27 - Tell the
Christmas rescue story. "Here's the truth about Christmas we need to remember: God loves us so
much that the very Sovereign of the Universe staged a daring rescue,
arriving in person to save us from sin, death and the power of Satan.
And God did it with boldness and dramatic revelation about the nature of the
20 - The national
gift crisis. "We
are so blessed as a nation in material goods, it’s extremely hard work for
many of us to come up with gifts for our loved ones that they actually 1)
need, 2) want, or 3) can use. For most of the world’s population living
day-to-day in poverty and despair, that would be a dream come true."
Dec. 13 - Teach
charity and justice this Christmas. "There’s
something about Christmas that brings out the charitable best in us, that –
as Scrooge’s nephew so wonderfully puts it in A Christmas Carol -
does open up our shut-up hearts to look at those less fortunate than
ourselves. But this year, why not consider going the extra step and teaching
not only about giving, but also about the causes, effects and social-justice
implications of poverty? "
6 - Is your church
smaller percentage of church donations comes via the collection-plate. In
fact, a growing number of people do their banking electronically and simply
loathe writing checks. Others would rather give their via credit card. Still
other donors would be happy to give in-kind donations, stock, real estate or
bequests, but they don’t think of it or don't know how. Does your church
give them guidance? "
Nov. 29 - Thanksgiving
conquers the darkness of 'entitlement'. "In
his insatiable appetite for new toys, my son displayed an attitude that
seems epidemic in our culture – that the mountains of stuff he already
owns mean nothing in the face of the new toys he wants. We can
forgive such childish thoughts coming from, well, a six-year-old boy, but
among grown-ups the entitlement mentality is pretty sad." From
SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard in a last week's SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter, which includes
links to all the new weekly resources. Click here to subscribe
Nov. 22 - Go in Peace! Serve the Lord! Thanks be to
words above, familiar to millions of Lutherans as the sending prayer to
conclude weekly worship, shine brilliantly in their simplicity and power.
The prayer captures the essence of our discipleship response to the Gospel."
Nov. 15 - Swinging on the blessings of God. "In
the rite of baptism in The Lutheran Book of Worship, we reject the
Devil and all the Devil’s “empty promises.” In our consumer culture, we are
especially vulnerable to the Devil's empty promise that it is our
possessions and consumption that will make us happy. Like all the Devil's
deceptions, that empty promise leads us away from God and destroys our
Nov. 8 - The month of thankfulness. "What
are you thankful for? The question triggered all these and more to
scroll through my mind. That’s the problem with embracing the
Stewardship of Life – when everything you have is a gift from God, you
are thankful for every blessing, great and small. When everything is a
blessing, your life is blessed, indeed."
Oct. 18 - The power of ‘entrepreneurial faith’. "It’s
the dream of every stewardship committee and pastor serving struggling
congregations: Sunday by Sunday more new people fill the pews – and the
collection plates – to bring stability then growth. Sounds great, but how do
you get there? Incredibly, not by focusing on numbers of congregants and
dollars. That’s the advice of two pastors who led dramatic turnarounds in
Oct. 11 - The power of ‘entrepreneurial faith’ It’s the dream of every stewardship committee and pastor serving struggling
congregations: Sunday by Sunday more new people fill the pews – and the
collection plates to bring stability then growth. Sounds great, but how do
you get there? Incredibly, not by focusing on numbers of congregants and
dollars. That’s the advice of two pastors who led turnarounds in their
churches. They are profiled in separate articles linked to SOLI’s website
Oct. 4 - Two years
later, what do you think? When the SOLI website debuted in October 2002, I likened it to a “Charlie
Brown Christmas Tree” – scraggly, not much to look at and in obvious need of
TLC. From that sapling start the site has grown steadily. The website now
has hundreds of free stewardship resources available at the click of a
mouse, and we get tens of thousands of hits every month from thousands of
users around the world.
Sept. 27 - The
bedrock of stewardship. "A colleague in ministry attended a conference on evangelism and came away
rolling his eyes. All the programs and earnest ideas seemed like gimmicks,
he said, compared to the simple evangelism strategy he read in Acts 2:42-4.
I’ve been mulling it over and think it may apply to the fund-raising and
budget making aspects of stewardship as well."
Sept. 20 - The economics of Jesus, the theology of the hammer. "People told him he
was nuts when self-made-millionaire Millard Fuller gave up his business life
in the 1970s, especially because he gave it up to pursue a harebrained idea
for ministry: Ordinary Christians would donate their labor to build houses
for poor people. But now 28 years later Habitat for Humanity has provided
nearly 200,000 families around the world a decent place to live. … What’s
the genius of Habitat’s success?"
Sept. 13 - 'The
people who rebuilt the walls.'
Bethel New Life in Chicago proves that the promises God makes in Isaiah
58:9-12 are true. The organization began as a ministry of Bethel Lutheran
Church in Chicago’s riot-devastated West Side. What started with $5,000 in
church funds to renovate a dilapidated three-flat apartment building has
since grown to a highly respected agency employing hundreds, working with a
multi-million-dollar budget and witnessing to the power of faith in Jesus
Sept. 6 - Left
behind on Labor Day - "The Left
Behind series has captivated the religious imagination with visions of a
post-rapture world. But reports and statistics about the conditions of the
American economy reveal who is really left behind: American workers. … While
worker productivity rose by 12 percent in the last three years, median
household income dropped by 3.4 percent, the Economic Policy
Institute reported. In previous generations, wages rose
proportionately with productivity gains.
Aug. 30 - Absent from the banquet - "U.S.
Census Bureau reports that 1.3 million more people are living below the
poverty line and 1.4 million more people have no health insurance. … We can
and should work for public policies that promote good jobs at fair wages,
decent housing, education and health care. Especially in a presidential
Aug. 23 - ‘Hello, Houston? We have a problem’ - Like a slowly hemorrhaging wound
that baffles doctors, membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America continues to slip, and a just-released report shows that in 2003 the denomination dipped below 5
million members for the first time. Okay, the slip of 1 percent of members
from 2002 isn’t the end of the world, but edging below the 5 million mark
should rouse us out of our collective slumber of denial.
Aug. 16 - A Good Samaritan moment -
This past weekend Hurricane Charley took an unexpected turn and plowed into
an area of Florida that had not anticipated it, and so had not made
extensive preparations. Charley’s winds and water destroyed an estimated
quarter million homes and thousands of businesses in a rampage estimated to
top $15 billion in damage.
Aug. 2 - Getting rid of 'all the crap' - Crap. Not just the
kids’ stuff – the nonstop accumulation of toys and stuffed animals that
overflow from toy bins, under beds and closets. The adult stuff – like the
kitchen gadgets that clutter the counter, the cleaning stuff overflowing from
under the kitchen sink, the tools in the garage, the yard stuff all over the
lawn, the deck furniture, the CDs and electronic do-dads, and on and on.
July 26 -
What are you waiting for? Relax and be merry! - Of course, the
Bible does not give license to gluttony, drunkenness and hedonism. The
context of Ecclesiastes is clear: If you are blessed to have enough to
secure your needs, then relax and enjoy your life as a righteous soul in
God. Furthermore, Luke cites Ecclesiastes in the framework of his own
economic agenda that calls for people to turn from wealth and open their
hearts in generosity toward the poorest.
July 19 - Obesity is a Symptom, Not a Disease - As a culture, we Americans medicate and
pacify ourselves with consumption. And not just food. Because it’s not only
America’s waistlines that are getting bigger, but also the mini-mansion houses
we’re building, the overstuffed cars and light trucks we’re putting on the road,
the increasingly ostentatious wedding receptions we’re throwing, and on and on. For Christian stewards, overconsumption
represents a profound misuse of God’s gifts.
5 - Stealing Jobs and Benefits - It’s not a favorable time for an
American to be looking for work, as this week’s offerings in Gleanings point
out. More and more good jobs are going offshore, and the ones that are staying
are more likely to pay less and offer less in the way of benefits. But at the
same time, corporate profits are relatively okay.
June 28 - No
Place To Hang Their Hats - Homeless-shelter
workers report that increasingly the clients tend to be families with kids,
with one or both of the parents working. Christians, and especially American
Christians, correctly value hard work and self-sufficiency. But when market
forces erode the value of hard work and jeopardize self-sufficiency, we
should question why."
June 22 - Summer
Solstice Lessons - "Summer solstice is a time of celebration for
everyone, but especially for the world’s growing number of neo-pagans. The
rise of earth-worshipers in the computer age is a phenomenon that Christians
should note – and learn from."
June 14 - Conservation's Time Has Come -
Again - "Today, conservation
sounds like a quaint idea from the 1970s – along with earth shoes, John Denver
songs, geodesic domes and the 55 mph speed limit – but it’s a concept Christian
stewards should take off the shelf and polish up. The urgency is occasioned by
two unconnected phenomena: Two, a drop in giving is
forcing church leaders from denominational department heads to local pastors to
slash programs and staff. A lot of good ministry is going by the wayside."
May 31 - Is
There Happiness in the Mainline? - "Stewardship of life is, at its
heart, a focus on what’s really important: God’s love and saving power that
is the Gospel. This leads to happiness – measured in peace, joy, hope, love,
courage, purpose and satisfaction. If the general perception is otherwise,
perhaps we need to communicate the message in a fresh way."
May 3 - The ‘Vision Thing’ - What’s behind the dollar drain in Mainline denominations? And will we ever
get out of it? Opinions and predictions depend on whom you ask. The reasons
are many – changes in lifestyle, attitudes towards institutions, increase in
consumerism, sour economy, etc. – but some see the gloomy financial picture
as a gauge of the vitality of our ministries themselves.
April 26 - Earth Day needed as much as ever - This past week the nation
observed Earth Day with mixed enthusiasm. Some commentators wondered whether
Earth Day was really needed now that our nation enjoys demonstrably cleaner
air and water. But they miss the point: We have an environment cleaner by
some measures precisely because of widespread concern for the environment
that resulted in the first Earth Day in 1970.
April 19 - Rush versus Ralph? - Researching environmental issues over the
last several weeks, I have to agree with the Christianity Today article in this week’s
resources that the debate is waged by two polarized camps unhelpfully
screaming at each other. It kind of boils down to Rush Limbaugh verses Ralph
April 5 - An Issue Whose Time Has Come - Again. - "We don’t hear as much
news about the environment as we used to, but that’s not because the earth
is out of danger. As world fossil-fuel use continues to rise and as more
nations embrace industrialism, the planet is pushed farther and farther past
its capacity to restore and renew."
March 22 - Not a Hand-Out, a Hand-Up - "Grove Church
bought a run-down three-bedroom house for $50,000, spent $15,000 on
renovations, and now rents it for $650 a month to 33-year-old Samara Parker,
a schoolteacher who is raising two kids by herself. Here’s the genius of
the plan: After two years, the church will rebate Parker’s total rent of
$15,600 to go towards a down-payment on a home of her own. Then Grove Church
will rent the house to somebody else who will build up money for a
March 15 - Stewardship of the Gospel - "If the Gospel is the food
that provides spiritual nourishment, then churches are like restaurants
where people come for refreshment. Those of us in Mainline churches can ask
ourselves why our patrons are leaving even though Americans are dying of
spiritual starvation and finding all sorts of ways to satisfy their hunger.
March 8 - Good Time To Ask Questions - "As the
affordable-housing crisis continues unabated in many parts of the nation,
people of faith who value stewardship can – and should – raise important
questions of fairness. Why are housing prices advancing so much faster than
most people’s income? The answer has much to do with the widening gap
between rich and poor. Housing prices are so high because someone can afford
to pay those prices. Enough someones to drive up the cost through the roof.
March 1 - Signs of Hope - "Yes, we live in a sin-sick world, but we
live - defiantly, and despite the world's omnipresent evil and pessimism - with
faith, love and hope."
Feb. 23 - This Lent, Practice
Stewardship as a Discipline - "There’s nothing
wrong with petty sacrifice for Lent. Especially in our pampered,
clicker-and-couch culture, any discipline is better than nothing for
strengthening willpower, breaking ingrained patterns, revealing weaknesses,
raising self-control and increasing self-knowledge. But why not take on
stewardship as a discipline? How we use the total of our time, talent and
treasure lies at the very core of our walk of faith."
Feb. 16 - Living Miracle to Miracle - "Accumulation of wealth – congregationally
or personally – actually can make fearful of taking risks, rather than
emboldening us to risk what we have. It’s certainly fear and desire for
security that drives our secular financial culture, but as people of God, we
trust in the sovereign of the universe who owns and creates everything. Is
there any safer bet? Perhaps people who have nothing, have nothing to
protect. So they live by trust in God alone. Maybe this is why Jesus told
his disciples to own nothing and why Jesus taught more about economics and
the dangers of wealth than he did about salvation."
Feb. 2 - 'Souper Bowl' or 'Super Bowl'
Values? - "On Sunday thousands of excited youth from
churches across nation provided a welcome contrast of values to the nation’s
most anticipated celebration of gluttony and consumption. As part of the
nationwide Souper Bowl of Caring, youth from churches of every stripe asked
fellow members to give a dollar to help feed the hungry in their
communities. Mostly by gathering relatively small amounts of a few hundred
dollars apiece, churches and other organizations were aiming to raise $4
Jan. 26 - Questions for Post-Souper Bowl Sunday - "What has happened to
our economic structure that more and more churches need to run food pantries?
Once the domain of churches in hard-luck neighborhoods, food pantries have
become a staple in urban, suburban and rural churches alike, and pantries
across the land report surging need. The growth of food
pantry ministries follows trends in employment and wealth distribution that
have pushed millions of once-stable families into need."
Jan. 19 - Stop
Dreaming, Start Risking - "Martin Luther King's 75th birthday
dawns upon an America beset by many of the same problems. As in 1968,
America is in an election year and the key issues on the minds of voters are
hauntingly similar: a costly, ideologically driven war in a remote land
against an elusive enemy; poverty concentrated in communities denied equal
opportunity and income; and human and civil rights."
Jan. 12 - Counting Our Blessings in Zombieland - "Without awareness, its hard to be
grateful, and without gratitude it's hard for us to develop other important
stewardship attitudes, such as thrift, generosity or justice. Without
awareness, we are just zombies living in a complete world of zombies. "