Prior to Christmas this past year, I struggled with “gifter’s block” (similar to writer’s block, but think gifts rather than words), had to return a gift because it was the wrong size, and been stressed over the thought of getting everything done in time. This was all before Thanksgiving! Anybody with me?
So is this why God changed the world by coming to earth in the form of a baby born into a picture of humility who was quickly exiled to a neighboring country on the other side of the world? I hope not! How did we get so far from celebrating the greatest gift ever given to participating in the madness that has become Christmas in America? Some called me Scrooge (I’ve been called much worse), but we decided to stop in the midst of the madness and think critically about what this all means during our Advent Conspiracy series during the month of December. We participated in a conversation about what it might look like for Christmas to change the world again through worshipping fully, spending less, giving more, and loving all.
The series culminated in our Eve of Christmas Eve service on December 23rd during which we will collected a special offering for International Justice Mission-a human rights agency based in Washington DC that rescues victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and violent oppression.
Numbers Never Lie
I have paid close attention to the current financial status here at Christ United. Our giving is going in the right direction. As I review quarterly and annual reports, I can see that undesignated giving to the general budget ministry operations is up 20% from the 3rd quarter in 2011 to the same time in 2012. This is an incredible increase! I’m excited to see people giving more and to see more people giving. As this trend continues, we will have a greater opportunity to “know Christ and make him known” through outreach, worship, and discipleship.
I think it is vital to keep our collective eye on big picture numbers so we know where we are and where we need to be. As we continue to focus on our mission and see lives changed through our hard work, I have no doubt that people will want to support God’s Kingdom through increasing their giving and making church attendance (services, programming, etc.) a priority.
As we finished up 2012, I made sure to lift up a few things that have occured over the past five months about which Christ United should be proud.
1. Launching the MOPS ministry which will go a long way in guiding and supporting young mothers in our community for years to come.
2. Launching a Disciple Bible Study for inmates at the Western Youth Institute.
3. Coordinating a BBQ that fed over 1,000 people in Burke County and raised over $3,500; which is being invested right back in our local community by providing for Burke United Christian Ministries and others who need some assistance during these difficult financial times.
4. Celebrating the Epiphany prison outreach and welcoming a prisoner whose life was changed through this ministry.
5. Providing 114 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that will be shipped all over the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ with children who literally have nothing.
6. Providing over 75 angel tree gifts so that families will be able to celebrate Christmas here in our local community.
7. Hosting over 50 inmates at the church for our annual Inmate Christmas dinner.
This is just a small survey of the great things Christ United is doing in the name of Jesus to change lives and change the world. We should take some time to stop and feel proud about what we are doing as the church. Then we should get some rest and take a quick breath, because there is much work to be done and much hope to be restored in this world.