1 Timothy 6:17-19 and Matthew 14:13-21
Closing Worship Service
Western North Carolina Annual Conference
June 22, 2014
We have been “celebrating generosity” this week and we have much to celebrate! We have heard stories and reports that God continues to do amazing things, with an abundant outpouring of divine grace across our area. We are both the recipients and the channels of that grace so that our communities and the world will be blessed through us. I hope your “take-away” from conference this year is this basic affirmation: a vital church is a generous church; it is a “giving” church – a church that gives itself away on behalf of, and in the name of Christ, for others and the world.
In his widely read book, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Bishop Robert Schnase names generosity as one of the five practices; one of the signs and indicators of healthy, vibrant, thriving churches. He writes:
“Extravagantly generous congregations emphasize mission, purpose, and life changing results rather than shortages, budgets, and institutional loyalty. They provide a compelling vision that invites people to give joyously, thereby finding purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in changing lives.” (Page 119)
The people and the churches of the Western North Carolina Conference are generous people! The signs of our generosity are all around us, as I can glean from a few items that jump off those statistical tables to me; yes, those statistics that some of our clergy moan and grouse about every January. By the way, they will be do again in January 2015! I am simply celebrating what you report.
This year, I see that you have reported an increase in the generosity of time and energy. In 2013, there was an increase in the number of mission teams sent from our churches and in the number of people who were involved on those mission teams. And, I have heard numerous reports of missional networks across the conference engaged in creative, cooperative projects and partnerships to extend our outreach in the name of Jesus Christ in ways that help us redefine and experience “connection” AND, practice gracious generosity.