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Pastor's Blog
Tuesday, July 30 2019

7-28-19 Message:     Our Immediate Future – Leaders Arise & Give!

I’m excited about the response that I got from last Sunday’s message on OUR FUTURE – WORTH FIGHTING FOR!! In fact, as we wrapped up the second service at around 12:20, someone suggested that the whole group come forward, surround me and pray for me. They even called me our “Nehemiah”… Because they together sensed that it was TIME TO REBUILD THE WALL, and they felt that I was the leader to guide us through that REBUILDING PHASE in the life of our church family.

I WAS VERY, VERY ENCOURAGED LAST SUNDAY! My overall impression is that a strong majority of our Church Family wants to FIGHT FOR OUR FUTURE!!!

One of the issues that we talked through in Nehemiah’s story, was the fact that Nehemiah was very aware of God’s prophetic prediction that Israel would be put into EXILE as a sign of God’s judgment on the nation’s sin, and their inability to keep the Covenant that they had made with Him. His judgment, in the form of EXILE, was not designed to condemn His people, but to correct them and INVITE THEM BACK INTO COVENANT AGAIN – through listening & obedience!

Our Second Service folks asked the question:
    Is there any SIN we need to confess & repent of, that may have led us to our current     condition of decline and the loss of active members and giving trends being negatively     impacted?
I do want to put that question out there for ALL OF US to consider. I would hope that each of us – especially those who have been around St. Matthews the longest – would search our hearts and consider if there are any sins that need to be confessed and any changes that need to be made in our hearts, minds, or behaviors, that might stand in the way of our ability to REBUILD THE “WALL” and FIGHT – CLEAR-HEARTED & CLEAR-MINDED for our future?
The biggest question that emerged last Sunday was: WHY DID SO MANY PEOPLE LEAVE? 

Even though it was over time, there was a fairly significant loss in numbers throughout the first 12 years of the 21st Century. And, though there was small decline before, the major losses came after Pastor Jim Ritter’s retirement and the Boiler Explosion…
    I invite you to pray, think and talk through that one over this next month, but I don’t want to dwell on that! We MUST learn from our past, but we must not get BOGGED DOWN & SHACKLED by constantly going back to the past. We must honestly assess where we’ve been, where we ARE, seek God for what COULD BE in our future, and then PRAY & FIGHT FOR WHAT WILL BE as we move into our future together!!!
Now to our Scripture for today:
Nehemiah 2:17-18; 4:6-23
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
Nehemiah 4:6, 11-18
6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart…..
11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.” 
Two weeks ago, at the Congregational Meeting, Danny Reinsmith, our Finance Team Leader, put THIS information in front of us in the form of a PowerPoint slide.  
 
The bottom line that this graph is communicating, is that we are on a decline for total giving.
    
This morning, I want to take a few moments and address this Financial Reality by considering: What is our responsibility in the area of FINANCIAL GIVING?
I know this is ALWAYS a sticky subject. I know that as long as I’ve been here, the immediate response is:     Most of our members are elderly and on a “fixed income”,  so we can’t expect any more.

I want to honor and acknowledge the age and status of many of you!
But I also don’t want to assume anything.
And, regardless of what we may have come to think, or have assumed about our church family, I still feel the responsibility as your pastor, to share my understanding of Biblical guidelines for GIVING to the local church. Perhaps, we can learn, and God may speak to us about how our giving can further honor God and give us all the encouragement 
& provide a financial boost that we need for the challenges we face as a congregation!

I feel much more freedom to address this, now that I’m “part-time” than when I was “full-time” and dependent upon drawing my full salary from our annual budget. Now that that pressure is “off”, I believe God has given me the “green light” to share some insights and challenges along this line. – and that is mostly because, I’m not trying to ask for you to support me. I’m asking you from purely a MINISTRY standpoint – unattached to my livelihood!!! 

We’ve all encountered church’s approach giving in the following ways:
CARNIVALS    CAKE SALES    CANVASSING       or     CAJOLING
Sure, some churches have “successful” FUND-RAISING EVENTS --- EVERY YEAR!!!
There’s fun, games, carnival atmosphere, alcohol, good food, Bingo, & spinning wheels for chances to win cash prizes…. But, is this what pleases God??
Is this how God wants His people to express their faith in His ability to PROVIDE?

Most statistics that I’ve read in the last 10 years indicate that for ALL AMERICANS, the average amount that we give to charities INCLUDING CHURCH, is 2.5% of our total income.
So, if someone makes $50,000 per year, they average giving: $1,250 /year, $104/mo or 24/wk.
And, if, as many people do, they give to OTHER Charitable organizations than the church, the amount that the local church brings in, is less than that. (Source: www.givingusa.org)

HERE ARE THE BASIC WAYS WE CAN GIVE:
1.    WHEN WE ARE “MOVED” – A compelling missionary story, a moving sermon, a video about a need… All these can MOVE us emotionally to dig deep into our pockets for cash, write a check, or donate with a credit card, PayPal, Zelle or other electronic means.
2.    SYSTEMATIC, REGULAR, PERCENTAGE of our weekly, bi-monthly or monthly income. For decades, this was what I was exposed to as a child and began to practice AS SOON AS I had my first job cutting grass in the neighborhood. I saw my parents cash their weekly check from the Casket Factory, bring it home, and put 10% in their church offering envelopes. For me, that has morphed into setting up bi-monthly giving through my bank, which then sends a check to the Church PO box, but I still give 10%. For you, whether its 10, 5 or 2%, or MORE, a good number of our church family gives a % of their weekly/bi-weekly or monthly income to St. Matthews. This method removes emotion from the equation. The church of Jesus is filled with humans. People will disappoint. If our barometer of how/what we give is attached to how we feel about church, it will go UP & DOWN – sometimes weekly! But if we determine to give to God -THRU THE CHURCH, we will realize that God doesn’t change. He doesn’t disappoint, so we’ll give through obedience to Him, and not how we’re feeling… 
3.    WHEN YOU REMEMBER… This may not sound like a normal practice, but with a fair percentage of people attending 1-2 times per month, they tend to give only when they attend, so it’s pretty much based on GIVING WHEN WE REMEMBER!

A few additional, and unique ways people give to the church:
4.    Some folks do not have a large income, or enough financial margin to make substantial gifts to their church; and giving does not have to be ONLY financial. THE GIFT OF TIME in serving with others & serving others in the church family on a regular basis is a TOTALLY LEGITIMATE GIVING OF ONESELF to God and to the church!
    GIVING OF OUR TIME to care for people in visitation, teaching children, teens or adults 
    in Bible Study and discipleship, or by cutting grass, cleaning floors, emptying trash cans,     folding bulletins, meeting and praying together with other leaders to discuss and decide     on matters regarding the whole church family, preparing meals, singing in the choir,     running the sound & video for our worship  – all these & more are ways of OFFERING     YOUR TIME to God through & with the church fam!
WE CAN ALSO GIVE:
5.    WHEN GOD UNIQUELY BLESSES – There are times in our lives when God answers a prayer, brings a miraculous healing, or just brings an unexpected Blessing to us. Sometimes out of sheer gratitude, God’s people give a spontaneous reaction gift to God through the Church in the form of a THANK OFFERING. This is often a joyful, grateful expression of love and trust in God and sometimes can involve a sacrificial gift!
6.    IN ESTATE PLANNING – Many of God’s people include their church family in their will. Again, I know that my dad clearly stated in his will, that 10% of his final estate would go to his home church. My mom & dad were very blue-collar factory workers their entire lives, so it wasn’t an exorbitant amount of money by today’s standards. But I was amazed and in awe of their all-out dedication to their God and their willingness to express that love and dedication by a final gift to the church that they belonged to for most of their adult lives.

One way we will be addressing the REGULAR GIVING in our church family, will be the implementation of an APP for your cell phone, that will allow you the opportunity to give through THAT MEANS! It’s called PUSHPAY, and we’ll be rolling this out no later than September!
Why? 
Let me share a couple reasons:

73% OF CHURCH GIVING HAPPENS THROUGHOUT THE WEEK (Pushpay, 2019)  Most churches prioritize a giving model that focuses all of the heavy lifting on a two–five-minute window on Sunday morning. So it makes sense that Sunday is the highest giving day of the week (27%), but that still means that 73% of giving happens at other times—including impulsive middle-of-the-night giving (more than 30% comes between the hours of 9 PM and 6 AM).  If you don’t have an online-giving platform (that’s mobile; ie. accessible by cell phone!) that allows people to give whenever the impulse strikes, you’re missing out. People are likely finding other places to give.

LESS THAN 15% OF CHURCHGOERS WANT GIVING ENVELOPES AVAILABLE FOR CHECKS & CASH--A majority (68%) want digital options. (State of the plate, 2016) Online giving isn’t just a tool for accommodating Millennials. The truth is that society’s heading in a digital direction. The percentage of people who want to retain the giving status quo is dwindling. You don’t have to abandon them as you begin to prioritize other donation methods.

DONORS AGED 40–59 WHO WOULD LIKELY GIVE ON-LINE WENT UP 20% FROM 2010 TO 2015 (Dunham+Company, 2016)   It’s not a surprise that the percentage of people comfortable with online giving continues to expand. In five years, it’s gone from less than half of middle-aged people to almost three-quarters. You can trust that this number will only grow.

STATS RE: THE RISE OF MOBILE GIVING (Snowball Fundraising, 2016)
•    39% OF SMARTPHONE OWNERS USED THEIR PHONE TO PAY A BILL- LAST MONTH  
•    44% OF MILLENNIALS PREFER TO USE THEIR MOBILE PHONES TO MAKE SMALL PURCHASES
•    MOBILE GIVING DONATIONS INCREASED 205% IN 2015
•    74% OF AMERICANS WRITE NO MORE THAN ONE CHECK MONTHLY(Sharefaith, 2015) Americans handle their money differently than just 10 years ago. 
•    ABOUT 80% OF AMERICANS CARRY $50 CASH OR LESS

•    And 9% don’t carry any cash at all.  (The Fundraising Coach, 2015)
    A 2017 CNBC article suggested that 76% of people carry less $50. Nearly half carry less than $20 on them at any moment. It would seem that if our church is dependent upon passing the offering plate, your giving will be considerably lower than it should be.

I have come to believe, that although there is something to be said for SYSTEMATIC, REGULAR GIVING, I believe there’s an even deeper motivation to give my time, energy & MONEY to God through St. Matts.
It is VISION. I have come to believe that people give to VISION --- in two ways:
1)    People will give when they actually SEE the impact that their dollars are having – for good, for God, for His Kingdom and for the future!
2)    People will give when they can understand that their dollars will make a DIFFERENCE in the future – and hopefully – for eternity!!!

Both types are VISION FOCUSED!
One is VISION TO SEE IMPACT NOW!
The other is VISION TO BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL BE DOING GOOD 
    – EVEN GREAT THINGS – IN THE FUTURE!
One takes observation – to see what’s going on now.
One takes FAITH & TRUST & CONFIDENCE – that even if there’s a small glimmer of hope, there will be MORE GROWTH, JOY AND BLESSING COMING IN THE FUTURE!!!!

I want to close with the statement I made last Sunday about the future and our willingness to FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE:
I will NOT be able to lead you as a church family, if you give up on the FUTURE!!!
There is NO REASON for me to stay with St. Matthews 
if we are not going to plan for, prepare for, look for, dream for, pray for and FIGHT FOR 
A GOD-INSPIRED FUTURE for not just this church family, but for THIS COMMUNITY!

I’ve got a VISION – given to me by God – to make disciples and lead others to do the same!
If you are not interested in that;
If you are only interested in how we can keep the lights on (and the air conditioning or heat!) for a few more years until we empty out all the available funds….
    Then, please let me know now!
I will gladly step aside and allow you to find a HOSPICE PASTOR to help you die gracefully!
That IS a legitimate ministry.
But that is NOT what I’m called to do!

And, it really does matter A LOT!
But if you believe that there is something BIGGER TO PRAY FOR, TO WORK FOR, TO SACRIFICE FINANCIALLY FOR TO BELIEVE GOD FOR & TO FIGHT FOR!
Then, that will impact the types of decisions we make as a Support Team and as a Congregation, as we move into the future!

But we can’t straddle the fence! (straddling the fence is always a dangerous place!)
Either we are going to begin preparing for the “end” or we are going to realign & position ourselves for a FIGHT for the FUTURE!
Who’s with me? Who will pledge there prayers, their energy, their time, their money & resources to WINNING THIS FIGHT?

I’d like to give you a thought process guide for you to do a self-assessment of your current financial giving. Perhaps you’ll want to sit down with your spouse and work through this.
1.    What is my current income? (Annual, Monthly, Bi-monthly or Weekly)
2.    What percentage of my current income do I give to St. Matthews?
3.    After you pray about it, can you honestly and confidently say to God – “This is what You want me to give!” ?
4.    If you discover that He is leading you to increase your percentage of regular giving – to 10%, or if you’re not close, to increase it on the way to 10%, then make that commit-ment to God, and – no need to tell me amounts, but I would be interested to hear if God is leading you to increase your regular percentage of giving. I’d love to celebrate that with you and praise God with you!
That’s your homework for this week!     
Pray with me.
 

Posted by: PASTORAL@PTD.NET AT 04:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
St. Matthew's EC Church

5th & Ridge Streets
P.O. Box 433
Emmaus, PA 18049
Telephone 610.965.5570
Email: stmattec@ptd.net

ABOUT US

We are a gathering of disciples of Jesus, seeking to live our lives the way He did!

We are part of the Evangelical Congregational Church http://www.eccenter.com/

We are seeking to grow as disciple-makers via http://3dmovements.com/

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