Church's generosity is inspiring
Surely, I was not the only pastor in Camden County to wonder why God blessed St. Marys United Methodist with millions of dollars. Not a few of us ministers and lay people privately asked, Why not us Lord? as we learned that the church would be receiving tens of millions of dollars from Warren Baileys estate.
Of course, we all knew that in truth so large a bequest was a mixed blessing at best. There is an old saying, If you want to kill a church, give it a large endowment. One large group will leave the church over the way the church spends the money, while those who remain will stop giving to the church.
The other downside to a headline-grabbing bequest is that, as with winning the lottery, everyone is your new best friend. As it says in Proverbs 19:6 Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts.
There is no reason to envy a church with tens of millions of dollars coming its way. Receiving a multi-million dollar gift brings with it multi-million dollar headaches.
Being faithful with a little is difficult enough, without having to be faithful in so much. Jesus said, From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded (Luke 12:48).
Those of us watching safely from the sidelines wondered what the Methodists would do with their money. They were tested and not found lacking. In their response to the large gift, we learned that St. Marys United Methodist Church has a heart for the Gospel.
They announced no large building campaign. Their pastor did not even turn up at a ministerial association meeting driving a new luxury car, or a fancy new pick-up. Instead, they announced the ways in which the church would be giving the money to others. The announcements have kept coming.
After taking a piece off the top for the missions committee to give away, they set up a Foundation so that the church could continue about the business of changing lives with the Gospel. This paper has kept us all abreast of the tens of thousands of dollars the church has already given away to worthwhile projects.
On April 15, the Methodist Churches in this district had an inspired pair of groundbreakings for a childrens home and an assisted living facility, both of which were helped greatly by funds from the Bailey Bequest. With a few shovelsful of dirt, work began on projects to care for orphans and widowsexactly the ones scripture tells us to care for the most.
The next night, there was a meeting for representatives from every Christian church in Camden. Pastor Derek McAleer filled us in on a proposal by the churchs missions committee to give a tithe of the bequest to the churches of Camden County. Every Christian church in Camden County will share the tithe.
The amount of the grants to churches is based on each churchs average Sunday attendance. Churches were encouraged to use the tens of thousands of dollars they will receive to meet human needs. However, Pastor McAleer also noted that the money was given without restriction to be used as every church saw fit.
As Pastor McAleer said at the meeting, the other churches in Camden County can reach people his church will never reach. We all know that this is true. We know that all the Christian churches in this county are on the same team.
We all want to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. Each church uses its own methods, offering to the community its own unique gifts. It was a wonderful affirmation of this truth to see one church give so generously to support the work of all the other churches in its area.
Sharing the gift God gave them will allow the kingdom of God to spread in an unprecedented way. I find it hard to believe that anything quite like this has ever happened before. Have all the churches in a given area all come in to money at once?
What an exciting time as each church decides how it can gain the maximum impact for the kingdom of God with the gift it receives.
Ten years from now, even fifty years from now, we will better be able to judge the impact of the way the Bailey Bequest has been handled. In the meantime, I think the money each church will receive is probably not the gift. The real gift St. Marys United Methodist Church has given to their fellow Christians in Camden County is to show us a more excellent way of being a community of disciples.
We are all transformed by the example of this one church. All of us are called on by this powerfully symbolic action to lay aside our differences and work together to spread the Gospel as never before.
To the people of St. Marys United Methodist Church, I offer these words from scripture (2 Corinthians 9:11-15):
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God . You glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others...Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.)
King of Peace Episcopal Church + P.O. Box 2526 + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526