd has pressed in on him, and the disciples want Jesus to send the crowd away because they don’t have any food to share. Scarcity mentality has set in big time. One boy has offered up what he has: some loaves and a few fish. In Jesus’ hands, it is an abundance.

So, lets use our resources wisely, but lets see clearly our abundance and boldly share it. We are not running on empty, not in regard to compassion, or hunger for justice, or enthusiasm for evangelism, or concern for the poor. Let generosity – extravagant generosity – still be the rule that claims us. Let us put what we have into Jesus hands and let Jesus show us the abundance!

--Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Communications Ministry Group, United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stewardship and the mandate

I was reading an article on The United Methodist Church website titled "United Methodists call for stewardship over greed" by Kathy Gilbert and found an excerpt of interest.

...Corporate greed must be replaced by the biblical mandate of stewardship," the statement said.

The "statement" is referring to an article published by the General Board of Church and Society in response to the bailout bill.

Sometimes I think we forget that stewardship is indeed a mandate of the bible, and not a suggestion from the church. I don't remember reading the verse 'If you have money left over,' sayeth the Lord, 'give some to the church. If you don't, it's OK - I'll catch you next time.'

Instead, the God instructs us to give a tithe of all that he has given us. A tithe is known as a tenth part - or 10%. But, it doesn't stop with a tithe. Jesus spoke about bringing your tithes and offerings - an offering of sacrifice above the tithe. Many times people give their 10% title and think they have done their part, but there are many other opportunities to give!

The United Methodist Church, in my opinion, follows Jesus' thoughts about giving tithes and offerings. The church has seven apportioned funds which serve as the "tithe" and then have six churchwide Special Sundays and The Advance which are the "offerings."

Let us heed the mandate of the bible and remember that stewardship isn't optional - even in difficult economic times. Remember, God only asks a small portion of what He has blessed us.

--Tracy Wood, Web Coordinator, Connectional Giving Team

Thursday, October 2, 2008


As I was reflecting on what to write this blog entry (and I promise they will be more frequent), I continued to think about motivation. What motivates people to give? And I don't just mean money, but also time, talents and possessions.

What motivates people to give? Is it for the tax benefit? Is it for positive publicity? Is it because people inherently want to give back? Is it to emulate a good example to others? Is it a conviction of duty? Is it expected?

So, then I reflected on myself. What motivates me to give?

I consistently think the same thing: I give because I never know when I might be the one in need.

For example, I donated to Light the Night because God forbid one of my children should be diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma.

I give to my church because I'm financially able to and there may come a day where I need to rely on others generosity for food or clothing.

I consistently give to Goodwill because I want to give others a job and there may come a time when I may rely on Goodwill for clothing.

I give my time and talent to the handbell choir at church so that others can hear God's love through beautiful music.

I offer possessions on my local Freecycle group because it's not important to resell everything for a profit - if I'm able to give it away for free to someone who needs it, then I'm helping others.

I give money to V-Day because I believe that we have to stop violence against women.

And I give to Nothing But Nets because global health is every one's responsibility. I can skip two Frapuccino's and give a bed net to a family in Africa.

No matter what the motivation, giving is a good thing. Giving money, time, talents and possessions makes this world a better place. But most importantly, "its better to give than to receive." And that's the truth. I LOVE seeing someones face when they open a gift or know that someone has changed their lives. (And it's even more amazing when you can do it anonymously!)

So, what motivates you to give?