My Grandfather was not a rich man. He was a blacksmith. None of the
people around him was rich either. He grew up in Denmark. He came to
this country as a young man and settled in a Danish town in Iowa.
He was a deacon in the church. He raised to kids on a blacksmith's
earnings. When he died we found his ledger for one year. He had
given over a third of his earnings to the church.
I have been having musings about this kind of dedication because of a
struggle that a church I know is going through. At this church,
giving dropped drastically after a dispute over doctrine and worship
style split the congregation. So the pastor was asked to take first a
$1,000-a-month and then a $1,500-a-month cut in pay. When that was
not going to work, the announcement was made that the church would
close in September.
My thoughts are that we always expect pastors to make sacrifices and
to be willing to live frugally for the sake of the Gospel. I am sure
the pastor of my Grandfather's church did. He probably lived on
chickens and baskets of corn given as offerings. But everyone
sacrificed to make sure the church was still there.
I have been wondering if the members of this church that I have been
praying for love their church even a third as much as my Grandfather
loved his. What would happen if they all began to tithe? What could
Perhaps the pastor wouldn't mind a small pay cut if everyone were
sacrificing to keep things going and to renew the ministry in that
Can you imagine the excitement in the place if everyone
tithed and the church could stay open?
So many churches I know are facing deficits, though perhaps not as
large as this congregation's. Parishioners wring their hands and
worry as if they don't know where the money should come from. Instead
we should all open our hearts in prayer, and then open our
Luther said that the hardest conversion is the pocketbook. It would
be a shame if it took a church on the brink of closing to open our
It would be a bigger shame if even that didn't open our hearts and our
pocketbooks. What will it take to open yours?
Lord, all that we have and all that we are
belongs to you. Open our hearts and our hands to give what you would
have us give to your work in this world.
Author's note: I wrote this column in longhand on the plane
to Seattle. Since then I have talked to the wife of the pastor of the
church I talk about. She said she is praying for a miracle. It
occurs to me that sometimes the miracle we need is God giving us all
the courage and the strength to step up and do what we can do and give
what we really are called to give.