Monday Meditation – Beyond Judaism

Jesus Judaism

Even as the author of Luke’s gospel shows us the countless ways that Jesus and his earthly family are quintessentially “Jewish,” he also shows us that Jesus had come not solely for the Jews but also the rest of the Gentile world.

Eight days after his birth, Jesus’ parents bring him to be circumcised, something that distinguished the Jews from all others.  Yet even as Jesus is placed squarely in the rituals of Judaism, Simon, another Jew, beyond reproach, prophesizes over the baby.

“You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:31-32 CEB

Luke’s Jesus is Jewish through and through and also going to be a conduit of God to the Gentiles.  Luke places Jesus at a crux between the distinctive and the malleable.  Jesus is both Jew and beyond Judaism.

Why this need to put Jesus rooted in Judaism but also open to those beyond its borders?  Because the movement Jesus began moved to a more open rendering of the community boundaries as it grew and expanded beyond Palestine.

We take for granted the Jesus movement going into Gentile areas but at its insemination, it was considered a “Jewish” movement that went beyond its tribal, cultural and social boundaries.

Thank God!

Dear Lord, we take for granted Your presence in our lives.  Yet there are some who do not know You.  Help us to spread Your gospel long and wide throughout the earth as you intended it should be.  Amen.

The financial impact of the United Methodist’s Generosity

Financial Impact

Greetings. It is an honor for me to take this opportunity to address you through this blog. In my role as Chief Financial Officer, I get to see how the people of The United Methodist Church show their support of the Church’s ministry from a different perspective than most people – I get to see how we financially support making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

While there are lots of statistics available on the finances of the Church, I want to share a few impressions I have of the financial impact that supporters of United Methodist ministries have made and how it affects our ministries.

Financial Impact

As a connectional denomination, United Methodist church give generously to the seven general Church apportioned funds. As a result, these gifts support ministries around the world We believe these gifts are based in scripture. I am reminded of 1 Peter 4:10 as I see the generosity of members in this area. For 2016:

  • Total apportionment collections exceeded 2015 by eight-hundred thousand dollars.
  • The collection rate of apportioned funds is 91.8% and surpasses the 2015 rate of 91.6%. This is the highest collection rate in at least the last 20 years.
  • The collection rate for six of the seven funds increased compared to 2015.
  • The highest collection rate was for Africa University at 94.8% followed by the Episcopal Fund at 93.3%
  • A record twenty-seven Annual Conferences paid 100% of their apportionments.

Another of our roles is to responsibly invest funds given to the Church. The short term investment pool managed by GCFA earned just over 4% in 2016.   The average return of the previous 7 years was 2.1%. The impact this will have on the ability of the general boards and agencies to serve the connection through its ministry provided $1.5 million in additional earnings on investment returns in 2016 compared the previous years’ average.

Generosity of The United Methodist Church

What does all this mean? The story really isn’t about the dollars. The story is about what those dollars do for our schools and universities, for our missionaries, our lay and clergy leadership and more. The results of financial impact shared here on this blog, paint a great picture of hope for The United Methodist Church. It is a very strong example of how, when we work together and support our ministries – and one way is through our finances – great things happen. The generosity of United Methodists is measurable – not only in dollars, but also in the good that is done around the world because of those dollars.

Thank you!

Rick King

Survey your congregation to energize your outreach!

survey

How does surveying help?

Knowing what your members’ interests are when they aren’t at church may not seem important or connected to their stewardship. But in Vanco’s survey of 1,000 churchgoers, asking them about their interests and activities provided great insights that can help churches build and promote successful member and stewardship programs.

Knowing how your congregation prefers to give is just one part of the generosity equation. You want them to volunteer, contribute financially or participate as group members, so it’s helpful to know what programs and messages interest them the most.

If you want to start a new event or group, survey your members to find out what they’re interested in. Their answers about the activities they participate in can help you build ministries they’ll want to be a part of and support.

Survey results

In Vanco’s survey, churchgoers were given a list of activities and were asked which ones they participate in most often. The top responses were:

  • Walking, jogging, running 61%
  • Reading for pleasure 53%
  • Gardening 40%
  • Swimming 37%
  • Fishing 27%

If 40 percent of your congregation enjoys gardening, for example, they might be interested in teaching gardening skills or providing a place for individuals in need to grow their own vegetables.

Deciding how you’ll promote your programs is also important. Vanco asked churchgoers about their use of online media, and the most popular activities were:

  • Check personal email 85%
  • Browse internet on a computer or tablet 72%
  • Use Facebook 60%
  • Send text messages 58%
  • Browse internet on a phone 42%

Different groups prefer different types of media, but Vanco’s survey results show that most churchgoers are online and on their phones. For ease of access, make sure your church website displays as well on mobile devices as it does on desktops or tablets.

A Survey Tool For You

To help you find out where your congregation’s interests lie, Vanco has designed a short survey you can use to find out more about their technology habits, communication preferences, activities, interests and attitudes toward giving. Download Vanco’s free Church Member Survey and a special companion piece, A Window Into Stronger Stewardship, which provides instructions on how to conduct the survey and analyze its results against national responses.

Download now

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 about electronic giving for your ministry, call us 800-675-7430.

 

By Jan Jasmin, SVP, Charitable Giving Evangelist, Vanco Payment Solutions
Jan Jasmin serves as the Senior Vice President of Vanco Payment Solutions, a strategic corporate sponsor for the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA).  The Vanco Payment Solutions products bring convenient electronic giving to the UMC and its members. Jan’s guest blog provides helpful information to United Methodist churches as each one considers ways to encourage giving to local church ministries.

Meditation Monday: Pardons Not Badges

Pardons

When we became Christians, we didn’t get badges, we received pardons.

God so loved us that He became one of us. As Jesus was dying because of us, he asked forgiveness for us. He pardoned us.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing. Luke 23:34 (CEB)

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (CEB)

We need to love ourselves as God loves us. We need to love one another as ourselves. We need to love one another as God loves us.

God’s love shows up as grace, forgiveness, trust, excitement and righteousness. Can we do the same with one another?

God you command us to love others as ourselves. But sometimes we don’t love ourselves very well. But your first command is to love you. In loving you, we learn how to love ourselves as you love us. Help us to love each other as you love us with the perfect love you have given us. Perfection is the goal, but the journey to it is life. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Judas

Judas

Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in. Mark 14:10-11 (CEB)

JUDAS THE BETRAYER

Why would Jesus invite Judas to be his disciple knowing of his future betrayal? Because Judas always had the option of not betraying Jesus. He could experience Jesus’ love and come to understand what Jesus was trying to do for the Kingdom of God.

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Thoughts from General Conference 2016

General Conference

Once every four years, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church convenes to review mission and ministry and set the tone for the next four years.  It is a wonderful gathering of people of various cultures, color and ethnicity who have traveled from around the world to participate and serve as delegates.  I’m always delighted to see the smiles, and to fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Together at General Conference, we worship, share ministry stories, and conduct the very important business of the church, including setting the church budget.

I’m in Portland, Oregon this week participating in The United Methodist Church General Conference 2016.  I had the privilege of addressing the delegates on Friday as I delivered the General Council on Finance and Administration’s report.  What joy it was for me to stand before this beautiful and diverse group of people who are committed to serving God through the church!  I was reminded of the richness and value of the people serving in our connection.  

Our connection is what makes us a Church.  I shared a few stories during my speech, but there are so many more to share!  For example, Path1 has supported the annual conferences who have planted 507 new churches in the US during the first three years of this quadrennium.  Central Conferences planted 599 churches in the first three years.  In addition, 1,283 new faith communities were started in Central Conferences.  Global Ministries has worked with 330 new faith communities from 2013-2015 in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.  What amazing ministry stories we have to share as a Church!

By faithfully working TOGETHER, we are making a difference.  I see it everywhere I look.  I see our delegates faithfully working together in legislative committees.  I see the people of The United Methodist Church approaching difficult topics in the same collaborative spirit.  My prayer is that this good work continues into next week’s plenary sessions.  

I leave you with an Africa proverb that says so much about our connectional ministry as United Methodists: “If you want to run fast, run alone.  If you want to run far, run together!”  I’m grateful for the people of the United Methodist Church who are running their mission race TOGETHER.

Meditation Monday: Armchair Quarterback

Armchair Quarterback

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

It’s tough not to armchair quarterback in football on Monday mornings after the games. We watch the weekend games and see where everyone went wrong, whether that was the quarterback, tight end, coach or umpire. We all know how we would have done it to win the game.

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Meditation Monday: Merry Christmas from GCFA

MerryChristmas

Merry Christmas!

Christmas week is upon us. Little ones eyes fill with anticipation of the gifts they will receive. Adults will experience the joy of a merry Christmas filled with family and friends loving each other.

The time of anticipation has come to an end. Jesus has arrived. The savior of the world has been born.

Hallelujah!

From our GCFA family to yours, we wish you all a very blessed and merry Christmas.

We Pray For Paris

We Pray For Paris

We stand united with Paris during this shocking and fearful time in the life of the city. The images of terror pull at our conscience.

And yet we know that fear is not the last word. Death and horror have been overcome with life and peace. Our faith will always overwhelm our fears.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.

In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery,

And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace.

For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality.

And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself.

As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering.

And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble.
Wisdom 3:1-7 (RSVCE)

Let us pray,

Lord you have given us this world to live in. You created the many tribes of our people. Help us now to live in peace with one another. We pray that those hateful obstacles within humankind’s hearts and societies be broken down so that we can all live with one another in grace, love and justice. Amen.

Monday Meditation: What Can I Do For You

WhatCanIDoForYou

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10: 35-36 ESV)

And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  (Mark 10: 49-51 ESV)

Jesus asks the same question in the stories of two brothers – James and John, and a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. He asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Both have different “visions” of what they want from Jesus. For James and John, who can see, they have a vision of power and prestige that they want and that is to have the left and right side of Jesus’ throne. For Bartimaeus, he would like to see. Yet even while he cannot physically see, his “vision” is to follow Jesus, son of David, the true king of Israel and not Cesar. (v 47-49 ESV)

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