Blog Post by Rev. Marc Wendleton
Pastor at Moro Presbyterian & First Presbyterian-Brighton, in Illinois
Member of the Dynamic Leaders Team
This past June, I got married, and my new wife, Linda, and I bought a new home together. We both had lost our previous spouses, so we had not only our own stuff but our late spouses’ stuff and our children’s stuff. We realized that about three-quarters of our belongings would not fit into our new home, so we had to get rid of them. We had a yard sale, but we gave everything away for free. We filled tables with things that were still good, but not needed anymore. People stopped by and took whatever they wanted. By 2 pm, everything that we did not need anymore was gone. As I helped take stuff to the customer’s cars, I noticed that many of the cars were older models that have been used for a long time. This observation told me that most of the people taking the items were people who lived in low-income families. It felt good to give things that I did not need anymore to families that could use them. Overall, it was good for everyone. It was good for me because I did not have the room for the items, and it was good for the people who took the stuff because they could use it free of charge, and it was good for the environment because it is less stuff in the landfill.
My free yard sale reminded me that God gives to us in abundance so that we can give to others. It is not always easy for us to realize that we have received from God in abundance because we have a mindset to think that we always need just a bit more in our lives, more money, and more material goods. Did you know that average Presbyterian congregational members give about 1% of their income to the church? Just think of what would happen if we double it to 2%? Think how much better our churches would be financially? Do not believe it is the richer members who are the big givers in the church because the higher-income people give about ¼ of a percent of their income. Often the lower-income members and the higher-income members in a church will give about the same amount in dollars. It is like the poor widow with two copper coins. In his book, “Generosity Rising,” Scott McKenzie asked the wealthier church members why they do not give more of their income and their top excuses are, “We have high levels of income, but our cost of living is high,” “Yes, we can give more but we have kids in college,” “You know the economy hit us hard as well. People just can’t afford to give.” No matter what the income level is, people always think that they need just a bit more than they have. They always have a mindset that they do not have enough, but the Bible teaches us that God has given us more than enough so that we can give to others as God had given to us.
In his book, “The Year of Living Biblically,” A.J. Jacobs describes when he and his wife decided to give ten percent of their annual income. At first, they were nervous about it because they wondered what if they needed the money later. But when they finally decided to give ten percent, they set it up so they would give online. There was a sense of Joy for him when he hit the enter button on the computer sending his donations to the chosen organizations, and within a few minutes, he received an email thanking him for his contribution. He realized there was a pleasure in giving. Church members often hesitate to give to the church but when they do they miss out on the joy of giving.
As church leaders, we are called to create a culture of generosity in our churches by teaching the joy of giving of our time, energy, talents, and wealth. Through that giving, we discover the joy of participating in God’s plans for the world. In a world that sees finite, we need to teach the Gospel of God’s abundance. My free yard sale reminded me that there is great joy in giving to others what once God gave me. If you want to learn more about helping your church grow in generosity I suggest the two conferences that are listed below. Both of these events will be offered both in-person and via zoom.
Peace and Blessing
Rev. Marc Wendleton
- Scott McKenzie will be the keynote speaker at the Spirit of Stewardship Conference on February 10-11 in Lee Summit, MO. You can attend in person or online. More information will be coming out in Presbytery Newsletter and in Presbytery packets
- A.J. Jacobs will be a speaker at this year’s Stewardship Kaleidoscope Conference on September 26-28. You can attend online or in-person in Savannah, GA. You can get more information and register at https://stweardshipkaleidoscope.org