January 23 - 29, 2006




Give your congregation the 'Malachi challenge'

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
--Malachi 3:10

What would your congregation do if all member families tithed their income? Or, rather, what wouldn't your congregation do?

A close friend whose husband is a highly successful entrepreneur said they were persuaded to tithe after their pastor gave them the "Malachi challenge." Preaching one week on Malachi 3:10, the pastor simply dared the congregation to do what God asks -- to put God to the test by giving a tenth of their income to the church and see whether God would not "open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing." The pastor challenged the congregation to try it for just a month and see if their lives would not be blessed.

My friends family did just that and saw many blessings in 30 days. Not in financial terms, where there really was no need, but in lots of little things that added up. For instance, the husband felt blessed that the schoolboy soccer team he had coached for years became the state champions. The experience persuaded the family to tithe all the time.

To the world's way of reckoning that often does not look further than a balance sheet, the Malachi challenge seems counterintuitive. But then, much does in the Kingdom of God, where the first are last and the last are first, and where the greatest is servant to all. But this year, as your church puts its financial and stewardship strategy into place, do your congregation a favor and give them the Malachi challenge.

P.S.: Be sure to read Dana Reardon's column this week for another story of putting a financial challenge before the congregation.

-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
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New This Week:

Will Our Children Be Stewards?
"If we are not careful, we will soon have a generation of gospel consumers who have not been formed to contribute something of their own substance to the proclamation of that gospel to the world," proclaims a compelling resource about teaching stewardship to children. The author goes on to suggest ways congregations can do just that.  Click here for a "Will Our Children Be Stewards," from The Episcopal Church -- Stewardship.

Expect a 'Miracle Sunday'
"To erase our congregation's $26,000 deficit, we need hope and faith in each other. We start to think, 'I really could afford to give another $500 a year, or maybe a $1,000, but if I give more and no one else does then there will still be a $25,000 deficit and I might as well have bought a new couch with the money.' " Click here for this week's column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Walter Brueggemann: Enough is enough
"Today, the fundamental human condition continues to be anxiety, fueled by a market ideology that keeps pounding on us to take more, to not think about our neighbor, to be fearful, shortsighted, grudging." A searing critique by the late, great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, who also suggests ways people of faith can cope.  Click here for "Enough is enough," from the archives of The Other Side magazine.

Avoiding the connection between faith and money
 "Especially from the pulpit, money may be the most taboo subject in America, and yet the pastor who refuses to talk about money misses a great opportunity to teach the congregation the real meaning of stewardship." A very inspiring, thoughtful essay from the Rev. William O. Avery. Click here for "Avoiding the connection," from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.