“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been
granted to the churches of Macedonia, for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their
abundant joy and extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their
part. As I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means and even beyond
their means, begging us earnestly for the favor of partnering in this ministry to the saints, and not as we expected.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5a, NRSVue)
It’s October, and at First United Methodist Church of Florence, we’re beginning our annual stewardship campaign to raise pledges toward the 2023 Ministry Budget. This year’s theme is “The Attributes of a Giver,” and we’re looking at the characteristics and qualities most often found in those who are generous givers. While some people are naturally generous, others experience giving as a spiritual discipline that needs development. Even for those for whom giving seems “unnatural,” learning more about what makes “givers” tick can help them adopt practices and principles that will transform their giving.
Fall is always a busy season filled with various activities like returning to school activities and college football demanding our attention; however, this year presents some additional distractions that could reduce our focus on considering what we will give to the church in 2023. The most obvious distraction is the discernment process for determining our future and mission in the United Methodist Church. While it might be tempting to take a “wait and see” attitude about giving to the church, the need to keep the church “up and running” still requires a faithful response from all our members.
Another distraction is the rate of inflation in the United States which makes it difficult for many people to meet their regular expenses. The thought of committing to the church now creates some anxiety because it’s hard to tell when things will get better. Rest assured that you can always revise your pledge as your financial circumstances change—both down and up!
As ministry planners, we struggle with the distraction of an increasing percentage of the budget required to maintain our 100-year-old facility and even the 25-year-old part. Inflation, as well as the life cycle of mechanical systems, contribute to this increase. While we would love to dream about new ministries to implement in 2023, the outcome of our pledge campaign determines how much we need to weigh the choice between budgeting for programs and facilities.
With all these distractions, it’s essential to focus on what God is calling us to do to strengthen his church through our giving so that we can build on the legacy of our church’s first 200 years of ministry.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he commends to the Corinthian Christians the witness of their fellow believers in Macedonia (i.e., Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea). Although the Macedonians faced persecution from the Roman government, resulting in many losing their jobs or even their businesses because they converted to Christianity, despite their poverty and hardship, they were joyous and generous in their giving. Paul admits that at first, due to their dire circumstances, he didn’t ask them for an offering; however, they begged Paul to let them share in supporting the “ministry to the saints.”
Hopefully, we can find the faith and the zeal of the Macedonians so that after our pledge campaign, we can celebrate our faithfulness in giving to God and his church. If you would like individual guidance as you discern your plans for giving to God through FUMC, reach out to Terry Stubblefield or me, and we would be glad to speak with you. See you on Sunday—and bring a friend! — Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen