Bethlehem is a million-dollar-a-year world mission and urban ministry. I believe in this ministry with all my heart. I have given over one fourth of my life to it —12 years as of July 1. Noël and I love pouring ourselves and our money back into Bethlehem. We feel awesomely honored to be here. And even more fortunate to rear our sons in this church. Abraham was six months old when we came. He and Barnabas have known nothing but Bethlehem. I would not take a million dollars to move them to another church.
I don’t expect everyone to feel this way. But hundreds of you do. That’s part of what makes the spirit of this mission so vital. The vision of God’s glory hovers like massive solar cherubim over our services. Sometimes the foundations shake. What a precious company of hope we have!
One test of our love is the way we support the ministry financially during the summer. Think what happens. On an average summer Sunday about one fourth of our people are away. If we do not sustain our giving while we are away, that means a tremendous cash-flow problem which we don’t generally make up until December. And it is increasingly difficult. The pinch right now is very tight.
What do Noël and I do?
As we prepare to leave for four weeks of vacation I have filled out two deposit slips for Norwest Bank so that Shelley, my ministry assistant, can send my paycheck directly to our checking account. Then I wrote checks to Bethlehem for each of the two pay periods that we will be away. I dated them for July 5 and 19 and put them in the appropriate church envelope and gave them to Shelley to put in the offering for me on those Sundays.
In this way our promised support will not change throughout the summer. Making this commitment means that we have already put a governor on our summer spending. We simply will not spend the money promised to the mission of the church. It is taken off the top, not the bottom. We will not give God the dregs of summer spending.
What can you do?
First, believe the word of God: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully . . . God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
Second, ask God what proportion of your income he wants you to give to the mission and ministry of Bethlehem. Ask yourself if you can think of more places in the Bible where God commends risk-taking with our earthly security or where God commends caution with our worldly security. Ponder the widow’s two copper coins — she put in all that she had (Luke 21:1-4). Was the Lord irresponsible to commend her?
Third, celebrate God’s goodness with summer-time generosity.
The need is really extraordinary. We are far behind our budgeted giving. May God open the sluice gates of heaven on everyone of you who opens the channel of love to the world and to the city. He will not fail you.
I love you,