December Musings: Extravagant Generosity

        Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give  with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will                             have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.                                                       ~~ 2 Corinthians 9:7–8

This is the fifth and final article about Rev. Robert Schnase’s book The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations describes practices that shape and sustain congregations. Vibrant, growing, fruitful congregations repeat and deepen certain fundamental activities, seeking to perform them with excellence: These practices help us fulfill the mission and purpose of church.  The purpose of church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Disciples are people who live their faith, and through their faith strive to make more disciples.

The final practice is Extravagant Generosity. Extravagant Generosity is giving joyously of ourselves, our time, and resources in order to enrich the souls of our church family and strengthen our ministries.

In his chapter on the last of the five fruitful practices, Bishop Schnase is inviting us to practice living in an extravagantly generous way not because the church wants to be the object of our Extravagant Generosity but because it will change us—change our lives. If we put our treasure—even our money—into our faith, our hearts will follow it there.

Jesus says to us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Martin Luther, the man who lit the match that sparked the Protestant Reformation, said that every Christian needs to experience three conversions: a conversion of the heart, a conversion of the mind, and a conversion of the purse. Luther knew how deeply satisfying the spiritual life can be, but he also understood that unless we commit all of ourselves to it without reservation—unless we make Extravagant Generosity part of our spiritual formation—we will not come to know that satisfaction for ourselves.

When the church practices Extravagant Generosity, it radiates the resurrection life in this world; it reveals to the world that eternity has come into the present, and that this world, with all of its need, matters to God.

Our giving needs to suit what it means for us to be children of God, what it means for us to be subjects of the King of kings who have received from a generous God more than we can ever imagine!

If we were to give as those who are made in God’s image, what kind of Extravagant Generosity would we practice?

Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, Extravagant Generosity. These are the Five Practices of vital, fruitful congregations. These are the practices that can lead to excellence and growth here in the life of our church. When we start to practice Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, Extravagant Generosity we will start to experience a spiritual renewal in ourselves and in our congregation. I dare say that it will even have an effect in the town of Waverly. How great that will be.

Let us continue to pray daily: God of Love & Grace, we, the faith family of the First United Methodist Church of Waverly, Illinois humbly seek your guidance. We ask that you fill our hearts with love and our minds with creative thoughts as we seek new ways of reaching out to those in our community who need the presence of Your Love in their lives. Give us courage and wisdom for the days to come. In the name of Christ Jesus we pray, Amen.

Grace, Peace, & Love

Pastor Mark

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