By: Dennis Bates
Yesterday I told you about the motivational testimony I was supposed to give at Dedication Sunday last weekend. I was supposed to tell why I give my time and my financial support to the church just before we gathered pledges for next year’s budget. The pastor forgot to call on me so I never got to give my little talk. This is approximately what I would have said if I had been called to the front to speak.
One of the most influential members of a local small town church came to the pastor’s office one day and asked if he could speak to him. The pastor responded, “Certainly.”
The influential church member looked a little sheepish but finally looked the pastor in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry, pastor, but I don’t like or agree with what you are preaching lately and I am going to quit giving to this church until something is done about it.”
“What do you suggest we do about that?” the pastor asked calmly.
The church member puffed up his chest, gaining confidence. “Well,” he said, “either you start clearing your sermons with me before you give them, or I’m going to use my considerable influence to have you removed from the pulpit here.”
“I see,” the pastor said. “I’m afraid we have a problem, then, because I preach what I feel the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart. It’s the only way I know how to do that, and I could never agree to give you veto power over what I feel the Holy Spirit is telling me to say.”
The church member stuck his neck out, unhappy with answer. “I guess that leaves me no alternative then. I will see to it that you are removed from the pulpit here.”
“You do what you have to,” the pastor said. “I can’t expect any more than that. But, might I suggest that there’s a third possibility here?”
Shifting a little uncomfortably from one foot to another, the church member nodded reluctantly. “I guess. What do you suggest?”
“I suggest you and I pray about this,” the pastor said, getting down on his knees in the small church office. “Would you care to join me?” The pastor motioned gently to the vacant spot on the floor next to him.
Hesitantly, the church member knelt beside his pastor and when the pastor bowed his head and closed his eyes, the church member did too.
“Why don’t we pray together,” the pastor suggested. “I’ll lead out and you can repeat what I say.”
“Okay; I guess that couldn’t hurt,” the church member said with a sigh.
“Good,” the pastor said. “Here goes. Dear Heavenly Father, we come here to pray together because I think there’s been an unfortunate misunderstanding.”
The church member stumbled a little as he repeated the pastor’s words, but when he finished, the pastor continued.
“First of all, Father, please forgive me for stealing from you.”
Why do I give? Because my parents taught me by their example to do that, because the Bible tells me I should do that, and because it is the right thing to do. Why do I give to the Blue Grass Presbyterian Church? Simply stated, I don’t. I give what I give to God. He has chosen to pick it up here because I come here almost every Sunday and it is a convenient place for Him to meet me.
In the past some people have withheld all or part of their time and money because they didn’t like the pastor, the music or something or somebody. To put it bluntly, they are stealing from God, and they ought to quit it. When you decide to give your time, your money or your prayer support, you are giving to God, who picks it up here because this is where we meet on Sundays. When you don’t give, you are short changing God, not this church, and it makes Him sad.