“We need your help,” the caller said. “Our church is having a financial crisis.”
As a veteran pastor, I’ve heard that a few times and said it more than once. In the caller’s case, his church is relocating and trying to find millions of dollars, they have a pretty hefty ongoing budget, and his church gives generously to missions.
“How can I help?”
The answer was surprising.
“We would like a cartoon on the subject.”
“What do you want it to say?”
“Something about giving to the Lord over the summer.”
I said I would see what I could do.
The result turned out better than I expected. What we ended up with a couple of days later–I have a day job so it’s not like I could drop everything to get to this–was three cartoons.
We e-mailed the toons to the church administrator who had asked for them, alongwith a couple of suggestions.
1) Feel free to remove my captions and write your own. Not everyone is gifted or interested in this, but once in a while someone like Gulf Coast Baptist Association’s Dionne Williams comes along with a natural talent for the choice line. If you have someone like that on your church staff, hand them the caption-less drawings (you do have a copy machine?) and ask them to come up with what the character could be saying.
If, like the friend who called, your focus is on encouraging church members to continue giving through the summer, tell the person that. See what they get. If it’s good, send me a copy.
2) Print out the cartoons and post them in Sunday School classrooms and down hallways. Enlarge them to poster size even; make it hard for people to miss. Shrink them to run in your church bulletins or to accompany a letter to the congregation from the pastor. Print them as placemats for your church dinners. Get creative.
You can get the cartoons from two sources. This week Baptist Press will run them, one a day. Go to www.bpnews.net and click on “cartoons” (left column), then my name. Our buddy Laura posts one daily, so the third one won’t appear until the end of the week, chances are. Notice that underneath the cartoon, lower right, the word “next” will connect you with the drawing that ran yesterday. (If you have nothing to do for the next week, you can scan all 1500 of mine in their vault, then check out the other six cartoonists.)
Or, Marty will post the cartoons here. We will e-mail them to him on Monday and he’ll get to them as soon as he can. If you have trouble downloading them or printing them from this blog, go to the bpnews site.
No permission necessary; use them any way you please with the exception of in a book for sale. (Like that’s going to happen.)
A news release I’ve encountered a couple of times this week mentions the decline in tithing among the Lord’s people. Longtime readers of this blog have noticed that when I have mentioned the subject of tithing, some character with a program designed to alert him to anyone foolish enough to advocate such a deadly legalistic practice jumps all over me and accuses us of everything but murder. But, I’ll risk it.
Greg Garrison of the Newhouse News Service–as reported on the religion page of Saturday’s Times-Picayune–quotes George Barna that only 5 percent of Americans “say they tithe.” For my money, no pun intended, you might have 1 out of 20 “saying” they tithe, but the actual number would be far less. In a lot of churches, 5 percent tithers would be an improvement.
With so many parachurch organizations running the ministries the church wasn’t, Christians are dividing their offerings between their home congregation and one of these causes dear to their hearts.
“The church is losing market share,” Sylvia Ronsvalle is quoted as saying. She’s listed as executive vice president of Empty Tomb. (The empty tomb has a board of directors?) Ronsvalle says, “That concerns us. There could be a crisis in the very heart of the church.”
Dr. Bill Hull of Samford University told the reporter, “Tithing is in decline. The older generation was taught to tithe. It’s not being taught very much anymore.”
Most of our Southern Baptist churches in the New Orleans area are having money problems these days. With so many long-time members relocating out of the hurricane-prone region, congregations are losing some of their best contributors. The new people coming in to their churches since Katrina have not been taught regular stewardship of their finances.
These same churches, in numerous instances, are still dealing with contractors and suppliers of materials for their continuing rebuilding. When pastors bring this to my attention, I have the same answer to each one.
It’s time to hold a stewardship conference in your church. Time to instruct the new generation on the time-honored practice of tithing. Time to step up to the plate and call for a greater love for the Lord and His church. Time to tell your people the truth: it is actually possible to lay up treasures in Heaven. No, that’s not Televangelism Manipulation Doctrine No. 1; it’s something promised by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 6:20).
It’s time to give.
When our people start giving of their income to the Lord through their church on a regular basis, they begin to make surprising discoveries. The money they have left goes further. Materialism begins to lose its deathgrip on their hearts. They find themselves loving the Lord more (see Matthew 6:21). The church will have its financial needs met (see Malachi 3:10). Plus, as an added benefit, they will hear fewer panicky pleas from the pulpit about needing bigger offerings.
I am not saying a cartoon can teach the lessons of stewardship. What it can do is remind the faithful to live up to their love.
We all need such reminders from time to time.