Bishop Mike Coyner talks about the season of giving in this inspiring epistle.
This is the season of stewardship and pledge drives and other financial efforts in many of our churches and institutions. Every day it seems our mailbox is filled with appeals from groups and ministries and missions requesting that we give to support their good work. All of that is good and helpful, but most of their requests do not speak to the reason why my wife, Marsha, and I give. So perhaps this list of “why we give” might be helpful to others who are contemplating their giving for the rest of 2014 and into 2015.
We give out of gratitude to God. We are not really that motivated by giving to institutions (although we do) or by giving to special needs (although we do) or by giving to missional efforts (although we do). No, our primary motivation for giving is to express our gratitude to God. We believe that everything we have is a gift from God, so we give because we are grateful.
We tithe as a witness to our faith. We tithe to the church where Marsha has her membership (we bishops do not have membership in a local church or even in an Annual Conference, we are members of the Council of Bishops), and then we give additional to each church where we visit or I preach, and finally we give to support various appeals and mission efforts. Our primary giving is our tithe, because we believe that tithing is obedience to God and a witness to our faith in God.
We give because we believe that the secret to living is giving. Giving is what life is about – giving our love, our prayers, our support, our material gifts, our efforts, etc. Life is meant to be lived, shared and generously multiplied. God has designed life in such a way that when try to hold onto life, we lose it but when we give life away, we receive life in more abundance.
We give because it is fun, and joyful, and fulfilling. There is nothing quite like giving to someone or to some cause and seeing the joy that our gifts can create. That is most obvious when we give to our children and grandchildren, but it is true in other situations, too. Giving is fun. I know that might sound a little selfish, but it is true. We give because we enjoy it.
We give when we see needs and want to help. This is where all of those appeals are effective – we look over the requests and appeals that we receive, and when we see a need we can help, then we give to it.
Now, I have to confess that for many years as a pastor I worked hard to get people to give for the wrong reasons. I appealed for support of our church budget. I asked people to give to grow our ministries. I probably even used a little bit of guilt to encourage people to give, rather than allowing them to be selfish. Most of the time that worked – I did fund-raising for the churches and ministries I served, and it was effective because people saw the value in those churches and ministries.
But eventually I began to mature in my own giving and in my understanding of stewardship. I began to ask people to give out of gratitude to God and as a witness to their faith. And that freed me from any sense of being a “salesman” for our church to being one who proclaimed the spiritual truth about stewardship. I moved from fund-raising to stewardship-proclaiming. I focused less upon the need to balance our church budget, and more upon the need to balance our lifestyles. And the results were even more effective in terms of dollars but also in terms of joyful satisfaction.
You are welcome to give for almost any good reason. Whatever appeals to you is great, because I believe that any person of faith must be a giver. That’s the secret to living – it is all about giving. And it is all about gratitude to God.
So, please give.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner, Indiana Annual Conference