How Much Do You Value Generosity?
by Marcia Shetler
At the recent Pathways to Generosity: Signs of Hope Conference, Rev. Dr. James F. Miller set the tone for the event during the opening worship with his sermon, “How Much?” Miller asked the question, “What do you value?” and masterfully served the attendees an inspirational feast full of word-pictures and phrases that illuminated Matthew 13:45-46 in a new light. Instead of envisioning the pearl of great price on display, sitting regally on a tufted cushion, Jim invited us to imagine the original owner of the gem reaching deep down into boggy, dense ground, releasing the pearl of great price from its hiding place.
Through the stories, workshops, and plenaries of the conference, values related to faithful generosity were unearthed, examined, and polished. We value generosity when we extend the hand of Christian fellowship to those whom society has marginalized. We value generosity when we discover the joy that giving with abandon–beyond the 10 percent– brings to the recipient and the giver. We value generosity when our children, grandchildren, and other members of our families eagerly follow in our generous footsteps. We value generosity when we recognize that it transcends race, creed, age, and economic status.
We value generosity when we care for the earth and all that is in it. We value generosity when we make wise decisions about what we leave behind, creating potential for ministry beyond our years on this earth. We value generosity when we work to make our congregations communities of excellence: ones that focus on truth, honor, justice, purity, encouragement, and praise (see Phil 4:8).
Creating communities that excel in generosity is earthy, gritty work: perhaps counter-intuitive to the worship surroundings many of us encounter on Sunday mornings. Now please hear that transformative encounters with our generous God are just as possible in a marble cathedral as at a coffee house, on a youth room overstuffed couch, or along a city street. To fully understand the generosity to which God is calling your faith community, you need to claim and embrace the unique mission and ministry that God has given you. That is the first step on your congregation’s path to generosity. When was the last time your congregation corporately asked the question, “What do we value?” So ask, and then hold those answers alongside the yardstick of God’s generosity. How do you measure up?
Creating communities that excel in generosity takes time. It is a lifelong expedition. In her Pathways to Generosity keynote address, Aimee Laramore said, “Generosity begins when we refocus our attention on what matters most—our relationship to God, our call to mission, and the ability to impact the lives of one another.” If your church is ready to give its all for the pearl of great price, Aimee has just handed you your shovel, your jeweler’s glass, and your polishing cloth. Your faith community’s attentiveness to its relationships will shape your generosity pathway journey.
Pathways to Generosity: Signs of Hope Conference attendees left ready to dig deep into faithful generosity and take new, bold steps on their generosity paths. Along the way they will give thanks for God’s abundant blessings, give generously as an expression of their gratitude, and bless others as their open hearts are a witness in this world. Will you join them on their journey?
Bio: Marcia Shetler became the Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in March 2011. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible Certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and most recently was director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Shetler’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She is grateful for the blessing of connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.