Every once in a while the longtime title of my weekly blog and its content share the billing. Yes, like all pastors I wrestle with what to say and how to say it when Money Talks talks money. Oddly, the Bible generally and Jesus specifically shares no such reticence. That happens when one’s views and practices regarding personal finance find their place within the broader mantles of Christ follower and child of God. It is self-evident that God, specifically as He is revealed in his son, is generous, caring, faithful, loving, giving, and self-sacrificing. When those of us who bear his name are at our best, we are too. That’s a tall, almost impossible order outside the faith we claim and proclaim, and the grace flowing from it. But through that identity, with God’s help, it is natural to think and act that way. Mutual faithfulness defines the lives of persons of faith in a way nothing else really can.
In both the Old and New Testament, there is a strong precedent for one’s spiritual community being the first and foremost vessel for our offerings to God. “Bring ye all the tithes unto the storehouse,” Malachi wrote and our forefathers sang. The early church described in Acts placed their offerings in the care of the apostles as the community of faith fulfilled God’s design of the local church being the primary conduit of Kingdom advancement. Two thousand years later God’s work still emanates through followers of His bound together by love and shared mission by the person of Christ. My life’s great joy has been that for the majority of my adult life, I have had the privilege of loving and leading one of those.
Today, First Baptist Church on Gandy in St. Petersburg, Florida stands not just as a civic landmark, but a living agent of God’s wishes for this city and beyond. A first look reveals an urban cathedral rising up to draw attention to the stained glass and steeple under which our church gathers, but is not contained. The faithfulness of its people does provide the care of this grand building and the ministries it houses. If we are not careful, we can miss the connection between the two by focusing in on just the costs. We do invest in the leadership of ministers whose calling is to care for, disciple, and equip our people to do the work of the saints. And, yes, we maintain over one hundred thousand square feet of space to not only use but to care for. Utility bills alone can easily eclipse $10,000 in a given month. And, just like at your house, things wear out and break or just need to be maintained. And there are substantial systems that cannot be counted on to work for many more years. Truth be told, we spend a fair amount of our devotional time praying over chillers and the like because we know they need to keep going; and we do not have the resources in hand to repair or replace.
It helps when you think of our brick and mortar not as a monument, but as an instrument of God’s good work. Children’s classrooms house over fifty young preschoolers each day of the week. On Wednesday several hundred women study God’s word together, many bringing their little ones to be taught and cared for. Over a thousand people a month receive food housed outside our kitchen by the food pantry. Hundreds worship God in the beauty of his holiness and his sanctuary. And there is room for hundreds more. Four weeks a year families on a journey out of homelessness and into hope rest their heads in our educational space. You get the idea. It takes a lot to do all these things.
You see, The ministry of FBC is financially supported by the voluntary gifts of its people. That’s primarily it. It is easy to think that it just happens or that we receive money from our denomination. Just the opposite, we give a lot. And for that reason, there is need for our people to do the same. When we return to God a portion of what He has given us, we obediently fulfill the biblical mandate to be faithful. It also is fulfilling to our souls, just as God said it would. And it fulfills the needs of the congregation that abides at the corner of 275 and Gandy. And by such faithfulness, will shine out from there for generations to come. Fulfilling. And fulfilling. And fulfilling. Let’s join together to realize all three.