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SOLI Update
2004 Newsletter Archives

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Dec. 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 Divine Heart."

Dec. 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? "

Dec. 6 -  Is your church contributor-friendly? "A 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 God! "The 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 soul. "

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 their churches."  

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 this week.

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 the Christ.

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 election year."

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.

July 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 Nader.

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 down-payment.

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 million nationwide."

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. "