The Eliza Broadus Offering, a focus of this month's Western Recorder, may be a recognizable phrase in Kentucky Baptist churches, but most laypeople — even a number of pastors — aren't familiar with how that offering is dispersed in the state.
By giving attention to the annual offering, our hope is that Kentucky Baptists will easily reach the $1.25 million goal this year, even though we are in the midst of a pandemic. Readers will see a listing on Pages 6-7 of how the money you give to the EBO impacts mission endeavors in the state. Probably most of you will be surprised to find that the EBO benefits missions in your community.
But this issue is more than just focusing on this particular offering. You'll read stories designed to share biblical thoughts and insights on giving and generosity.
That can be a touchy subject for some. I dare say it's the most sensitive to those who know the biblical precepts on giving and generosity, yet don't like to be confronted for their failure to be generous.
A helpful example of generous, unselfish giving comes to us from 2 Cor. 8:2-3 when Paul tells how the Christians in the Macedonian church- es gave liberally to the needs of the Jerusalem believers, even though the Macedonian Christians were in deep poverty. Paul says they gave sacrificially, even beyond their ability.
We may be prone to think such examples of sacrificial giving don't exist today, but they do. Think how it impacts you when you hear of a church where its members give sacrificially. I recall visiting a church in western Kentucky a decade ago — a church of less than 300 people that didn't have wealthy members — but it had just built and paid for a new education building. A friend said members had sacrificed to make the project a reality so the church would not face a long-term financial burden. Some had taken second mortgages on their homes, another couple had just purchased an RV, but sold it and gave the proceeds to the church. It's a classic example of the church's vision being embraced to the extent that people see the value of what is being done and will sacrifice to make it come to fruition.
Fast forward to 2020. When the coronavirus made its rapid entrance into Kentucky, the lives of many people changed drastically almost overnight. Many people lost jobs.
Employers were forced to shut down and faced the possibility of not being able to open their doors again. The stock market plunged, causing great angst among retirement-age people. Churches across the state understood the economic picture could devastate their budgets. If people didn't have money to pay for housing, food, prescriptions and related expenses, how could they give to their church? Too, churches were conducting virtual services, and the rule of thumb has always been that when the church doesn't meet together, financial receipts go down. That is usually the case in winter months when churches cancel services because of snow.
But we've heard numerous stories of churches where giving remained much stronger than expected — a testimony to the faithfulness of God's people to give, even in unsettled circumstances. It reminded me that tithing, and giving above the tithe, is a serious matter to many Kentucky Baptists. It's truly a heart matter and our reliance on God's faithfulness, as expressed by Paul in Phil. 4 when he says, "My God will meet all your needs, according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."
The website churchleaders.com notes that not all church members are faithful to give. It lists five bad excuses for not giving to the church where you are a member. Perhaps the most prevalent excuse given is that God doesn't tell us to give. That is far from being correct. The Bible is filled with verses about generosity and giving.
Let's consider a few …
• Lev. 25:35-37 instructs us to give to those in need.
• Deut. 15:7-8 warns against hardening the heart to a poor brother.
• Ps. 41:1-3 is God's promise to the generous person.
• Luke 6:37-38 is where Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given to you."
• Luke 21:1-4 tells of Jesus commending the poor widow who gave two mites, noting that she gave out of her poverty.
May the Lord use this issue to strengthen your commitment to be generous. And may you in turn teach your children and grandchildren to be generous as you model that virtue to them.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, the monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.