(Continuing a series based on Bishop Robert Schnase's book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations)
Generosity describes the Christian’s unselfish willingness to give in order to make a positive difference for the purposes of Christ. Congregations that practice Extravagant Generosity provide ministries that address our spiritual need to give in ways that exceed all expectations and extend to unexpected measures. Fruitful congregations thrive because of extraordinary sharing, willing sacrifice, and joyous giving out of love for God and neighbor.
Here are a few excerpts regarding the spiritual practice of extravagant generosity from Bishop Robert Schnase’s book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations:
“Generosity enlarges the soul, realigns priorities, connects people to the body of Christ, and strengthens congregations to fulfill Christ’s ministries. Giving reflects the nature of God.”
People who give generously give because they:
• Love God
• Love the Church
• Desire to grow in love of neighbor
“Churches that model Extravagant Generosity give joyously, generously, and consistently in ways that enrich the souls of members and strengthen the ministries of the Church.”
“As people grow in relationship to Christ, they grow also in the practice of Extravagant Generosity, offering more of themselves for the purposes of Christ and providing the resources that strengthen ministry and that help the Church touch the lives of more and more people in the same way their own lives have been transformed by God.”
“Giving is central to Jewish and Christian practice because people perceive God as extravagantly generous, the giver of every good gift, the source of life and love. People give because they serve a giving God.”
The Bible is chock full of examples of the significance of generosity both on the part of believers and on the part of God. In every example, giving is always extravagant, life-changing, and joyous.
A passage that speaks clearly to both divine and human generosity is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” means “spendthrift.” The son greedily and prematurely demands his inheritance, moves away, then squanders his treasure. He is a prodigal in the sense that he is spendthrift of his treasure. We see in him what happens when there is an unhealthy relationship with one's possessions. When the son realizes what he has done, he returns home. Upon his return, his father runs out to greet him. The father is a prodigal also in that he is a spendthrift of his love and forgiveness. In the father’s extravagant generosity, we get a glimpse of the generosity of God.
And nothing prompts generosity in us as powerfully as experiencing the generosity of God. Whether it is in the forgiveness of our sins or the blessings we enjoy, our own generosity is largely a reflection of our awareness of and response to God's generosity toward us. As we have been reminded several times recently, we are created in the image of an extravagantly generous God and, therefore, such generosity is in our DNA. We are created to be the most generous of all God's creatures.
Sunday, October 20, is Consecration Sunday at our church. Estimate of giving cards will be distributed during the 10:30 a.m. service and we will fill them out and present them at the Altar as an act of worship. This is an opportunity for us as a community of faith to respond to God's generosity as we renew our commitment to the spiritual practice of extravagant generosity through faithful stewardship of the treasure entrusted to us. This is always an important event in the life of a church community, but even more so during the transition between rectors because it is an opportunity for the true spirit of the members to shine forth. Take some time to pray about your response and to consider how you might grow in giving in the coming year.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church