Saving Shoes, my Annual Conference Report

Here is my report from Annual Conference this morning, including links to the two videos.

All week we have heard from church people.  As a change of pace, I’d like to open my presentation with the perspective of a volunteer firefighter.

Justin, the video if you would

http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bezos_a_life_lesson_from_a_volunteer_firefighter.html

Get in the game.  Save the shoes.

That’s not a message we hear very often, is it?  Instead, we hear the message that Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet are giving away billions.  Philanthropy only counts if you give enough to have your name on a building.

When you see a need in your church and you look for a donor to help meet that need, it can be disappointing when you don’t see anyone with pockets like Rockefeller.

Get in the game, and ask your people to save the shoes.

Many of you have heard me say that I view giving to the church as a spiritual discipline just like worship attendance, prayer, small group study and service.  Sure we may ask people to be more faithful in their worship attendance with the goal of making our report to the DS look better, but the reality is we do it because it is good for the soul of that member.  We may ask them to be involved in a Bible study because we ordered too many books, but the reality is we do it because it is good for the soul of that member.

And we may ask for a gift because the church needs the money.  But the reality is we should do it because it is good for the soul of that member.

Our stewardship programs should not be about making sure we balance the budget or we can pay for the new carpeting any more than a growing worship commitment is about column 10 in the back of the Conference Journal.

But the problem with that is that somewhere along the line money became a different animal in the church, didn’t it?  As I was saying a minute ago that giving is akin to worship attendance many of you said, “Not in my church.”  I have talked with dozens and dozens of pastors who choose to stick their heads in the sand and insist they should not know what their members give.  I had one pastor with 30 years’ experience tell me that he stays as far away from the finances of the church as he can.

We as a church desperately need our clergy to talk money with their congregations.  Where your treasure is your heart will be also.  Do you not care where your members’ hearts are?

Let’s go back to the video we just saw.  Bezos and another volunteer firefighter ran, raced to the captain looking for an assignment.  They wanted to do something, they wanted to help.  And imagine his pride when he walked into the station weeks later and saw the note from the woman.  He understood that while saving the shoes is not nearly the experience as saving a dog, he had, indeed, given that woman a wonderful gift of kindness and compassion.

You may not have members racing up to you to make a significant gift to the church.  But they are no less interested in helping people and making a difference.  What if the captain had taken a different approach?  What if he had said to the volunteers, “Everything is fine, don’t worry about it?”  Or what if he had said that he stays as far away from the tasks of his volunteers as possible?  Not only would the dog and shoes not been saved, but these volunteers would not have had the joy in helping this woman.  Helping her was good for their souls.

Folks, the 800 churches of this conference aren’t in the entertainment business, the music business, the new paint and carpet business.  We need them to be in the soul business.  The soul is connected to the heart and the heart is where the treasure is.  If we’re not talking about treasure, we aren’t talking about hearts and we’re certainly not worrying about souls.

Talk to your members about giving, talk to them about where their hearts and treasure are.  Some of your members can save a life, some can save the dog and some can save the shoes.

But only if we let them and only if we invite them.

Last year we talked about how of all the money given to charities in this country one in three of them goes to religion, supporting churches, mosques and synagogues.  But when people give to charity in their wills that drops to one in 12, just 8 percent.

GCF&A and the United Methodist Foundation in Nashville have launched the Global Impact Initiative to encourage your members to support the church in their wills and other estate plans.  Tonight at the ministry fair we will have materials for you to take back home.  I’ll leave you this morning with the video from that campaign.  No firefighters, but effective nonetheless.

As always, let me know how the Foundation can help.

http://agroup.wistia.com/medias/rpwsknxjos

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