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

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Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer

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