Gift Day 2019

On Sunday 6th October we had our Gift Day service here at EBC . 

You can listen to the talk by clicking here.

Below is a summary of the talk.

How do you view giving money to church?

Let me ask again. How do you really feel about giving money to the church?

As I prepared the taIk for the gift day I was really challenged by God to view my giving differently, which I will explain later.

But first if you are a regular here at EBC you should be aware of why we are holding the gift day. But if you are new to us or just in case you need reminding this is why we are holding the gift day.

We agreed at our church meeting to use the gift day last year, this year and next year to specifically fund the growth in what we do here at EBC. Over the last few years our ministry team has undergone some significant changes and in particular we agreed that we would fund Simon to be trained to become an accredited minister.

However we also need to fund another member of staff to help cover the work whilst he is at college, and start to move towards the point soon when Steph our assistant minster retires. So we have employed the lovely Phil who if you do come here regularly you will have seen her at the front quite often leading services.

But this all needs money to make it happen.

So let me go back to my first question, when it comes to giving money to the church, how do you really feel about it?

If I am honest at times I don’t even think about what I give to the church as the money goes from my bank account via standing order to the church every month. So I get paid and the money goes out to the church.

Other times if I am really honest I don’t like that I give money to the church. I think about what I give and I think about what else I could have done with that money. I think if I didn’t give the money I could go on holiday, I could decorate the house, I could have a new car.

But as I said earlier I was challenged when I was putting this talk together and I am hoping that I might be able to get you to see things differently as I feel God has done for me.

During the first 3 weeks of September we had a great series of talks on a Sunday morning about singing a new song. If you weren’t able to be here and have access to the internet I would encourage you to go to our website and have a listen and read the notes that go alongside the talks.

I hope I am not doing the speakers an injustice here but if I could boil down the message to one sentence I think it would be “see things a different way, see things in a more positive way”.
So my challenge to us all (including myself) is can we see giving our gifts today, and any other time, differently, more positively?

I want to tell you a story about a snooker table I had when I was growing up. I think I was about 10 years old and in the run up to Christmas I was doing the usual thing of pestering my mum and dad about the present I wanted.

I was absolutely convinced I needed a hand held computer game. This was a while ago way before the age of Smartphones/Nintendo DS or even Gameboys for those of you who can remember them. You literally had a small screen with controls attached, I think the one I wanted was called Firefox.

Anyway unbeknown to me my mum and dad had different ideas and had bought me a snooker table. It was being stored at our neighbours house and they told me afterwards they very nearly sent it back as I was so set on the computer game. But they didn’t and I am so glad they didn’t.

That snooker table was one of my best ever presents.

I played for hours and hours and hours on it. I used to get up early at the weekends go down to the extension we had at the back of the house where it was kept and play.

Now some of you might be thinking I am not sure where this is going Steve. I thought you would use a story of receiving a gift from one of your sons (I have 3) and how although it wasn’t much it meant the World to you and that is like what we give to God. Your example doesn’t seem to quite fit that idea.

Well what I haven’t told you about that snooker table is that really it became something far more than just a snooker table.

First of all it became something that gave me time with my Dad. I also played with friends and other family when they came to visit. Whilst playing we would chat and listen to music, it was a social thing and became a bit of a hub of the house at times.

But it also became a table tennis table. We inherited two wooden boards from the cricket club that fitted the table perfectly. Add a net and a new use for the table. Again lots of happy memories playing with family and friends.

It was also a makeshift table for family events to put food on. My mum and dad have a lovely big garden and so for family events like my Nan and Grandad’s 50th wedding anniversary it became a place to put the food. After lunch the boards came off to give us the snooker table again for family games before everyone left. Again happy memories of family times together celebrating.

So what is the point of my example?

That snooker table, the gift my mum and dad nearly didn’t give, became so many things to me and my family.

I think it is easy to think that church just wants your money whether that be today (on our gift day)or regular giving, to simply keep it going, to pay the for the training of Simon, to pay for Phil, to pay the other staff, to pay the bills to keep the lights and heating on.

But I think God wants us to think about our giving differently.

I think it is right first of all to acknowledge that there are many people here at EBC who give generously to the work of the church. I am sure God is saying thank you.

But what if you are like me, like I said at the start of the talk?

Maybe you don’t really think about what you give, maybe you sometimes resent giving money, maybe you have never thought of giving money to the church.

I believe God wants us to think differently about what our gifts actually do.

Yes it does contribute to the overall running costs of the church, and you could simply see it as that. Or you could view it differently.

In “running” the church, what does that actually mean? In allowing Simon to go to college to train and employing Phil, what does that mean?

Well let’s think about a few things:
It allows us to run Storehouse. Many of you at EBC will know about the amazing times we have been able to help people in need with furniture when they have nothing.
It allows us to be part of the night shelter project over the winter, where people get fed and a warm dry place to sleep who otherwise would be sleeping rough.
It allows us to run lots of events for older people like holiday at home, where people who would otherwise be at home and potentially quite lonely get to come and have fun times with others.
It allows us to run messy church where families can come have a meal and hear something about God.
It does also allow us to run our services on a Sunday morning!

But it is not just the church here in Bracknell.

It allows us to support the work of Tearfund who help people around the world when disaster strikes.
It allows us to support the work of Christian solidarity worldwide who support persecuted Christians around the World.
It also allows us to support the work of Abs in Sierra Leone.
It is so easy to think that our giving doesn’t really make a difference, whether it be here or overseas, but having had the privilege to see Abs and the Dorothy Springer trust in action I can tell you it really does.

Last time I was there we went to the graduation ceremony for the most recent young people who had completed their training in computer studies. They had a young lady there who had graduated a couple of years before and she told everyone about the impact it had made.

She was a farmer’s daughter who lost one of her legs to a landmine. In her words she had no hope for the future, what could a young lady with one leg do?

But she got a place on the training course that Abs runs through the Dorothy Springer Trust. She got her qualification and got a job and now she has plans to open her own fashion company.
With our giving we are part of that!

There may be some of you thinking what about the Bible what does it say about giving. Well there are lots of passages in the Bible about giving. But the passage I was given for today’s talk is actually a bit of a different one.

It is 2 Corinthians 8 verses 8-15
“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
And here is my judgement about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it might be matched by your completion of it, according to your means
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.
The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

This was written by a guy called Paul to a church in a place called Corinth, and what struck me when I read it was the idea of how some people needed to look at their giving differently.

If we look again at verses 10-12 what struck me first was that there appeared to be some who used to give and who seemed to want to give, but it seems to be implied to me that perhaps they weren’t so keen now.

It says:
“Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it might be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.”

It goes on to say
“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”

And then Paul says if you are willing then the gift you give is acceptable according to what you have.

So what does this part mean?

For me I think first of all God wants to say to us be more willing to give, think about what is achieved with all of the gifts people bring.

But what about the according to your means, or according to what one has part?

Well if you have been around churches and have heard of the idea of tithing, then 10% of what you earn to the church is what is talked about as being what you should give. But I will be honest again and say that I sometimes struggle with the 10% figure, it seems so big!

But I think we have a different slant on it here at EBC that has been spoken about before. The principal of giving a percentage of your income is a good one.

Maybe if you simply go no way to the 10% figure, try a smaller one to start with. But then look to increase that figure over time. Maybe you could give more than 10%!

The key is the principle, give something.

So a few questions/challenges for us all:
Maybe you used to be a person who gave cheerfully
Maybe you used to be a person who gave very generously
Maybe you are that person who gives but still resents it slightly

Do we need to see our giving differently?
Do we need to see that our giving makes us part of something amazing both here and around the World?

Just like the gift of a snooker table actually became much more, so our gifts can become much more when we give them to God and say here is my gift let it be used in great ways

Stephen Nower, 15/10/2019