SMILE & CELEBRATION
Tony Lynn - State Director of Missions
A smile spread over my face when I heard President Kevin Ezell explain that, last year, Michigan Southern Baptists gave 24% more than the previous year to the North American Missions Offering, often called the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. The increase was the third highest in the nation. Congratulations.
My celebration gave way to planning as I listened to Ezell further explain that if Michigan Southern Baptists will give more during 2016 to the North American Missions Offering than the average amount given during the last three years that 100% of that extra contribution would return back to Michigan, in 2017, for church planting causes!
Extra Giving in 2016 = Extra Church Planting Resources in 2017
Wow! What a challenge. What a reward.
Young married couples: Tony and Jamie Lynn with Mike and Shar Durbin circa 1978 (Photo courtesy Tony Lynn)
Stingy to Sharing
In 1977, Jamie and I arrived in Bolivar, Missouri so I could start my education to become a pastor. I was a three-year-old follower of Christ. Jamie sewed at a pants factory. I cut grass on a sprawling campus. Our money was tight. Eating salad, pizza, and ice cream at the local JD’s Pizzeria buffet for $1.69 a piece was a rare treat. Our bill was often times paid with coins rather than dollars.
When we joined First Baptist Bolivar with 800 people in the sanctuary I felt even poorer. Car dealers, doctors, professors, and attorneys surrounded us as we worshiped. When the offering plate was circulated, I would clench a coin or at most a dollar bill in my fist and then stealthily bury my chickenfeed in the mound of offering envelopes. I gave God less than I spent for one meal at JD’s. “Whew! Glad that’s over,” I thought every Sunday.
During repeated Sunday lunches my new wife, a deacon’s daughter, would ask me, “When are we going to start tithing?” I saw my stingy ways were grieving her. At first, she had to explain tithing to me. My parents had practiced it, but we never discussed it. After Jamie explained, I finally understood that tithing is 10% of our total earnings before deductions (Genesis 14:19-20 & Malachi 3:8-12).
I countered her gentle question with self-centered responses. We’re poor. We’re paying for college. Our 10% is nothing compared to what others give. Our giving isn’t going to change anything in that church. But within a month, my heart changed from stingy to generous. How?
At the church, we were faithful in our attendance. We arrived on time at every service. We ate at every potluck. We attended prayer meetings and Bible studies. We engaged in every manner except for our giving because I was tightfisted.
While I secretly held back our 10%, here is how the members of First Baptist Bolivar treated us; they greeted us by name and invited us to sit with them, they invited Jamie to sing in the choir, they invited us into their homes for meals and fun, Professors told us to call them by their first names. They invited us to share in their lives all the while I was stealing from God.
The Holy Spirit convicted me of my selfishness in light of their generosity. God’s Word and my experience made it clear, I was being stingy while these people were sharing with us. They poured their lives into us. For the first time in my life, I understood the power of the collaboration of Christians.
After those first months of our marriage, we started giving out 10%. Since then, Jamie and I found ways to increase our gifts throughout the years through controlled spending, constant savings, and correctly sharing.
Caring & Giving
In Mark 12:41-44, the Bible tells us that 2 coins given by a poor woman impressed Jesus because she gave out of her poverty. Her gift was greater than those who gave greater amounts. How so? The priorities of God were on her heart.
As 2016 continues, I hope you will learn the joy of giving. Can I suggest, set a percentage, set an amount, and give consistently through your church. The collaboration will give you cause to celebrate like it did for me in 1977 back in Bolivar, Missouri.