A message from Jeanette Duncan-Williams
on behalf of the Stewardship Team of Asbury UMC

March 22, 2009

In this second week of Asbury’s 2009 Stewardship campaign, I wanted to share some thoughts about stewardship. First I’ll start by telling you what stewardship isn’t. It is not a program simply about raising funds for the church at a particular event or time of year. Stewardship is faithful discipleship and recognizing that all that we have belongs to God and we are to use these gifts to his glory. Remember God’s gifts include our financial resources as well as our talents and time.

This year the committee’s goal is 100% participation in the pledge drive. As a part of the Asbury Church family we ask for your support. Every one in this congregation is important as a member of Christ’s family and we need the entire family’s support. Perhaps you think you are only one person and your pledge can’t possibly make a difference, but a puzzle missing a single piece no matter how small is incomplete.

2 Corinthians chapter 8: versus 1-12 clearly illustrates what we know our church can accomplish through stewardship.

1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 6So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us [a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

So in spite of the recession we trust that everyone (young and old) that is a part of the Asbury family will make a pledge according to his or her resources.

During these difficult economic times individuals may need to scale back the dollar amount of their pledge. But, we ask you to stretch out on faith and trust in God’s words and make pledges of any amount you are comfortable with at this time. If we recall the children’s story of Stone Soup, it is when we all give something that there will be enough for everyone. So let’s celebrate that we have something to give and have the ability to share with so many that are less fortunate.

The Lord promises that when we give, that our giving will be multiplied and we will have more left than what we started with. Giving is an act of Christian worship. In addition a generous giver truly experiences the joy of giving; which is not associated with a specific dollar amount but the capacity and attitude of the giver. So we challenge you to pledge no matter the size of the pledge. Yet, for those with the ability to increase the amount of our pledges let us follow John Wesley’s trilateral and give all that we can. For it is only by the grace of God we have the resources to increase the level of our pledges.

As we grow spiritually we understand the significance and joy associated with giving. We realize that we are truly blessed to be a part of this church family and that it is a privilege to give. Moreover, all that we have belongs to the Lord and if we trust in his word he will keep us.

In the past, I was a passive member of my church, I attended service weekly and listened to the pastor’s sermon and I wrote a check, prayed and went home. I felt that giving was my duty as a member of the church. However, as I matured in Christian discipleship I realized how very blessed and honored I should be to give. The act of giving helped me to be more aware of my blessings from God, it strengthened my faith and spirituality. Charitable acts became a response to my thankfulness to God for all the benefits he has bestowed on me. The scriptures are filled with words encouraging us to give to the church and those in need.

Acts 20:35b
“[T]he Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give then receive.’

Romans 12:13
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Growing up in the Baptist Church I learned the tradition of praising God during the offering. The pastor would say that it is time to give and the refrain from members of the church was, “Praise the Lord,” generally accompanied by applause. The offering was a time of joy and a celebration of blessings. Individuals would carry their offerings to the altar accompanied by uplifting hymns. It was a truly a privilege to give.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11
6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”[a] 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

So we ask you to bring your pledge cards to the altar with joy and songs of praise on Easter Sunday, April 12th. Easter is the Holiest and most joyful day for Christians and it is most appropriate that we follow Christ’s example of generosity and abundant love on the day we celebrate his resurrection with gifts to his church. It is our privilege to give to God who first gave to us the gift of love.

Thanks be to God.