Las Vegas – We Stand With You

Las Vegas

We here are GCFA stand in solidarity and love with the people of Las Vegas, Nevada against the brutal violence perpetrated against humanity late Sunday night.  When one part of the body is hurt, the entire body suffers.  It is only in love that such wounds can be healed.  We send our thoughts and prayers to those hurt in this act of domestic terrorism.   Just as importantly, we stand firm in our Christian conviction that death shall not have the last word.  Our risen Savior has broken the bonds of death and set free all its captives.

Evil may think it has won this day.

Fifty plus are dead, over 500 are injured.  Firefighters had to wear Kevlar vests to the scene along with the police.  In today’s social scene, bullets made to pierce, not just flesh, but cement and plaster, are readily available for sale.  Military grade weapons pervade the American landscape–yet we still have faith and hope.

We have faith and hope that there is a greater power in this world that is a light against the darkness.  Love will always triumph over hate.  For every Good Friday, a resurrection is promised.  We hold onto that promise for ourselves, our church, our country and all the people as children of God.

We stand in any breach of faith and hope that has been cracked by this night of cruelty. “And let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,” 2 Kings 22:5b (KJV) We stand that those whose faith and hope is tested by this night of horror who can stand upon our shoulders for resolve until their hearts and bodies have been mended by the Holy Spirit of God.

We will continue to pray and do what must be done to challenge the circumstances that allow such acts of depravity to occur according to the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (#3303, 3426)

Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.  (A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed)

Monday Meditation – A Ministry Passion of Mine

feeding

And I will still be carrying you when you are old.  Your hair will turn gray and I will still carry you.  Isaiah 46:4 ERV

During my sabbatical, in addition to caring for my grandchild, attending Spanish classes and keeping the house clean, I was able to participate in a passion of mine in ministry to older adults.

In my church’s neighborhood, there is a group of older adults who live at or just above the poverty line.  They are typically living alone, their children hardly visit, and they are lonely.

During my sabbatical and even now, I meet with them regularly.  Being an introvert, I can give them what they most crave – someone who listens.  It is a skill I get to use to the glory of God.

Response

They have responded by coming to our church once a month to be fed physically, mentally and spiritually.  In addition to listening to them and being with them, I also cook for them.  You see, cooking  is another one of my passions.

I have great joy in working out God’s call on my life.  To be able to partner with God in shepherding these older adults through their later years is immensely rewarding to my soul.  It is my way of answering Jesus’ command to his disciples in Mark 6:37, “You give them something to eat.”

For whatever reason, God has chosen to include us in His work caring when we care for the marginalized, including the elderly.  As God’s partner, we must take seriously the many institutional changes going on in the country today that may leave the elderly behind in poverty and at risk.

I do what I can in my life to carry out the gospel message, but I cannot forget that society must never leave behind those whom Jesus came to save even the one amongst the many.

Dear God, you are the Great One, the Almighty One.  Lord, we come before you now asking for our part to play in Your ministries in this world.  Whether it is as an individual or as a society, help us to come together to do Your will and show Your love here on earth.  Help us to remember the lonely and the powerless.  We ask for clarity from, and for, our representatives in the halls of government.  Help all of us to choose wisely and not selfishly. Amen.

Make giving a cheerful experience for your congregation

Cheerful giver

A guest blog from Vanco Payments Solutions

Jan Jasmin, SVP, Charitable Giving Evangelist

We often hear or say that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Many of us draw satisfaction from simply making a gift, but others are looking for a deeper understanding of what their gifts help the church accomplish. Is there more that church leaders can do to make giving an experience that your congregation goes about cheerfully?

A good place to start is looking at giving from the givers’ perspective. It’s important to them to understand why you need their gifts, and that they can give them in a way that’s familiar and convenient to them. Answering both of those needs can help your members give more often and more generously.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to update your giving program and make it a cheerful experience for your congregation:

Talk openly about money.

You won’t surprise your congregation or make them feel uncomfortable by talking about money. Quite the opposite is true ¾ they want to know how you use their pledges and offerings to make a positive impact through your ministry, and they want to know how much you’ll need so they can plan their giving budgets to help.

Encourage generosity by showing how your church has changed lives.

Let your congregation know what your outreach ministries are doing to help the community. Share their successes and let your members know how much their financial help brought them to fruition.

Summarize your plans for making a positive impact on your community.

It’s not enough to tell your congregation what you’ve done. You also need to share your plans for the future. Your strategy for keeping your church active in the community may be the thing that excites your congregation and leads them to cheerfully contribute.

Do everything you can to make it easy to give.

Your congregation needs multiple ways to respond when you ask them to give. Some members will only give when the plate is passed. A steadily growing number of others almost never carry cash or a checkbook, but always have debit and credit cards and a smartphone. A mix of electronic giving options like online, mobile, text and kiosk will help them respond when they want with the method or methods that they prefer.

Watch what happens next.

Take these steps and keep a close eye on your outcomes. You may be surprised at how cheerfully your congregation responds and by the increase in funding your ministry receives when you empower their generosity.

White paper: How to Create a Sustainable Ministry

Our white paper, Electronic Giving’s Role in Creating a Sustainable Ministry, has tips about creating a successful fundraising strategy for church leaders who want to help their congregations give cheerfully.

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At Vanco, we’re committed to making a difference for our clients, and those they serve. We strive to listen, be helpful, earn trust and deliver what’s needed in accordance with the values that define us. If you have questions or would like to learn more about Give+,  visit vancopayments.com/giveplus-um,  or call us at 800-675-7430.

 

Monday Meditation – Touch

Touch

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1  NIV)

Jesus healed the sick by touching them and restoring them to their communities. The priests only wanted money for sacrifices to be made in order for one to be allowed to rejoin one’s family and community.  They wanted to be paid in order to make one ritually “pure” again.

Miracles

Big miracles like the virgin birth and the resurrection just don’t happen in my life with too much frequency.  But many miracles Jesus performed every day, like touching someone in need, often those who no one would touch.  I’ve seen such love, I know it can happen.  I just don’t see it enough.  Touch is an incredible miracle.  Because without it none of the others would matter.  Even one’s weak faith did not disqualify you from receiving Jesus’ touch.

A touch.  The compassion of one man willing to break all the rules to touch you at your lowest.  It doesn’t have to be physical, it can be spiritually.  But both together are so powerful.

Dear Lord, Your Son came to touch and heal us.  Let us follow His lead and reach out to those nobody wants to touch.  Grant us courage to do so.  Amen.

Seeking Ways to Be in Service to the Global UM Church – The Philippines

global church

1 Corinthians 12:27 – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The reach of The United Methodist Church is wide. We are a global denomination focused on making disciples for Jesus Christ wherever we encounter them.  On a recent trip to the Philippines, two GCFA staff members, two professors and sixteen graduate students from Belmont University Massey College of Business learned first-hand what it means to serve in a global denomination.

There are 12 annual conferences in the Philippines – all of whom are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ.  The members of the churches work every day to reach the poor, connect with persons seeking Christ as their Savior and receiving the Love of Christ in their homes and their places to worship.

Work began in earnest for the team on April 1 when we arrived in Manila. Belmont University and the Travel and Meeting Planning Department of GCFA coordinated the 10-day trip.  The purpose was to talk face-to-face with leaders of the Philippines annual conferences about their need for resources to support their ministries and how GCFA shared services can fill those needs.

Using one-on-one interviews, surveys and hands-on interaction, the graduate students talked with and learned of needs in the area of financial reporting, data collection, meeting planning, and giving methods in the areas they visited.

belmont students

The students worked on four areas of interest: missional giving, travel and meeting planning, effectively using the Ezra database outside the US, and training and leadership resources. Each small group met with church leadership and got responses in each of the work areas.

Dedication

However, an even bigger impact than talking first-hand with church leaders was the observance of the dedication of the people of the church.  When, in one area, the students learned that pastors and bishops sometimes travel by boat and sometimes even by horse to visit and worship with their congregations, the students saw great examples of faithfulness to the people.

The team was able to visit the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc. (KKFI) – an organization that works in the community to provide education, meals and skills training for children.  There they observed the impact that people dedicated to serving have in their ministry.

The students, in a report back to GCFA when they returned, shared the impact their experiences had on their lives as they visited people, offices and churches in Manila and Baguio.  The work in this ministry continues as GCFA leadership will review the recommendations of the team and find ways to implement them as we work to serve the global church.

Cheryl Akey, Travel and Meeting Planning Manager, The General Council on Finance and Administration

Monday Meditation – Lent : Rage

rage

Continuing with our Lenten series on the emotional life of Jesus, we turn to Mark 3:1-6.

In this passage the Pharisees provoke Jesus’ anger.  After a discussion about what one can or cannot do on the Sabbath, Jesus makes the talk concrete by inviting forward a man with a withered hand.  Jesus asks the Pharisees, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil?  To save life, or to kill it?

The Greek description Mark uses for Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees is unprecedented in its use in the gospels anywhere.  Jesus is enraged because of the Pharisees stubbornness of heart, their lack of compassion for someone on the day made for humans to contemplate not just God but God’s relationship to humanity.

Do we do good when it is convenient for ourselves?  Or do we do it at every opportunity that God presents us with?  Does our own selfishness get in the way of our own compassion for people and do we use rules and regulations to keep ourselves out of the discussion?  How enraged would God be with us on the Sabbath?

Dear God, sometimes we have not been a loving church.  We have sometimes been too obedient to the structure and laws of the church than we have been compassionate to others.  Lord help us to see that the Sabbath was made for us and not us for the Sabbath, an idol that can obscure your face from us.  Help us live to do good when and where we can.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Lent : Indignation

Indignation

Jesus had a full emotional life, which we get glimpses of in the gospels, especially in Mark.  During the Lenten season we get a hint at Jesus’ emotional life and what it meant for him to be indignant, angry, compassionate, fearful and loving and what that means for us today.

Almost from the beginning of his public ministry in Mark, Jesus is not an unemotional Savior.  In fact, he is a very feeling human being as well as God.

In Mark 1:40-45 when the leper approaches Jesus asking him if he dares to declare him clean, Jesus “snorting with indignation,” answers in the affirmative.

Is Jesus indignant with this man who dares to come to him with this outrageous request?  No he is irate with those whom the leper has just come from, those whom Jesus has him return to in order to show his cleansing as a testimony “against” (in the original Greek) their refusal to cleanse him, probably due to a lack of appropriate payment.

Should we be no less indignant at the systems that keep the poverty-stricken from full inclusion into mainstream society?  Low wage jobs, lack of health care and affordable housing, are but some of the impediments that the poor face every day in order to live in a self-sustaining way.

Dear God help us to understand how systems of oppression exist to trod down upon your people.  Help us to not partake in them and help us to bring them down much like your son preached and taught.  Let us never forget our righteous anger against a system that would marginalize people because they do not have enough to pay the toll.  Amen.

We Are Called To Serve Out Front and Behind the Scenes

Spiritual Gifts

Biblical Foundation

We are all called to serve.

Some are called to serve as teachers and shape the next generation; some are called to serve as pastors and lead a congregation; some are called to serve as performers and use their art to glorify the Lord; and others are called to serve behind the scenes, to organize, to report, to communicate in order to support ministry.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 states, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (NIV).

I love this scripture because it reminds me that our service, whether out front or behind the scenes, is all God’s work.  Personally, I identify with those who are called to serve behind the scenes, who support others in their ministry.  At GCFA, we call that “the ministry of administration.”

Many Who Serve

There are many in The United Methodist Church who serve within this ministry of administration.  And, as part of my role, I have the opportunity to work with church business administrators across the denomination.  They, too, are individuals who are called to serve.  Often they serve behind the scenes.  They manage the church budget; make sure the bills are paid; coordinate the church management system, and so much more.  At GCFA, we seek to serve these individuals through our Academy of Church Business Administration (ACBA), two weeks of classes that cover 14 different areas of study.

Being part of this ministry supports the connection’s mission to make disciples.  It is my privilege to support the ACBA, and to serve the entire United Methodist connection through the ministry of administration.

Thank you,

Jodi Chadwell

Chief Officer of Shared Services and Ministry Evaluation

Monday Meditation – Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?  (I Kings 19: 12-13 KJV)

A lady running errands has gone viral.  Why?  Listen to her testimony.

This woman went to the grocery store and saw a homeless man trying to keep warm near the entrance.  When she saw the man, she heard the voice of Jesus telling her that the homeless man liked bananas.  She should buy some bananas for him.

The woman figured on her own that he would also need some protein so she bought him a couple of small nonperishable items as well.  She also wanted to buy him some fried chicken so that he could have some warm food in his belly.

Jesus told her not to buy the fried chicken that the man needed something for later.

The woman persisted in asking why she couldn’t get him some fried chicken.

Jesus said, “I don’t want you to get him fried chicken.”

Well the woman let it go and went to go pay for her groceries.  She separated out the things she had bought for him and took it to him, wishing him a “Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

A lady came up from behind her and said “This is your lucky day.  Here’s some fried chicken for you.” She then hands him the warm meal.

Lesson:  Listen to that still small voice pricking your soul.  Even when the Spirit says no, there’s a good reason.

Dear God, Still us enough to hear your voice not only when you say “yes” but also when you say “no.”  Though we know not the reason, let us still trust you and do what you do ask of us.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day

Some say Valentine’s Day is a made up celebration by the floral and card companies in order to make sale in an otherwise devoid month of any “holidays” or “special occasions.”

I say any excuse to celebrate “love” is worthy.  Now how we choose to do so can be up for discussion.

Gifts

While gifts are one way to show love, they are not the only way or some would even say they are not the best way.  We can celebrate with gifts of all kinds like flowers and candy and cards as gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Even those are given with some thoughtfulness. It is more the thought put into a gift that provokes the most joy.

A handmade gift from my grandson is worth a great deal to me.  The effort and thought put into it by him is what counts as love in my eyes.

But we can combine gifts of cards, flowers or candy with something else.  Whether a purchased or handmade gift, we can also take the time to pray for them and then send a quick email or text letting them know you remembered them in your prayers.  It’s not bragging if done from a heart of servanthood to that person from a place of love.

It will show the other person that you were thinking about them and brought them before God with love and attention.  You shared your love for them with God.  You shared your time with God with them.

That, my friends, is a great gift.

Dear God, who is love, show us how to love more perfectly.  Help us to remember those near to us when we come to you in prayer.  Let our time be about others and not solely about us.  When sometimes thoughts and prayers can seem like empty sentiments, help us to revive the power of prayer. Amen.