June 28, 2021
Laity, Ebenezer UMC
Smoky Mountain District
Focus Scripture: II Corinthians 8:16-24 (CEB)
Plans for the Collection
16 But thank God, who put the same commitment that I have for you in Titus’ heart. 17 Not only has he accepted our challenge but he’s on his way to see you voluntarily, and he’s excited. 18 We are sending the brother who is famous in all the churches because of his work for the gospel along with him.
19 In addition to this, he is chosen by the churches to be our traveling companion in this work of grace, which we are taking care of for the sake of the glory of the Lord himself, and to show our desire to help. 20 We are trying to avoid being blamed by anyone for the way we take care of this large amount of money. 21 We care about doing the right thing, not only in the Lord’s eyes but also in the eyes of other people.
22 We are sending our brother with them. We have tested his commitment in many ways and many times. Now he’s even more committed, because he has so much confidence in you. 23 If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and coworker among you. If there is any question about our brothers, they are the churches’ apostles and an honor to Christ. 24 So show them the proof of your love and the reason we are so proud of you, in such a way that the churches can see it.
This passage of Scripture reminded me very much of my dear father, who died in 1999. I think it is fair to say that almost all that I have learned in my lifetime about stewardship of funds – both personal funds and funds of the churches to which I have belonged – came from my father. Throughout his ministry, he assisted churches in raising money. He led capital campaigns for churches to build new buildings or start new ministries in Conferences throughout the Southeastern Jurisdiction – in Virginia, North Carolina, Western North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama-West Florida, Tennessee, and primarily in Holston.
After he retired from active ministry, he continued to assist churches in fundraising, and this ongoing ministry after his retirement was centered around smaller membership churches that perhaps could not afford to hire professional fundraisers. He often led these campaigns for a very small fee (if he charged any fee at all), and then he gave a tithe of what he was paid back to the church when the campaign was completed. When I talked with him about why he was doing this ministry, he said, “I do this work all for the Kingdom. Our giving reflects our relationship with God. Capital campaigns can be sources of revival in local churches when people truly search their hearts for their personal relationship to God and then learn the joy of giving to reflect that relationship.”
My father was excited and enthusiastic about helping people and local churches learn the joy of giving! When working for the Holston Conference Foundation, he helped churches learn how to take care of their money and use it responsibly for the glory of the Kingdom.
My hope is that we all may learn these lessons of stewardship and plans for the collection. My hope is that we may learn that giving back to God from our first fruits is a joy and reflects our personal relationship to God. My hope is that our local churches also may learn how to care responsibly for the collections entrusted to them so that our work for the Kingdom may continue.
Gracious God, you have given so very much to us, even life itself. Please help us all to plan wisely for these gifts and use them to the glory of your Kingdom. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.