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

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