For more than 50 years, Wesley United Methodist Church has been blessed with the opportunity of bringing Christ’s love into the world.
Thanks to the generous stewardship of our congregation, our church has been able to transform lives and to be a beacon of faith, joy, and hope in our community.
Your faithful giving will make it possible for us to continue our ministry, to expand our programs, and to change lives.
Abundant Joy! Overwhelming Generosity!
James Ingold, Stewardship Committee Chairperson
October 23, 2016
This year’s theme for the stewardship appeal focuses on two descriptive characteristics we should all strive to attain and maintain as Christians. After discussing “abundant joy” last week, I want to focus on “overflowing generosity” this week. Generosity is a willingness to liberally give one’s money, time, etc. to others. Being a generous person should be the goal of all followers of Christ. However, in a society focused on possessions and lifestyle, such a goal is very difficult to attain.
I love the mental picture of overflowing generosity. In Luke, it says “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Running over and overflowing are words when tied with generosity set the stage for the release of many blessings from God, as promised in Malachi. A friend once likened generosity and God’s blessings to a fountain. I think of Buckingham Fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park, and I agree with this analogy. Over 14,000 gallons of water per minute can be recirculated from the existing 1.5 million gallons of water in the basins. For the most part, no new water is necessary as it just continues to recirculate. This is how it is with God’s provision. He has given us all we need, and if we will adhere to His guidance as to how we steward what we have been given, He will recirculate the overflowing provisions and blessings.
I have found no better example of generosity in the Bible than in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians when he describes the Macedonians in Chapter 8, saying: “Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they were glad to give generously. They gave us as much as they could afford and even more, simply because they wanted to. They even asked and begged us to let them have the joy of giving their money for God’s people …” What an amazing perspective and attitude. Those who had the least ability to give were BEGGING to give to God’s people. We see this in our society as well. According to statistics released by the IRS, the average percentage of income contributed to charitable organizations decreases as income increases, with those earning less than $75,000 giving, on average, just over 4% to charity and those earning more than $75,000 giving, on average, less than 2.5%.
Why is this? I am convinced God’s word explains it best in Deuteronomy 8:11-14 where it warns: “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands … otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down … and when your silver and gold increase … then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God …”
So, be overflowingly generous and remember the words of Winston Churchill when he said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
October 16, 2016
This year’s theme for the stewardship appeal focuses on two descriptive characteristics we should all strive to attain and maintain as Christians. The first is “abundant joy.” While there are many ways to feel joyful, the joy I want to focus on is the joy that comes with contentment.
Contentment is the happiness that comes from what is yours. The word for contentment in Greek is “autarkeia,” which means a perfect condition of life in which we don’t need help or support. Contentment can come from where we stand in relationship to God and where we stand in relationship to our worldly possessions. This becomes the critical intersection in our lives as Christians, to be sure we don’t place our focus on the latter, but rather focus on becoming content with what God has given us and be thankful for His grace and mercy.
Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, says it best when he reminds us that “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of this world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
A few weeks ago, Pastor Vaughn told the story of Freia David, the woman who worked many years at McDonald’s as the fry cook. Although she has Down Syndrome, she never let that inhibit her from being a fantastic employee. When asked about how she overcame what many would consider an obstacle, she said, “I know when I just pay attention to what I can do, rather than worry about what I can’t do, life is fun. So I know to be happy about what I do have rather than be sad about what I don’t.” Although Pastor Vaughn was using this quote to illustrate the point of his sermon that day, I thought the quote was also a perfect reminder that “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and there can be no greater joy than to live a life focused on what God has given us rather than dwell on what we don’t have.
As a pastor once said, “Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.” My prayer for our church is that it is filled with people who are content with what they have, which leads to a joy that is hard to describe. The Greek word for joy is “chara,” which means to be exceedingly glad. As I mentioned last week, I look around our church, and I see a lot of people who are exceedingly glad to be serving God and working to fulfill the mission of the church. This abundant joy is evident and contagious. May we strive, as we look within ourselves this stewardship appeal season, to find contentment with what we have. This will naturally lead to the second characteristic reflected in our theme this year . . . overflowing generosity, which I will discuss next week.
October 9, 2016
As the ivy on the wall at Wrigley Field starts to turn brown, it reminds me it is once again time to organize the annual stewardship appeal and think about the financial faith commitments we will make for the coming year. Contrary to popular belief, money is not all we ever talk about at Wesley. In fact, we probably talk about money less than most congregations and that, I believe, is because we decided several years ago to incorporate the subject of stewardship of our time, talents, and resources into our Christian Education program. As a result, I feel our congregation understands the biblical principles of stewardship and how we handle our finances and why Jesus addressed the issue in so many of his parables. For this reason, we approach the stewardship appeal time of year with anticipation and not drudgery. We never look at the process as a means of “meeting the budget needs,” but rather as one of the many steps of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. We focus not on beating our members down and using guilt as a motivating factor, but rather focus on the aforementioned biblical principles God clearly set forth in His Word.
This year’s theme is “Abundant Joy! Overflowing Generosity!” While searching for a theme, joy and generosity stood out as words that seemed to best describe Wesley Church. As I look around the church and take mental note of the attitudes of everyone, I see expressions of love and generous responses to requests to serve and give. As I sit in an Ad Council meeting, I hear a report of how our church always responds with generosity to special offerings and collections such as “Just One,” The CROP Walk, and the Methodist Ministries Food Pantry. As I watch children’s time, I see smiles on the kids’ faces and the resulting reaction of those in the congregation. And as I walk around the church, I see more new faces and realize that people see a church that is “on fire” and simply want to be part of such a movement.
So yes, you will hear about money, and you will hear a request to prayerfully consider the financial faith commitment you wish to make for the upcoming year, but please keep in mind the words of Paul, “Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give.”
(2 Corinthians 9:7) My prayer is that all of us will take inventory of all of the things we see the church doing in our community and in the world and will want to invest in the ministries that are making such an impact on so many lives.