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Archive for Stewardship

Mar
28

Untied (Luke 19:28-35)

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After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on (Luke 19:28-35, NLT).

I’ve owned four pickup trucks. Not that I have ever really needed one, I just enjoy having one. And every now and then, they’re handy. The first one I purchased was a used Chevy Silverado. I had only owned it a few weeks when a friend asked if he could borrow it for a few days to do a landscaping project at his home. I said, “sure!” He offered his wife’s car for me to drive while he used my truck. To make a long story short, two or three days turned into 11, and by the time he was finished with his project I was frustrated to say the least. As I drove to make the vehicle exchange, I uttered promises and oaths that I would never lend my truck to anyone again! When I arrived, I was totally embarrassed, because my friend had taken the truck and had the oil changed and professionally detailed. He even topped off the gas! He actually returned it in far better condition than he received it.

In Jesus’ day the most common form of transportation was the donkey. Donkey’s were ridden by people of every socio-economic class. Like a pickup, donkey’s were utilitarian animals that could be ridden or used to haul heavy items. Some were even used in the fields of agriculture for plowing or for grinding grain into meal. Because they were gentle in spirit, the donkey was viewed as a symbol of peace.

The donkey in the Palm Sunday narrative is usually overlooked. But if you read the passage carefully, the text mentions that the donkey was tied and must be untied five times! That much repetition calls for the reader to pay attention to what is going on.

Let me make four quick observations about the exchange in the aforementioned text. First, the owners gave out of their poverty. In Bible times some people were too poor to own their own individual donkeys, so they would pool their resources and own one jointly. Jesus didn’t send for a donkey from a man that had a stable full of them. His opportunity was extended to those who would have recognized the cost and potential risk of allowing it to be untied and entrusted to the disciples.

Second, the owners exercised faith. Some scholars believe that Jesus prearranged this exchange, but I like the story more as a blind invitation. The only thing they knew was “the Lord needs it.” Faith is nothing more than our positive response to the word(s) of God. They untied the donkey because the Lord had a need that they could fulfill. While we assume the donkey is returned, it is important to note that the Scripture never gives us that answer.

Next, the owners didn’t fully understand the purposes of Jesus. Were they well versed in the Old Testament prophesies of Psalm 118 or Zechariah 9:9? Even if the disciples would have explained that Jesus needed the donkey to ride into Jerusalem to symbolically proclaim his Messiahship, they may not have comprehended the coming events headed into Good Friday and Easter morning. Sometimes God extends opportunities and invitations to us that we may not fully grasp or understand.

Finally, their contribution made a difference. A kingdom sized difference. When we are willing to untie our blessings and gifts for the Lord’s needs we make a lasting impact. The kind that allows people like me to blog and preach their story 2,000 years later!

What does the Lord need that you need to untie?

Categories : Easter, Stewardship
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Aug
03

Congratulations, DSM, Ames!

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Barna Research has released it’s latest report, focused on the top 50 most generous cities in America. I am not surprised to find Des Moines/Ames ranks number seven on the list. The report shares two interesting insights from their findings.

First, four of the top five cities have a larger “downscale” population than an “upscale” population. Downscale is defined as those with a gross income of less than $20,000 per year who do not hold a college degree. Upscale is define as those with a gross income in excess of $75,000 who hold a college degree. This affirms what data has claimed for some time: wealth does not have a direct impact on generosity.

The second observation is that the majority of donations among the top 50 communities are directed toward churches and religious institutions. This insight is interesting to me given the general feeling that churches are continuing to cleave along the lines of the haves and have nots.

If you would like to read the full report or see the top 50 list in its entirety, you can find it at www.barna.org.

Categories : Barna Group, Stewardship
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Jan
05

Breaking Even

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Giving USA recently released their report on Philanthropy for the year 2014. Among the items reported was a disturbing trend regarding giving to churches and religious organizations. While religious organizations still lead the way with receiving 32% of all charitable donations, giving in 2014 was static compared to the previous year. Numbers can be deceiving and we can read what we wish into any statistic. Giving to churches and religious organizations in 2014 increased 2.5% from 2013. However, when you adjust for inflation, that number diminishes to 0.9%.

Churches usually think of contributions in two ways. One, of course is to encourage committed members to increase their contributions. The second is to create additional giving units through new members. Somehow we are barely holding our own.

One of the challenges pastor’s face is preaching stewardship sermons. There is a fear that people will accuse the pastor in specific and the church as a whole as “only talking about money.” I believe stewardship sermons are important and usually preach two or three a year. But we need to rethink our education and broaden it beyond the reach of the pulpit. Last year we incorporated a letter to the congregation, Sunday School lessons for children, youth and adults, testimonies from members and more. Sharing the load in stewardship education will ease the tension and the pressure from the pulpit. And among the many positive messages about stewardship we need to acknowledge that yes, even the church needs a cost of living raise.

Categories : Stewardship
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Andrew Blackman has published some research in the Wall Street Journal on the relationship between charitable giving and tax deductions. There is some interesting stuff here, and if you’re interested in philanthropy this is a good read. You can find the article HERE.

Categories : Stewardship
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The Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP) has released its own interpretation of charitable contribution trends from last year. Please click HERE for details.

Categories : Stewardship
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According to a report published by Religion News Service, charitable contributions to the arts, education, and environmental concerns increased in 2013. Although religious organizations still claim the majority of charitable gifts, organizations providing religious services saw a 1.6% decrease from the previous year. You can read the study by clicking HERE.

Categories : Stewardship
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Here’s a simple and concise post by Rick Warren on the 8 Reasons Believers Give to Your Church. I think he’s spot on with this article, right down to the title. This is well worth your time, especially if your church is preparing for next year’s budget promotion or stewardship campaign!

Categories : Rick Warren, Stewardship
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Aug
16

The Future of Giving

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One of our members who has not for profit board experience shared this infographic on THE NEXT GENERATION OF GIVING. If you are involved in fund raising at any level you need to check this out!

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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Check out this article from Church Executive Online. Do you write checks to your church? If not, how do you give? Does your church offer online giving or provide a giving kiosk?

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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Here are some more findings regarding tithing in America gleaned by Brian Kluth via STATE OF THE PLATE.

Categories : Stewardship
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