I am probably the only person in the entire world who accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior during a Stewardship sermon.
(This was a full-on Health and Wealth, Give Us Money And God Will Give You A Mercedes Benz sermon, too. Those exact words. And no, not in an Episcopal or Methodist church. It was in 2002, the year in which I moved three times over a 150 square mile area, got engaged and disengaged, cut 18 inches off my 20-inch-long hair, don’t remember anything from September and October, and was a Fundamentalist Charismatic Baptist Pentecostal for six months. Good times, good times.)
Anywhoo, I think the pastor of the Fundicharisbapticostal church was just going through the motions of the altar call, because he sure as heck looked at me funny when I came walking up the aisle. I have to admit, however, I wasn’t listening much to his sermon. I was having a little argument with God about life, the Universe, and everything, and what my job in L,tU&E actually was.
(I actually tune out a lot during sermons. It’s not because of bad preaching, it’s because I have the attention span of an encephillatic fruit fly.)
Since this was the first time I fully participated in a church (read: had a paycheck of my very own), I was weaned on a Fundicharisbaptiscostal version of Stewardship that has left me totally bemused by the Episcopalian version of Stewardship.
First of all, Episcopalians keep talking about ‘time, treasure, and talent’. Isn’t that the most delightfully vauge statement! And then there’s pledge cards, all of which I’ve seen have “I will give [insert dollar figure] over [insert time period].” How quaint! And the cards are mailed and returned anonymously, so as not to give offense. And the budget, while it’s ‘available’ for everyone because the church is a nonprofit organization, well, you usually have to know someone who knows someone who is in the know to get a copy.
The Fundicharisbaptiscostals didn’t go for this fluffy bunny approach. We were told that we were to be at church four times a week (a ‘teaching together’ night, a Bible Study, then Wednesday evening and Sunday morning worship). We were told that 10% of our paycheck belonged to God, and God got His money first, even before the landlord. Talents? Oh, honey, if you showed a smidgeon of capability in an area, you were invited to join that ministry, and they would keep inviting you, until you joined (I was a First Embrace minister– I got to stand at the front door and make sure every person who walked in got a full contact bear hug. No, I’m not kidding.)
Oh, yes, I know most of my readers (all three of ya) are going, “OMG, no, that would NEVER fly at my church!” Well, it wouldn’t fly at Current!Parish, neither. And I’d be screaming as loud as the rest of everyone (there’s a reason why I left the Fundicharisbaptiscostals, after all). But the Fundicharisbaptiscostals? They were growing at a net rate of 5 families a week. In the six months I was there, in addition to meeting operating costs, they raised $150,000 towards purchase of a new facility (I’m fairly certain the several million dollar building is paid off by now). I still give a regular percentage of my paycheck, and the first bill I pay is my pledge to the Church (and then to Episcopal Relief and Development), and the Church gets a lot of my time and talents on top of everything.
So, I went and opened my big, fat mouth and am now a member of the Stewardship Team at Current!Parish. And I’m combining my six months as a Fundicharisbaptiscostal with my eight months as a professional telephone fundraiser, and as God is my witness, at the very minimum, we are going to have not-at-all vauge, multiple choice checkbox pledge cards and a giant thermometer in the parish hall!!!