June 5, 2015
My Sisters and Brothers,
God's grace and peace be multiplied to you in Christ Jesus!
Passing along a big thank you
Yesterday afternoon I received the attached thank you letter from Jerald Wolf, the LCMS Chief Financial Officer. The letter gives thanks for your prayers for our church body and your big generous hearts in giving your $549,383 offering to the LCMS. As I send this to you, my hope is - you will pass this thank you to the people of your congregation.
Our SED Double Tithe
Through your generosity, the Southeastern Board of Directors takes a big step of faith and gives not a tithe but a double tithe plus 2% (22%) of all the mission partnership dollars you share with the District. Sometimes this is not easy to do, based on the way your gifts are being received by us, but our step of faith is based on the "grace of giving" (II Corinthians 8:7) taught in Holy Scriptures.
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all thing at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work"(II Corinthians 9:6-8).
We know that some of your churches are following Paul's teaching and offering your tithe as the very first check that is written each month from your congregation. Treasurers - I salute that kind of faith-filled leadership. As your church responds to the Lord's love poured out on you (when it is not easy on the basis of the ways the offerings are shared with you), God's grace abounds. And you have stories to tell of the specific ways in which that happens.
Modeling the Grace of Giving
Our hope is this:
- As the SED Board of Directors offers a step-of-faith gift (22%) to our LCMS in response to the promises of Jesus, we hope
- Your congregation is encouraged to give a tithe (10%) of your congregational offerings to the Southeastern District for the sake of our work together in the Synod and District, and we hope
- The people of your congregation learn (by your example) how to take the faith-step by offering 10% of their gifts to your congregation for your mission and ministry work.
If that would happen, our 22% tithe to the LCMS would be a much greater gift in future years.
Our Spiritual Need to Give
God's Word teaches that all of us (whether district, congregation, or individual) have a spiritual need to offer our gift with full-hearted thanksgiving in response to the Lord's mercy - new every morning. Our SED could give such a gift because many of you believe we each have a God-ordained responsibility to tithe to our mother church (the next level up). So,
- individuals give their gift to their congregation, as
- congregations give their gift to the District, as
- the district gives their gift to the Synod
These churches know that it matters not who the pastor is, who our elected leaders are, what the latest church/district/synod decision is, or how we agree or disagree with those decisions - mature followers of Jesus know they need to give in thanksgiving for the Lord's great love. Can you imagine if God gave blessings to us based on his approval of our decisions? Our spiritual offerings are given unconditionally, just like our Father's love for us.
Stories of God@Work
Stewardship really is Discipleship 101 - learning how to follow Jesus, especially in the challenge moments, trusting He will lead us. If your congregation is not giving a tithe, I encourage you as leaders to decide if your congregation can afford not to be working toward that goal, in light of God's significant promises. This year might be the year to pray about taking a percentage step toward a tithe. As our lives grow in this sanctification, we soon have a story to tell of the latest miracle He worked in our lives, and He sees we are ready for more Kingdom responsibility.
So, my sisters and brothers: I commend you because of the "Lord's surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (II Corinthians 9:14-15)
In the royal service of the King,
John R Denninger, President
Southeastern District, LCMS