Growing in the Grace of Giving
by Pastor George Van Alstine

ABC’s official year begins on April 1, so our Annual Business Meeting is held each year on the last Sunday of March, which this year fell on Palm Sunday. More than fifty people showed their dedication to the Lord’s work through this church by staying for the business session after the regular morning worship.

Many of our church officers will remain another year in their positions of service, for which we are very grateful. Some new people, however, accepted the call to leadership positions. Anne Lyles was elected to be the Church Moderator for the year ahead. Four people will be joining the Deacon Board: Mary Russell, Garth Battick and Jill Boekenoogen to three-year terms, and Donna Ragsdale to complete the final year of Shanti Molina’s term (Shanti had to resign because of the sudden demands of mothering two children). The Deacon Board will have a reorganization meeting this Sunday over lunch. We thank outgoing deacons Paula DeVaughn, Brenda Mitchell and Leon Barinaga for their wholehearted service during the past three years, and we look forward to the gifts, ideas and energy the newly-elected deacons will bring to the Board.

The other important item for decision at the Annual Business Meeting is the adoption of a budget for the year ahead, April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011. ABC’s five departments, the pastors and other staff, and the Deacon Board have been reviewing the financial challenges and, over the past three months, have developed a very realistic budget. This budget includes a cost-of-living salary increase for all paid staff, as well as minor adjustments to fixed costs of supporting the church properties and administrative functions. Overall, the budget will require an income increase of about 6% over the amount received last year.

This will not happen just because we voted for it. The increased giving will occur only if those whom the Lord has inspired to donate to ABC consciously decide to increase their regular support. It would seem very simple to say each individual or family should increase their regular giving by 6%; that would settle it. But some ABCers are out of work, and 6% would be a big jump for people whose Social Security check has remained virtually unchanged. Clearly, some people need to think about a larger increase than 6%.

I believe the Lord is moving me to challenge some young adults who have emerged in their careers to see their role as the future leaders of ABC. Leadership does not only mean holding office and making decisions. It also involves growing in responsibility for the financial support of the church. I believe we will see a few people who are inspired by the Lord to carry a bigger part of the load than they have in the past, maybe beginning to tithe (ten percent) from their income for the first time. If God has blessed you with a secure job in these difficult times, one good way to say Thank You is to help keep his church secure.

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul wrote about their opportunity and challenge to grow in stewardship by meeting the financial needs of less fortunate believers in other regions. Chapters 8 and 9 comprise the most extensive teaching in the Bible about our money and our faith. It’s interesting that there is not a hint of legalism in these verses. Paul could easily have laid down some binding standard that would be required of church members. Instead, he repeatedly appeals to their response of gratitude for the salvation and deliverance they have received from God. God has shown much grace to them; now they have the opportunity to share his grace with others. In fact, some form of the word “grace” is used ten times in these two chapters.

My favorite verse from this portion of Scripture is 2 Corinthians 9:7 –

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

He’s not asking them to be impulsive or reckless. As a matter of fact, he wants them to be thoughtful and responsible in their decision — “as you have made up your mind.” But this should not be just an analytical, methodical decision, for the phrase in Greek includes the word for “heart,” not the word for “mind.” It seems to imply, as one commentator puts it, “the full consent of the free will.” “Reluctance” or “compulsion” should never cloud the spirit of Christian giving.

And then there’s that surprising last line: “God loves a cheerful giver.” The Greek word translated “cheerful” is hilaron, which is the root behind our English word “hilarious.” God loves a hilarious giver. “You’re just about making your bills every month? You don’t have enough to go out to dinner? And you’re still driving that rattle-trap? What’s that on the table, a check to the church? For how much? That’s hilarious!”

You’re right; and God loves it!