I grew up in a family very involved in church. Service was just a way of life. My parents believed in sharing our SPIRITUAL GIFTS in service to God, country and community.
My parents pledged every year but they never told us the dollar or percentage amount. We got to put the little numbered envelope in the plate every week. But we never saw the actual check because Mom always said, “That’s between us and God.”
Bret’s family attended church sporadically, but they also instilled in him the philosophy and habit of service to one’s community.
When we were first married, we worked in hospitality, and we rarely had Sundays or even holidays off. So our church attendance was irregular at best. We did join a church in Miami while he was in engineering school, and while we never let the plate pass us by, we didn’t pledge since we viewed it as a temporary church home.
We joined Christ Church in Norcross while pregnant with Josh. When he was born, we went to one income, and a pretty tight budget. We joined Foyers and ended up in a group with an older man, Karl, who was on vestry, or chaired Stewardship – I don’t recall which. One evening he called us, opening with “We haven’t received your pledge card yet, and I’m wondering if there’s something holding you back.”
Talk about feeling called out — no pun intended. I told him that we just felt that we weren’t in “that stage of life” yet. That with a new baby and Bret’s travel schedule, our time and treasure were very limited. And to be honest, the idea of giving 10% was just impossible.
But he explained that PLEDGING was not the same thing as TITHING. That we could pledge $1 if that’s all we had – the amount wasn’t important. By pledging, we were just saying that we were going to be around for that next year. It wasn’t a contract, it was just a way to demonstrate that we believed in the mission of that church and that we’d engage.
And so at Ingathering, we placed our pledge card into the basket on the altar. It was scary because the amount we’d written on that card was embarrassingly small. But it was also exciting because it was the next step in our “adult” Christian journey. And it was hopeful because we were trusting that God would provide enough for us to be able to fulfil that pledge.
So. Here we were, this young family, doing our best to make it to church twice a month. At 31 and 32, we were babies. We’d scrape together a little bit of treasure for the plate but we hadn’t yet figured out how to give our time or talent.
But God is infinitely better than we are at determining how and where we can use our gifts. We got to know our deacon, Nancy Yancey, who had founded Rainbow Village, a program for mothers facing homelessness. Back then, the families lived in some old houses owned by Georgia Power. After sitting vacant for years, they leased them to Rainbow Village for $1 a year. What a huge gift for those families and the fledgling ministry.
One day Nancy mentioned that the houses constantly had issues. Little things that could be repaired by anyone handy, but also bigger things like lights not working. If only she could find an electrician who would work for free.
Well. As it happened, Bret was a licensed electrician. So he became their go-to fix-it man. Any time they needed a repair, he’d go take care of it.
That was probably when we began to trust in God’s perfect provision. Because every time he had to buy something for a repair, that money would just appear. Or he’d find exactly what he needed in his workshop which he inherited from his Granddaddy – who was a master electrician.
God is in ALL the details.
This was an answer to our prayer for a way to supplement our meager financial offering so we could feel like we were contributing in a meaningful way.
But it was also the answer to so many prayers of so many people. God wants us to share our time, talent and treasure, and Bret’s talent — and electrician’s license — were much more valuable than our treasure, because the money he saved Rainbow Village was exponentially more than any amount we could offer.
Over time, we got more involved. We found plenty of ways to give our Time and use our Talents, and as our Treasure increased, so did our pledges. We moved over here to St. Matt’s in 2006 and the rest is history.
That phone call made me uncomfortable and I would have been perfectly happy if Josh had chosen that moment to start crying and give me an excuse to hang up. But God grows us through uncomfortable moments. And that conversation changed the way we viewed the act of pledging.
I think back to when I thought “We’re just not in that stage of life yet” and I have to laugh at young me. Because we’re always in “that stage of life,” no matter where, or how old, we are. God doesn’t give us our gifts once we hit a certain age, or income bracket. We receive our gifts when we’re born. That day when Jesus fed the 5,000 – it was a CHILD whose offering was multiplied, not the comfortable empty nester.
It’s harvest time – and as far as Jesus is concerned, it’s always harvest time. In John 4, verses 35-38, Jesus told his disciples,
“Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps … harvests a crop for eternal life …One sows and another reaps. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
We all play a part in the harvest. It’s an ongoing cycle that involves the entire Body of Christ, starting way back even before those first disciples.
Today, as we celebrate All Saints, I give thanks for my parents, who prepared my soil and planted seeds, then nurtured and watered my servant’s heart. They were able to reap what they sowed with me and my brother, but weren’t able to reap the next season’s crop: my children, who are so much further along than I was at their ages.
And while that makes me a bit sad, I know that it’s as it should be, because that means they did their part in the never-ending cycle.
God meets us where we are, no matter where that is. And he loves us too much to leave us there. I wonder if Karl knew the seeds he was planting when he made that phone call over 20 years ago.
I never make phone calls like that. Fortunately for us all, God has many different ways of planting seeds.
Over the past six weeks we’ve encouraged you to think and pray about how you can use the gifts God has given you to do the work to which God has called you. I invite you to continue to talk to God about how He might want you to use your gifts to His glory. How might Jesus want YOU to participate in His Harvest?
May God continue to bless us all!