Some years ago at a Moody Pastors Conference seminar headed by a well-known mega-church pastor, he said to the group I was a part of, “You want to hear my best plan for assimilating new people and growing a church?” And everyone leaned forward to hear this gem! He said, “When we have a church potluck, I watch new people and what they bring and set on the table. Then I go around to my main people and say, ‘see that blue dish over there … make sure it goes home empty.’ Because when people contribute something of themselves to an event and see that something received, they then feel personal ownership and will keep coming.”
Flat tax or consumption tax advocates — who are against the idea of a graduated income tax that more heavily taxes wealthier people (by percentage), arguing for a tax system that involves everyone at every level — contend that it is best for “everyone to have some skin in the game.” Though we may debate the details of these proposals, we can see the point that when everyone has a part is paying something, albeit small, there is a universal sense of ownership that comes with it.
I have been the “poor guy” in some wealthy settings. You all have often heard me talk about my experiences of living in Texas and my several years on the pastoral staff of a wealthy congregation. And even though our yearly offering to that church would not likely even amount to that given in a single week by many of the millionaires who attended, we faithfully did it, and we certainly felt a great sense of partnership and ownership with everything that church did, big and small. I still feel it and have an ongoing sense of affection for that congregation and the ministries we did together 35 years ago.
As we talk this week about our topic “Why Give?” we make the point that giving is something foreseen to be participated in pretty much by everyone (outside of dire circumstances of life, which do happen). From the text in 1 Corinthians 16, Paul said … On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income…
Paul envisioned that everyone would play a part, not just that percentage that was either wealthy or more than sufficiently resourced.
Giving something, even a small amount, gives a person a sense of ownership and partnership, and we know this is true of any club or organization, not just a church.
But it has always been true in churches (as it is with clubs and other benevolences) as to the shocking percentage of members and attenders who don’t give anything or merely give the smallest amount, thus depending upon a fraction of the people to carry the bulk of the weight.
There is proportionate responsibility, and we’ll be getting to that tomorrow; but there is also the undeniable obligation for all to participate at some level.
Great sports teams have a roster of very different sorts of players. Along with the stars who hit all the home runs or score all the touchdowns, there are role players who do things like pinch run and steal a base once every five games, or who play a simple role like only being the long-snapper for the punter. But when the team wins the Super Bowl or the World Series, they get the same championship ring and the same playoffs share of the prize money. They each contributed what they could and they all had partnership and ownership.
Be a partner; be a player; be an owner, even if all you can do is a small amount. God will be faithful to supply your needs, as faithfully partnering in his service in the kingdom-building work of the church demonstrates your trust in him.