A Generosity Project Reflection – The Life of the Church

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A Generosity Project Reflection – The Life of the Church

The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.

“Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” This line comes from a poem by William Stafford and it begs the reader to assess their own life—the ways and wonder of it and how we have spent the gift of our days. This for me is as much a philosophical question as a theological one, as I hope to live in the process of becoming who God calls me to be. Which is, essentially, a question about stewardship. The stewardship of our lives is at the heart of our call to discipleship and being generous followers of Jesus Christ spreading the love of God abundantly in the world. And the question is not only relevant to the individual but to our churches as well. Ask collectively, then, whether what we have done is the church—whether what we do is what God intends the church to be.

This is a wonderful assessment of our mission and ministry, an opportunity to cast our gaze on the recent past and ask whether what we have done is what we are being called to do. So often churches measure their value based on numbers in worship, the cadre of volunteers, the dollars in a budget. Except that in evaluating the life of the church, God has little use for those kinds of metrics. Much harder to assess, but more valuable a measuring tool, is the way in which we have made a difference in the world around us. In what ways has our ministry transformed hearts and lives? In what ways have we lived the gospel and been an active conduit for God’s redeeming love in our communities? Ask whether what we have done is what God intends the church to be.

In another poem, written on the last day of his life, William Stafford once again returns to wondering about his life:

“Are you Mr. William Stafford?”

“Yes, but…”

…You can’t tell when strange things with meaning will happen. I’m [still] here writing it down just the way it was. “You don’t have to prove anything,” mother said. “Just be ready for what God sends.”

Just be ready for what God sends. This is the essence of the mission and ministry of the church. What is God calling your congregation to do and be? How are you living into the church-life God intends? How are you stewarding the resources entrusted into your keeping for this very purpose? May such questions stir conversation, discernment, hope, and celebration as we live the lives, individually and collectively, God has so graciously given.

Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA.  She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.