There’s an unforgettable story that blesses me every time I hear it. It’s one of the few stories that shows up in all four of the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – so important is it to telling the story of Jesus. It’s commonly called “The Feeding of the 5,000.” (Actually, it’s probably closer to 15,000 people when you count women and children.) If you remember, after listening to Jesus teach for a few days, the huge crowd following him is hungry. Jesus asks his disciples to give them something to eat. They are flabbergasted. “What do you mean? We don’t have that kind of money!” A young boy appears, offering what he has: five loaves and two fish. Jesus says, “Bring them to me.” He takes the five loaves and two fish and blesses them. Then he tells the disciples to distribute them to the crowd.
We don’t know exactly how it happens, but the five loaves and two fish turn into a hearty meal for everyone there. In fact, the disciples pick up twelve basketfuls of leftovers for dinner tomorrow! The disciples see scar-city – a mere five loaves and two fish. But Jesus sees abundance. Enough for everyone. In fact, more than enough.
On November 4, Commitment Sunday, I will preach on the story of the “Feeding of the 5,000” from Matthew 14:13-20. At the end of the service, we will give everyone an opportunity to make a financial commitment to the life and ministry of our church in 2019. We’ve enclosed a pledge card with this letter for your prayerful consideration.
In the week leading up to Commitment Sunday, we will hear testimonies from church members about generosity. They will speak about ways we at fpcw have tried to be good stewards of every dollar you’ve entrusted to us to fulfill our mission to “Experience God. Grow Disciples. Transform Lives.” They will also speak about their own experience of giving, what fpcw has meant to them, and why it’s important for them to grow in the practice of generosity.
It goes without saying it has been a difficult season in the life of our church. Some of us may feel tempted to pull back, but instead I want to encourage you to lean in, to be courageous, to be bold, to be generous. It is moments and seasons like this that show us who and whose we are, the kind of disciples God is calling us to be.
I write to you not only as a pastor, but also as a husband and father. Like you, I want to see fpcw thrive in the year ahead – to embody the good news of God’s love for all the world day in and day out. In the weeks ahead, Arianne and I will be prayerfully considering our financial commitment to fpcw in the year ahead. I ask you to do the same.
Here’s my challenge to you. Take a careful look at your finances. Figure out what percentage of your income you’re giving to the church and to other organizations that bless the world. And then ask if that percentage reflects your gratitude to God for all God has entrusted to you. Ask if that represents the “loaves and fishes” you want to offer back for the work of God’s kingdom in this time and place.
I know we all feel pressured by money. I do, too. I feel the impulse to clench my fists instead of open my hands. I’m tempted to view everything I have as mine instead of on loan from God for the time being.
The biblical tithe is 10%. Some people say the modern tithe is 5%, but I’m not so sure. As Nadia Bolz-Weber says, “Tithing is not God’s way of raising money. It’s God’s way of raising children.”
Maybe you’re just starting out on the road of Christian discipleship and giving 2-3% of your income. That’s a good start. Now, grow from there. Or maybe you’ve given a flat amount – like $500 or $5,000 a year – for more years than you can remember and have never thought about significantly increasing your giving. I encourage you to give it a try in 2019. Or maybe you’ve been a lifelong tither, but now realize God is calling you to consider a graduated tithe – giving above 10% of your income to your church and other organizations that bless this world. Step out in faith and see what happens.
I’m not asking you to do what you cannot, only what you can. When we all respond to God in gratitude for all God has given us, when we all offer our “loaves and fishes,” it will always be more than enough. In our heart of hearts, we know what to do.
Thank you in advance for your commitment and generosity!
With gratitude and love in Christ,
Rev. Jeff Lehn
If you need a pledge card please call the church office or click here to access a 2019 pledge card.