Today I have asked Sue Ferguson to be my guest blogger. This past Sunday during worship she shared the story of Christ Presbyterian’s First Fruits stewardship with regards to our mission work in Guatemala. I hope that our congregations faith in God’s provisions might inspire you to take your first or further steps towards a First Fruits Stewardship practice.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3)
During this time in the life of our congregation, when we reflect on our blessings and think about how we might, as our focus verse indicates, “honor the Lord with your wealth”, it might be useful to provide an example of what this verse looks like in action. We are not often blessed to see such immediate and fulfilling results from our giving, but we have a story of our own of how God took what we gave and multiplied it beyond our greatest expectations.
While in Guatemala this summer, the mission team received a certificate of appreciation. It was not appreciation for labor or time. It was for the finances CPC has provided, as a congregation, to help build the four school rooms that are now in full use and serving the community in ways never imagined. Over the course of two years, pledge dollars have provided $10,000 in funding. In addition, motivated by the generosity of the congregation, each year the mission team set goals to match or exceed the funds provided from the pledges, through personal fund raising, family, friends and additional support from the CPC community. We accomplished this to the total of over $25,000 raised toward the building of the school.
It was the direct pledged-giving that helped make that happen. This congregation used its first fruits – you pledged, and session approved without knowing what might result, to devote a significant portion of church resources toward the effort in Guatemala. And now, we are seeing first hand how the barns are filled and the vats overflowing. The best part of this story is it is still being written. As a result of pledge dollars, a village was empowered to seek out other ways to get funding. As a result of having experienced the generosity of strangers making their village a priority, giving first fruits, they dug even deeper into what they had. The example of generosity has yielded fruits well beyond the bricks and mortar. God worked to multiply the inspiration from that initial individual pledge of faith to bring transformation.
Our stewardship emphasis asks us to honor God with our first fruits. As a church body, CPC did just that. Members pledged with faith that the dollars would be used for God’s glory, even if the specific were not decided yet. The session allocated mission funding based not on what we already knew, but on our call to honor God with our first fruits and a trust that He would provide. As a result, there are four bustling classrooms in a village that is experiencing transformation. And it all began with pledged dollars.
As we approach Commitment Sunday, think about how you can affirm your relationship with God by honoring Him with your first fruits. We have our very own example of how our barns will be filled and our vats overflowing when we making giving our best and FIRST a priority. That does not mean it is easy, and in fact it might make you uncomfortable. If you have not pledged before, perhaps it is time to make that first step. Regardless of the amount, it is a bold step in faith to make that commitment. Be prayerful about your decision, even if you have been pledging for years. We need to approach our personal giving as our own church has – by devoting our first fruits for the hopes of what can be.
You can never experience what could be, if you only give to maintain what already is.