Need a lift? Give something away
October 25 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Need a lift? Give something away | Friday, Oct. 25, 2002

Friday, Oct. 25, 2002

Need a lift? Give something away

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Few things in life are more gratifying to the soul and uplifting to the heart than the ability to give - and everyone has that ability. Even those who are financially destitute can give time and attention to others who need it.

But most of us do have the ability to give financially, and my guess is that the happiest among us are also the most generous.

On occasions, I have heard someone say "Give until it hurts."

That is not a particularly effective motivation for most folks.

I'd rather hear someone say "Give until it feels good."

Dropping a dollar in the offering plate when you can afford to give much more accomplishes little beyond avoiding the embarrassment of giving nothing at all.

The gifts that feel really good are the gifts that you feel in other ways - large enough to be noticed on the bank statement, large enough to impact budget planning.

The biblical guideline of a "tithe" - 10 percent - is a number that most people would feel. It's large enough that we have to plan around it if we also plan on giving it away, and that's a great plan to follow.

My personal goal is to use 10 percent as a starting place, and go from there. For most believers, the best place to invest their tithe is through the ministries of their local churches. That's where the rubber meets the road for most of us.

Once I've given a tithe, it's an added joy to give more to mission offerings, to children's ministries, to other charities - even to people who need a helping hand but can't provide a tax receipt.

Churches have similar opportunities. I always believed that a church should forward at least 10 percent of its undesignated receipts toward cooperative missions efforts through the local association, the state convention and national bodies. Some give much more. Others give much less.

For churches, as for individuals, priorities are expressed in the way we give.

Unfortunately, it has become increasingly common for both individuals and churches to shift into self-preservation mode and lose the joy of giving.

According to surveys I've seen, the average American now contributes no more than two percent of his or her income to charitable causes. Although contributions spiked in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, they have dropped off considerably in the current year.

On the denominational level, churches that gave an average of eight percent to missions causes 20 years ago now give only about half that amount through the cooperative missions plans of their state conventions.

At a time when our own state convention budget should be reaching for the sky in our efforts to reach the massive influx of newcomers to North Carolina, budget planners have to be very careful, recommending only incremental increases.

Even at that, budget income is falling short. Through September, gifts from the churches amounted to only 92 percent of the Baptist State Convention's budget needs.

What does that mean? It means convention programs from church planting to missions to congregational services have to operate on smaller budgets.

It means convention agencies and institutions receive only a portion of the funds allotted to them. That's fewer dollars for the Children's Homes and Retirement Homes and Baptist Hospital - dollars they were counting on to provide needed services. It means fewer dollars for the colleges, most of which are budgeted for student aid. It means fewer dollars for the convention's two agencies, the Baptist Foundation and the Biblical Recorder.

Partial budget funding means convention entities have to scramble to reorganize their budgets, cut services or redouble their own fund-raising efforts.

I'm told that Cooperative Missions giving was improved for October. If churches come through toward the end of the year, as many did in 2001, the picture can still improve, but there is no guarantee that will happen.

The Baptist State Convention offers a variety of giving plans and options so that every church should have little trouble in finding an avenue for giving that everyone can feel good about.

Of course, it's not just the direction of the dollars but the priorities of the heart that determine whether we consider giving to be an onerous duty or a privileged joy.

That's why the best stewardship sermons don't aim at the purse strings, but at the heart.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/25/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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