No, not that one (although our local Hobby Lobby’s Christmas aisles were already in full effect in August).
If you’re involved in the leadership of a church or have attended church for more than a year or two, you know the season to which I am referring is “Pledge Campaign Season.” This year I’ve refused to call it “Stewardship Season.” My reasoning is simple: stewardship–that is, the care of the resources with which we’ve been entrusted–is a year-round responsibility. To set it aside four to six weeks a year as a “special season” doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. So let’s just call it what it is: a pledge campaign. Yes, we discuss sharing our time and talents–and we need these gifts every bit as much as we do money (in some cases even more so)–still, everyone knows the primary focus of most annual church pledge campaigns is money. And to me, that’s OK.
See, many church boards are tasked with, among other things, developing an operating budget. These teams are also tasked with the fund development necessary to finance that operating budget. Conducting a pledge campaign gives these teams an idea of how much of that funding will come from members and friends of their communities of faith, how much of that funding will come from other sources such as fundraisers and building use fees, and how much of our budget is “faith-based.” That is, while we don’t have funding for everything in our budget, we’re going to step out on faith and budget for as much of it as is reasonable; knowing that we may have to make adjustments along the way.
Yes, I know there are churches who focus on money way too much. I also know there are people who push the whole “God loves a cheerful giver” and “God will give a hundred times more to you when you give to God–just test God and see!” (didn’t Jesus say something about not testing the Lord your God in the New Testament?). I am not, however, focusing on those extreme–and yes, intellectually and spiritually insulting–instances in this post. I’m focusing on the everyday realities of what it means to be part of a community of faith.
For me, conducting an annual pledge campaign simply makes sense. It is part of what it means to be in community. If we want a community to be there for us, we do what we can to be there for the community–and that includes being there financially as we are able to do so. If we are supportive of the mission and vision of a particular community and want to help it live out that mission and vision, we support that community with our gifts of time and financial support as we are able to do so. For a first century example of living in community, just read Acts 2:42-47. Yes, I know our culture and times are different from those of the first century. Still, I think at least one message we can take from that passage is: mutual support in a community setting–it’s a good thing!
For me, supporting our communities of faith is not about securing God’s love and favor both in this life and the next life (concepts we cannot empirically prove, anyway). Nor is it about securing the favor of our pastors and other church leadership. It’s not even about paying the pastor’s salary (said the pastor with fear and trembling who is in the middle of his church’s annual pledge campaign). 🙂
In my opinion, supporting our communities of faith is primarily about losing our lives. And if you happen to be a Jesus fan, he taught that it is in losing our lives that we actually find ourselves–not heaven, not earthly rewards–we find ourselves. And it is when we find ourselves that we can begin again to move forward in ways that reflect the light, love and peace of our highest selves. Call it “the holy Spirit,” the “Divine Inner Light,” whatever you choose.
So whatever community you support, why not love, live and give on the edge–why not risk “losing your life” in service somehow. You just might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Blessings on your journeys!