Just to be clear, my most treasured legacies live in Manhattan and Our Nation’s Capital. They are the three twenty-somethings HH and I raised and my best efforts rest deeply in each of their souls.
They will probably not inherit piles of money from me and HH. But we are blessed to share a bit of what we have.
In the meantime, there are many things HH and I want to support financially in addition to our grown children. As I write this, my local public radio station is having their fall campaign and – God knows – there are requests to give to political campaigns every day. But are their other contributions we can make?
Our theology informs how and what we will give to others.
One of the blessings of being a national officer in my denomination is that I have easy access to information about countless opportunities to give financially. I’m talking about lifesaving, earth-shattering, soul-filling opportunities from this to this to this. We have the power to save lives, my friends.
But this is not a pitch to give to your local shelter or your international rescue fund.
This is actually a call to small congregations who look at their future and see the end.
To the many tiny congregations out there who find themselves getting older with buildings requiring expensive maintenance who are increasingly dependent upon renters to pay the bills, here is my question:
What legacy do you want to leave the community you love?
Last weekend, we closed a wonderful congregation that was far from dying. They simply did not feel as though they had the energy to move forward to do what was needed for them to thrive in a 21st Century culture. Their financial resources were limited. Many of their members were either moving out of the area or hoping to take a step back from all the responsibilities of keeping a church going.
The legacy they leave – because they prayerfully and intentionally chose to close and share the resources from the sale of the church building – will make a huge difference in the lives of people whose homes have been destroyed by floods and fire, the lives of local victims of domestic violence, the lives of fragile families in Uganda, the lives of teenage addicts in their county, the lives of homeless men in their town, the lives of people with insufficient sanitation, and several other life-changing ministries in their county and beyond. They leave a legacy of healing and hope rather than a legacy of bitterness and regret.
Perhaps your church is faithfully vibrant, making disciples and loving the neighbors to the point that – should your ministry end – the pain would be felt by thousands of people.
But if your church is struggling . . .
- if serving the outcast and broken in Jesus’ name has been replaced with meetings about broken windows and how much it costs to replace a boiler,
- if there hasn’t been an adult baptism in years, much less an infant baptism
- if there is less joy than there is anxiety and hang-wringing . . .
then perhaps it’s time to consider leaving a legacy that will show the world that you actually do believe in resurrection. Sell you building. Give the proceeds to something that will bring good news to people who desperately need it.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this is our calling.