Monday, July 26, 2010

God owns everything.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

Did you ever experience the serendipity of cleaning out the attic? Much of the joy of that task occurs as we stumble upon long forgotten treasures, many of which bring back special memories of yesterday.

It is important for each of us to sift and sort through our many possessions from time to time. What we often discover are items which we no longer need but which could be transformed into marvelous “charitable gifts.”

Perhaps you have stocks purchased long ago which have increased in value but don’t provide much current income. Perhaps your family has property or real estate bought long ago but now it just takes energy and money to maintain. Perhaps you discover an old insurance policy which was paid up long ago but is no longer needed for its original purpose.

All of these “treasures” can be transformed into wonderful charitable gifts. With the help and guidance of the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation your church can do many good things right now! Take a look in your attic … and call us if we can help you! That’s what stewardship is all about.

-Rev. William F. Helwig, WI Annual Conference newsletter

P.S. Did you know we can help you liquidate shares of stock or shares of a mutual fund to make a special summer gift to help your church get through the summer months? Call us today for more information and to receive the most recent forms. What’s even better is that we can do this for any United Methodist Church or ministry at no selling fee or commission. Call or email us today.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications
To Learn how you can be good stewards in the United Methodsit Church, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

'Face of Generosity'

“If we give ourselves away, we will not be a declining conference.”--- Dr. Elijah Stansell Jr., Texas conference treasurer.

At this year’s Texas Annual Conference, Dr. Tom Long, professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, examined the Gospel of Matthew, which he called “a veritable textbook” on generosity. The book teaches, Long said, that: “Any generosity that we might claim for ourselves is only that which comes in response to the extravagant generosity of God. It’s when our eyes are open, and our hearts are filled and our wills are in tune with the generosity of God that we become a generous people.”

He describes Jesus Christ as one who sows generously, “even wastefully,” Long said, “because he knows the good soil is not just the fourth kind of soil. The good soil is also the hard ground, the thorny ground, and the rocky ground, when it has been repeatedly sown by the grace of God.”

Extravagant generosity may often have the appearance of being wasteful. “The History of people of God is a history of a people who have not been afraid to waste themselves,” Long said, quoting another writer. “They waste themselves and their love, like God wastes God’s love … God, who repeatedly sows the grace of God in places that seem unpromising.”

And, the people of the church often have tough choices to make when it comes to generosity. Long compared that to Joseph’s dilemma upon learning his bride-to-be is pregnant.

Not surprisingly, the Texas Annual Conference has a history of generosity that has gained momentum over the past five years. While charitable giving is down nationally, according to a report from Barna research group. It is up in the TAC.

Four video presentations captured the spirit of generosity in the TAC and empowered people to cast an even wider vision.

One such video was “The Power of Connectional Giving,” which explained how apportionments dollars travel and extend the reach of the local church. The video featured Natale Negrete, who experienced the gift of connectional giving through ministries serving her home country of Bolivia, and who now leads Hispanic ministries at St. Paul’s UMC Houston. As in Negrete’s case, connectional giving often gives back to the connection.

The treasurer encouraged the assembled leaders to consider what they will do differently to increase the generosity of the church.

“We need leadership restoration that shifts belief systems,” Stansell said. “That commitment comes dressed as a promise. What is the promise I’m willing to make? The price I will pay for the success of my church?

“This is our opportune time under God. Recessions, economic challenges… People are hungry for the gospel.”

--excerpt from the TX Ann Conf website

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giving a Little Extra

I almost brought this up a year ago, but I chose the cowardly act of silence. Now I am gathering up my courage, and I will dare to ask the question: "Is it possible for a district in the Missouri Conference to pay 100% of its conference apportionments?" Perhaps I should be bolder. Is it possible that Pony Express District churches could pay their conference apportionments in full in 2010?

Before answering, here are some facts. Our district completed 2009 with contributions equaling 95.1% of what we were apportioned as a group. Seventy-nine of our 92 churches paid 100%. Thanks to the commitment of our churches, we came very close to hitting that 100% mark last year!

Of the 13 that did not contribute all that was asked of them, only two gave nothing. (Both of those either have or will soon have given something in 2010). Nine of those who did not make 100% have allowed it to become habitual. Those nine have missed on anywhere from 4 to 18 consecutive years. Quite honestly, though, almost all of them have extenuating circumstances that tend to impoverish them as congregations.

So, the first thought would be that we will never pay 100% because we will always have one or more congregations that don't quite make it. The very fact that I am writing this, though, should tell you that I have a second thought.

Our problem may not be that we will always have some churches that cannot pay 100%. Rather, our problem is that we don't have churches who consider paying more than 100%. For some reason, we have tended to believe that 100% is a cap on giving rather than a minimum standard. That is like saying no person should give more than a tithe of their income to God. It misses the Bible's invitation to be extravagantly generous.

The Apostle Paul suggested a similar idea to the people of Corinth. He wrote, "It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance." (2 Corinthians 8: 13-14) In other words, if you are having an extra good year, if you have received an unexpected bequest, or if you just somehow end up with money in the bank because your need was less, then share some on behalf of those who didn't have the same kind of year. Someday, their time will come to help you.

As it turns out, that already happens in a neighboring annual conference. It traditionally pays 100%, I am told, not because every church can do so, but because churches than can pay 105%. There are a few churches here in Missouri that are doing the same—none so far from our district.

Is it worth it for us to go to that effort? I believe so. Our connectional giving lays the groundwork for everything else we do. If there were no apportionments, there would be no church camp, no new churches, no Africa University, no training for pastors, no safe sanctuaries, no communications system for helping us work together, no United Methodist Committee on Relief, no disaster response team, no Volunteer in Mission organization. Each church would simply be on an island picking a pastor from among the flock and teaching whatever theology was most popular at the moment. When we give connectionally, we make each other stronger.

I have mentioned this idea of giving 105% in a couple of places now. So far, I have been met with laughter. Well, Sarah laughed, and she ended up pregnant with hope. Is it possible for our district to be the first to give 100%? Sure. Will it happen? That will require a few pregnant churches!
--Steve Cox, After the Burning Bush website

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

God owns everything

Christ didn’t hold back on his love when he willingly went to the cross for us. God didn’t hold back and make the cross the last word. God who owns everything also offered everything for our sake. We, in turn, are called to share that Good News.

If we believe that all we have is a gift from God, then we affirm a faithful distribution of God’s gifts in the world. Consider these affirmations, written by Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the West Ohio Annual Conference, as you decide how much of your time, talents, and treasures you will offer to share the Good News of Christ’s love with the world.
  • I know God wants me to redistribute some of God’s money and time to care for my family. (See 1 Timothy 5:8)

  • I know God wants me to redistribute some of God’s money to the state. (See Mark 12:13-17)

  • I know God wants me to redistribute some of God’s time to worship and pray. (See Psalm 42:1-2)

  • I know God wants me to redistribute some of God’s money to the poor. (See Luke 12:33-34)

  • I know God wants me to redistribute some of God’s money to the building of God’s kingdom. (See Leviticus 27:30-33)
--adapted from WI Annual Conference newsletter

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

To Learn how you can be good stewards in the United Methodsit Church, click here.