One of the great things about life is that there’s always more to learn, more ways to grow, and more challenges to face. This is also a true and exciting statement about discipleship – there are always more things to learn, more ways to grow, and more challenges to face as we follow Jesus down that narrow way he is leading us.
A wonderful resource Jesus has given his faithful people is the church, both local and universal. There are three uniquely different avenues we are approaching this summer, which I hope will help the people of our church, myself included, develop as disciples.
The first comes by way of Timothy Keller’s wonderful “Prodigal God” series. Although this study series is just six sessions long, it is well worth the time committed. In it, Pastor (and best-selling author) Timothy Keller, teaches us what it means to follow Christ by taking a hard look at what is arguably Jesus’ most well-known parable, the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).
We are hosting this in a class at three separate times this summer:
- Wednesday at 6pm, starting on July 3rd. Led by Pastor Tim.
- Friday at 2pm, starting on July 5th. Led by Susan Rose.
- Friday at 6pm, starting on July 5th. Led by Rhys and Lynn Crawford.
There is an excellent book that accompanies this video series. Class participants are welcome to reimburse the church the $10 their books cost – but lack of funds ought not prohibit someone from participating in the class. You may sign up here or on the sign-up sheet in the Narthex of the church.
A second way we at First Baptist have an opportunity to develop as disciples is more organic. Based on a recommendation by Patty Duckworth, our guest speaker on June 23rd, I read Thom Rainer’s book titled, “I Am A Church Member”. It was a simple, but profound read. I enjoyed it so much that I took advantage of a special deal offered to churches and bought 20 copies. I am now handing them out to church members asking them to read the book, and then pass it along.
A key element of Rainer’s book is rediscovering the truth that church membership, at its core, is a gift from God to each of us. It is, therefore, important to know what this gift looks like. I hope excitement about Jesus’ purpose in gifting his people (us) with The Church becomes a point of conversation between our members. I hope that the book helps us continue dreaming together about what it looks like to serve Jesus at FBCPA.
If you are one of the lucky first people to receive this book – read it, enjoy it. And then, pass it on. You can gift it to a friend, or use it as a reason to meet someone new. Indeed, even spend some time in prayer asking Jesus who in our church he might have you hand the book to next.
A third avenue for growth happening at First Baptist has your pastor proudly taking on a role as a pupil. Seminary did well to teach me about church history and theology. Life in ministry (and as a pastor’s kid) did well to prepare me for the interpersonal aspects of ministry. But neither prior experience nor seminary helped prepare me for helping the people of our church think about financial management.
I continue to praise God for providing such financial mentors as Wayne Roedell and Dan Huff. I praise the Lord for the great volunteer help our treasurer, Rose Sanders, provides. The Stewardship Team, chaired by Chris Hartman, is also amazing.
And yet, I readily acknowledge that teaching about how we can honor and worship God with our financial resource is a place that I still have a lot of learning to do. And, if I am to be a bit blunt, I think many of us in the church can readily admit that perhaps we could do with a bit of quality instruction regarding the Biblical principle of worshipping Jesus with our resources.
One of the first important steps is learning to be good personal managers of our own finances. This is why last summer Chris Cole and Wayne Roedell worked together to host Dave Ramsey’s great “Financial Peace University” class at FBC. (Already there is interest for the class to be hosted again).
Later this year, we are going to continue down that avenue of growth by adding to it. Terry Oliver is a man who has been unique gifted by God to teach about how money and worship go together. So gifted is he, in fact, that his own church in Union, WA has made the sacrificial decision to allow for him, their pastor, to be gone on occasion to help other churches, and to train other on how best to teach about what scripture has to say about money.
Not only has Terry’s ability been recognized by his congregation, but our region has seen it too and has invited him to serve as our region’s ‘Stewardship Consultant’. How great it is to be part of such a wonderful region which holds so well to their mission statement to “Grow Healthy, Mission-Focused Churches That Multiply Disciples and Churches”.
Terry has already visited with our church, spoken to our church elders and the Stewardship Team, and we are now moving forward with learning from Terry how we (and I) can do better when teaching about what this element of worship looks like. Included in this newsletter you will find an article Terry wrote for the ABC Northwest Newsletter that I am reprinting here with his permission.
What an honor it is to travel down this pathway of discipleship with each of you. I believe that as we move down the three avenues of the Timothy Keller’s “Prodigal God” study, discussing what Jesus intends for church membership to be, and learning how to worship God with our resource, we will ultimately discover these are not separate avenues at all, but all part of the one path we are blessed to follow with Jesus as our guide.
Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of PA
Recovering a Lost Art: The Annual Stewardship Emphasis
Rev. Terry Oliver, ABCNW Stewardship Consultant and Pastor of New Community Church in Union, WA
National studies of financial giving patterns of congregations report that churches which conduct an annual stewardship education and commitment emphasis receive about twice as much of the percentage of per capita giving of its members as those which don’t. However, not many congregations have continued to use this practice, except under special circumstances like a building program, or in situations of dire need.
We’ve all groaned under the old paradigm of church stewardship programs rolled out each year from the “home office” designed to shore up the budgetary needs of our congregations. However, “Scribes of the Kingdom,” Jesus said, “know how to take out of their storehouse things both old and new!” (Matt.13:52) In other words, doing an old thing in a new way is a grace for those of us who would be “growing healthy, mission-focused churches that multiply disciples and churches”! Let’s face it…people don’t become disciples by hearing a sermon, and neither do disciples become faithful stewards merely by hearing a message. Growing cultures of generosity in our congregations requires a well-balanced emphasis of teaching, small group sharing, mentoring, personal witness, and invitation. When done in a gracious way, well balanced stewardship education encourages people to take steps of faith in shaping their use of finances around their commitment to Jesus Christ!
As Tom Bandy has pointed out, the vision, values, beliefs, and mission that shape our practices make all the difference in the world. This is especially true of stewardship education. Old paradigm patterns often followed an unarticulated but driving vision focus on the needs of the “club”, i.e., the church. The values were to maintain a balanced budget, believing that every member ought to do their part, so that the programs of the church could be maintained. It’s no wonder that folks came to dread these approaches, for while they had some success, there was often a lot of guilt, shame, and negativity accompanying it.
In contrast, I believe that new paradigm approaches to stewardship growth have a vision focus on the needs of believers and even unbelievers, rather than the needs of the church. The values accompanying this vision are then shaped around the issues of spiritual growth and financial freedom for our people. The new question then becomes, “What do our people need to help them frame their lives around the call of Jesus Christ, and thereby, experience the joys of contentment and generosity in their finances?”
The bedrock beliefs supporting this approach are thoroughly Biblical. We teach that not only is God the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all, but also the owner of all. (Not necessarily new stuff!) But with that goes a belief in the abundance and sufficiency of God’s provision rather than the mindset of scarcity which grips our culture and churches. The theology of grace and gratitude trump a mindset of legalism, guilt, and even “responsibility”! God loves a “hilarious giver,” said Paul in the oft quoted 2 Cor. 9:7, and talk about “giving” needs to be light hearted, honest, truthful, and most of all, fun! Yes, tithing is an important Biblical principle, but it is to be shared as LIFE not law, blessing rather than a curse.
The mission of new paradigm stewardship takes our eyes above the needs of the church to the work of Christ in the world. People want to know that their giving counts to change lives in the world Christ has called us to reach. People don’t get too excited about giving to buy toilet paper or keeping the lights on in the church edifice. But when the purpose of our generosity is to join Christ, the Hope of the world, in His work of redemption throughout the world, I believe there will never be a lack of support for the ministries of God’s people through their local congregation.
E. Stanley Jones once said, “God’s work done in God’s ways will always have God’s provision.” I truly believe that we are all about God’s work, and I believe that we can experience God’s abundant provision for our ministry as we seek to do old things, like stewardship education, in a new way that honors God’s activity in our world today. Please email or call me if I can be of help to you in your situation. God is faithful!