On the first Sunday in October I stood in the pulpit and told them we had a budget deficit of nearly $200,000. And then I said:
“In a church this size that’s not necessarily a cause for alarm, and frankly, given the state of the economy, it could be much more. Still, it is a cause for concern, and we need to catch up. When there’s not enough money people begin to talk about cutting programs or staff, and I don’t think any of us want that. So, we’re going to take up a special offering on November 6 to catch up on our giving, but please don’t feel that you have to wait for that day to give. If you’ve fallen behind in your own giving over the summer this might be the perfect day to write a check or click the link on our website that lets you give online.
“People often tell me that if everybody would only tithe we would have enough money, and I agree. If everybody would tithe—that is, if everybody would give 10 percent of their income back to God through the church—we would have more than enough money, even in times like these. But everybody doesn’t tithe. In fact I heard recently that in the average church some 40 percent of the congregation gives nothing at all. To be fair to those people I don’t think it’s because they are greedy, I think it’s because they are afraid—afraid that if they give even ten percent of their income back to God there won’t be enough for them.
I can sympathize with those people, especially in times like these, but let me remind you that in the Christian faith there is no place for that kind of fear. We believe that everything we have comes from a good and loving God who has poured out his love upon us with such abundance we can never thank him enough. To give back ten percent seems like a tiny thing compared to what he’s done for us; it really is only a token of our gratitude. Not to give it is to say that we don’t really believe God can provide for our needs, and that we trust ourselves more than we trust him to handle our money.
“That is a faithless and fearful response.
“So let me ask you to look toward November 6 with more faith and less fear, in fact, let your gift on that day be a gift of fearless love.”
On every Sunday in the month of October I made a similar appeal, being reminded along the way that some people don’t give simply because they have lost their jobs, they have no income, and ten percent of nothing is nothing. It’s not because they are fearful or faithless.
That point was well taken.
Still, on November 6 those who could give did. They came down the aisles and dropped their offerings into baskets at the front of the sanctuary and the rear of the balcony. I was moved to see young people and old people, wealthy people and poor people, people who are long-time members and people who aren’t members at all shuffling forward to give. In the end we took up a “Fearless Love” offering of $228,000, which means that in this Sunday’s bulletin we will show a budget surplus of $11,555.
I’m blushing with pride, and I spent a good bit of my time at this week’s annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia talking to other pastors and bragging on a church that rises to a challenge as magnificently as any I have ever known.
Thank you, First Baptist, for your faithful and fearless love.