The banner on the UMC Stewardship Facebook page is this hand holding dirt and a living plant. That’s extremely appropriate for the stewardship page, but tragically inappropriate for me personally. I am the mortal enemy of houseplants. Seriously.
A co-worker was retiring, cleaning out her office, and she filled a whole table with the plants she had cared for at work over the years. Undoubtedly, her house was already filled with plants, so these were up for adoption. Knowing how bad I am with plants, I kept walking by the table, feeling somehow like less of a person because I couldn’t take one of these poor orphans into my care. Finally, I relented. I brought a little cactus plant into my office. It was the least I could do –literally, the least.
I don’t mean to be bad; I’m not an evil person, but honestly, I don’t even notice the plant for weeks at a time. It needs so little that it’s easy to ignore. I’m not sure if it’s alive or dead, but I still keep it. As I think about it, it’s not the best match for me. It requires too little. Neglect comes easy.
Have you seen that in the church? I certainly have. Churches that are so afraid to ask folks to give of their time, talent and treasure, for fear of offending them? They ask only for the bare minimum, never challenging anyone to really roll up their sleeves and get involved. If you’ve seen churches like this, they probably resemble my little cactus in some ways. They don’t do much of anything, they don’t seem to grow, and you wonder whether there is anything alive in them at all.
When we set our goal on the bare minimum, there’s a real good chance that’s all we will get.
A wonderful angel in the last church I served, well into her 90s, shared a story her father loved to tell:
“I had this horse – good horse, but darned expensive to feed. So each day I would cut back on his food just a little. It was working pretty well. Just about the time I got the horse to get by on nothing, he up and died on me!”
I’ve seen that used as a model for ministry. It didn’t work for the horse; it hasn’t worked well on my cactus; and it’s not going to grow your church.
Be bold for Jesus Christ, ask people to give their most, not their least. And have a mission that is worthy of their generosity!