Today sees the start of our Stewardship fortnight – so here are some common questions and answers in relation to stewardship/offerings:
Q. Why do we give a monetary offering?
A. It is an act of discipleship. The Israelites were commanded to bring the first of their crops as an offering to God (Deuteronomy 26). Jesus says in Mathew 6:24 “you cannot serve both God and money.” When we choose to give a regular, pre-determined amount to the church, we are choosing to put God first in our lives and to rely on God to meet all our needs.
Q. What are our offerings used for?
A. They are investing in God’s work through Emmanuel. Our worship, discipleship, care for each other, families and children’s ministry and outreach is financed through our offerings. The salaries of the ministry team, payment for resources, training, electricity, insurance and all other payments come from our offerings. In addition 20% of our offerings are given for the wider work of the church.
Q. What other sources of income does Emmanuel have?
A. The congregation receives a contribution from Tiny Town whilst some other groups within the congregation make smaller contributions. Modest rental income comes from the hall and the manse. Money is also received from donations and interest on some invested money. These other sources of income represent about 20% of our income.
Q. I’ve heard that our offering levels have decreased, is this correct?
A. Yes. Sadly, due to the departure of a number of families for various reasons (including relocation, illness or passing away), our regular offerings have declined by around 15%.
Q. How much should I give?
A. We believe in the New Testament principle of proportionate giving (2 Corinthians 8:11, 12). This principle encourages us each to identify and give a proportion of our income, and allow the actual amount to increase or decrease proportionally with our income. The bible identifies 10% as the proportion that God sees as worthy of himself.
Q. What is the best way for me to give?
A. Direct debit. This method is safe, reliable and convenient. Some people feel that using direct debit disconnects their act of giving from being an act of worship. However, there are laminated cards available in the foyer for you to place into the offering bag as a physical reminder of your giving through direct debit, if you wish to use these.
Q. How do I give through direct debit?
A. Our preferred way is for you to arrange through your own bank an automatic payment from your account into the church’s account. The church’s bank account details are on the back page of our fortnightly Newsletter. Another way is to obtain a direct debit request form from our Church Treasurer and complete the form and return.
Hang onto the Vine!
Ralph is a retired Minister who was asked to explain what kept him going, through the good times and the tough times of his long ministry. (He had a reputation as a trouble-shooter Minister so he had been through a testing mix of ups and downs over the years.)
His answer was immediate and simple - PRAYER!
This is how he then elaborated, in his own words…
“I can still hear my Mum telling my own children this story about me as a little boy.
‘When your Dad was a small boy like you’, she’d tell them, ‘he’d be out playing in the back yard for hours. Then he’d come running into the house, and he’d leap into my arms and give me a hug. Then he’d run out and play again. Sometimes he’d almost knock me off my feet.’
‘Why did he do that, Grandma?’, I can hear my kid’s asking.
Without fail Mum would always say ‘I guess he just needed to check in to see if I was still there!’
Mum’s little story also helps me understand and explain why it’s long been important for me to pray. At meals, at church, or just casually anywhere, anytime for a few moments when I’m doing something else, I need to pray. I need to check in and see that God and others are still there, that I’m loved and needed, and not alone. That’s how I have always kept going. I guess I’m just a little branch trying to make sure I am always hanging onto the VINE!”
Tomorrow I officially conclude my time as Supply Minister with you - although I will still be with you a while longer, once a month on communion Sundays. I thank you very genuinely for the warm and kind way that you have welcomed me amongst you in what has been a difficult and testing time for everyone. I know I will miss you, and you can be assured I will be remembering you constantly in my thoughts and prayers.
In recent weeks, you might have noticed your Ministry Team and leaders gently challenging you to help wind up the ‘prayer engine’ of our congregation - reminding us how important prayer is, as we look to the future and trust God to lead us safely forward.
I am extremely heartened by very encouraging signs of good spiritual health within the Emmanuel church family, despite (or maybe because of) everything that has happened. I have been especially impressed by the spirit of genuine goodwill and caring that I have found across the congregation. It has undoubtedly helped you ride out the storm that has tested you this year. I am equally heartened by a very evident desire, to stay focused on Jesus Christ and the mission he is giving you in this community. Jesus is still the VINE and you are still his branches - nothing changes that, even in challenging times!
My parting encouragement - keep praying AND keep hanging onto the VINE (Jesus) - in God’s hands, the best is always yet to come!
Rev Glenn Mulcahy
Last week we explored the story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers and dove sellers in Matthew 21. It’s a fascinating story that challenges the ‘gentle Jesus’ stereotype and, if he wasn’t already, sets Jesus on a collision course with the Jewish authorities. In overturning those tables, just after triumphantly entering Jerusalem, he signals that the coming Kingdom of God is very different to the status quo in the temple at that time.
I wonder how the money changers and the dove traders would have reacted to Jesus’ rebuke? The scriptures don’t say. Would they have yelled and waved their arms around? Would they have cursed under their breath and just set up their stalls as if nothing had happened? Would they have been so surprised due to Jesus’ reputation that they were left speechless?
I suspect it was a combination of all three. It would have been hard for them to comprehend because their daily practice was probably so normal. Maybe they had been selling doves for years. They knew they could sell at a premium, so they did. The established practices of the temple were so engrained and so normalised that the reasons for Jesus’ behaviour may have been lost on these traders. I wonder what would happen if I went to the café at the airport, threw all the sandwiches on the floor and berated the café owner for exploiting people by selling overpriced sandwiches? I suspect I’d get acquainted with airport security! And they would tidy up and keep selling the sandwiches as if nothing had happened.
Herein lies the challenge of challenging our status quo. Our life’s practices are so established, so engrained and so normal that it’s very difficult to apply the image of Jesus turning the tables to our own life or personal situation, identifying areas of our life which God wants us to reform. So how do we hold up that proverbial mirror, examine our faults, and strive to become more like Jesus?
One helpful way is to meet regularly with a small group of Christians and mutually support each other in this task – by praying, reading Scripture and being mutually accountable. In an age of individual liberties this seems odd. However, it was a key part of Wesley’s evangelical work, and similarly part of growing churches in the 21st century. People who connect with a huddle or small group have a great opportunity for discipleship growth. If you’re already in a small group I’m sure you’ll agree. Of course we also have a great opportunity (and responsibility) to love and support the other members of our group as they likewise grow to be more like Jesus.
Where is God upsetting the status quo in your normality this week? How will you respond? Who’s there to help you on that journey? And how can you support someone else?
Church Council Chairperson
Over the last few weeks we have been intentionally pausing to think, reflect and remember about the things that we are thankful for, and there are so many things! Thank you for your contributions to our tree of thankfulness and the reflective notes in worship on Emmanuel Day. Reading through them I was struck with the sheer volume of things that we have to be thankful for. The tree below on the front page of the newsletter is a snapshot of the things that we as a community of God’s people living in relationship with him are collectively THANKFUL for...
I want to add to this list all of you, the congregation and community who faithfully support the work of God in this are, who show up and step out into mission and ministry in and for our community everyday. Please keep it up. “I thank my God every time I remember you” Philippians 1:3
God Bless, Jess
“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.’ ” Ezra 3:11 (NIV)
Recently, my daily devotions have focused on Ezra and the sheer joy which his people felt as they began to return to Israel after 70 years in Babylonian exile. Despite their exile, the verse above captures this message of joy and thanksgiving!
We, at Emmanuel, haven’t been in exile but, in recent times, we, perhaps, haven’t felt in control of our future. However, despite all that has happened, God has been good to us and, as we seek to rebuild and regroup, we too should bring our praise and thanksgiving to God – and shout out “Yes, God is good. O yes, He’ll never quit loving Emmanuel.” As we recognise His love which “endures forever” and see His hand in so many areas of our congregation’s life we will be able to confidently move forward on our discipleship journey.
So, how has your 21 Days of Thankfulness been going? I hope that you have been referring to your chart each day and taking that little bit of extra time to pause and give thanks – to God, but also to our family, friends and others in our community. I hope, also, that you took the opportunity last Thursday to treat yourself to something special – you deserve it!!
It has also been wonderful to read the numerous “thankfulness leaves” on our tree in the foyer – even if you’ve already placed a leaf on the tree, please feel free to add more. Can I briefly share three special items for which we can give God thanks and praise:
We’ve been a part of the Kids’ Hope program next door at Enoggera Primary School for 14 years and are so thankful to God for this opportunity to show our community God’s love in this way. We are also thankful to Vicki our co-ordinator and the mentors too – 2 have been mentoring for the whole 14 years and all current mentors have given at least 5 years of their time, energy and faith.
Through our Community Helping Hand outreach, we have made contact with a family who, in the past few months have not only attended Mens’ Breakfasts but have enrolled their children in Girls and Boys Brigade. We give God thanks for this opportunity to share our resources and our programs with our community.
A few weeks ago, I was overjoyed to see the young people leading our 9.30am Worship – Bella and Emily singing, Nathan and Mitchell on guitars and Andrew on drums. Of course, these young people were ably led by Dom who tirelessly gives of his time and talents each Friday to encourage members of the Youth Band. Another reason to give God thanks.
I hope that this has encouraged you to give thanks and praise - could I also, please, encourage you to seriously and prayerfully consider your Thanksgiving Offering for next Sunday.
A time to give thanks, and look to the future.
Have you given thanks today? While requests and petitions might roll off the tongue when we pray, we worship a God who wants us to give thanks. Paul encourages us to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thess 5:18). I’m sure there were times he was locked up in prison feeling miserable, yet he was able to focus on God’s faithfulness, his promises and look forward with hope to a future in Christ. It is no surprise that Paul exhorts us to ‘set your minds on things above’ and ‘be thankful’ (Col 3:2,15). A focus on God and his promises is an important pre-requisite for giving thanks in all circumstances, not just when we are feeling good.
Why does God want us to give thanks? Is it just another task or obligation we should add to our list, and then get demoralised when we don’t complete it? Does God need our adulation or thanksgiving for His own reassurance? We know God isn’t like that. Could it be that God wants us to give thanks because it’s good for us? Certainly a thankful, positive attitude, in all circumstances, does wonders for our wellbeing. Last week I was in a remote part of Australia, working long hours in difficult conditions to complete a project. Despite the circumstances, the team stayed positive and focused on the goal. Sometimes we’re tempted to blame our circumstances for our attitude. If we let God shape our attitudes, it may help us become resilient in any circumstances.
We should give thanks to God because he gives good gifts to His children. By giving thanks to God we’re reminding ourselves who God is – a good God who loves us, cares for us and provides for us. We are also reminding ourselves who we are – God’s children who are loved and cared for. Reflecting on God’s provision in our lives by giving thanks is an important act in confirming our faith.
I can’t see why an attitude of thankfulness, and the practice of thanksgiving, should be confined to our relationship with God. Someone who takes a moment to say, ‘thank you’, or offer words of acknowledgement or recognition is always appreciated. We know the impact this has on us and we have the opportunity or responsibility to share this with others. This is such a simple but effective way we can be ‘Good News’ to those around us.
Today we kick-start our 21 days of thanksgiving. This is a season where we intentionally reflect together and give thanks to God for all he’s doing. Some practical resources have been prepared to help us be intentional about thanksgiving during this period. I hope you will be strengthened and encouraged as we journey together over the next three weeks, culminating in our Thanksgiving Sunday combined service on 25 August.
Grace and Peace
Church Council Chair
Last weekend saw two remarkable sporting events deliver nail-biting finishes. The Wimbledon Mens' Final was decided in an extended final set, and the Cricket World Cup was decided in a tie-breaker. I'm sure those who stayed up all night to watch were captivated by the uncertainty of what would happen. The tension of that uncertainty is what makes the moment of victory so exciting.
I wonder how the disciples would have felt when they gathered with Jesus for the Last Supper. John 15 - 17 records Jesus' reflection on a rolling contest between himself and the World. The disciples must have felt trapped in that room as worldly forces of religion and politics circled outside. This makes John 16:33 all the more remarkable, "In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!" Jesus reminds them that, despite the tension and uncertainty, there was victory.
Our last three months as Church has also been tense and uncertain. There has been a feeling of helplessness and frustration, and a sense of spiritual attack. As we seek some closure on this period and start to look forward to the future, I hope you will be encouraged to take courage by the words of John 16:33. We need to be ready for rough patches in life, but not disheartened, because the victory is already won by Jesus.
I hope you’ll be able to join in the Reconciliation and Healing Service we’re holding on Sunday afternoon, 28 July. This service is designed so we can prayerfully reflect on the journey our Church has been on, place our pain and hurt at the foot of the cross, and then move forward together.
Finally, I want to sincerely thank everyone who’s prayed for me and my family over the last few months. I’ve been overwhelmed by the expressions of support we’ve received. Many people have spoken to me who were hurt or upset but were always genuine and respectful. That’s a sign of a church with a great culture – one that values prayer and our relationships with each other.
Grace and Peace
Church Council Chair
Jesus causes offense. In Mark 6 we read how his home crowd could not reconcile that the carpenter’s son was also a remarkable teacher and miracle worker, “and they took offense at him”. In John 8 an extended dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees over his identity as the Son of Man results in an attempted stoning. While the signs of wonders of Jesus spoke for themselves, the Pharisees could not reconcile this with a man claiming to be God.
If you have read a newspaper or listened to a radio broadcast in the last fortnight you’ll realise that two thousand years has done little to damp the divisive nature of the name ‘Jesus’. A number of current issues have given voice to a group who are greatly offended by this name. Arguably, as much as at any other time in history, our community needs men and women of integrity who can bear the fruit of the Spirit and represent Jesus. Our friends, colleagues and neighbours need to meet ‘real people with relevant faith’ when they speak with us. Whilst our congregation’s recent turmoil has sapped our energy and caused us to focus on ourselves, we need to be attentive to our calling in Christ, to be ‘good news’ to those around us.
Thank you for participating in the Presbytery information sessions last week. It was also great to have so many turn out for the picnic in the park to farewell Ian and Julie. It is important that we all acknowledge our strong feelings regarding the end of Ian’s placement, ask any questions we might have, and try to come to terms with these changes and the implications for our church. The Ministry Team and Elders have been working on plans for the future; I hope to share these in upcoming articles.
Today we are pleased to welcome back to Rev Glenn Mulcahy who will spend the next three months with us as half-time Supply Minister. Glenn spent a few weeks with us during May. It is great to have Glenn’s wisdom and experience to provide pastoral care and support. Please seek out Glenn and make him welcome.
Day Camp is a wonderful outreach event which ran last week. We have had some tired but excited little campers in our household, as have many others. Whilst it might seem like just another holiday program to us, it is a really significant event for the children who participate each year. Thank you to all the leaders, helpers, volunteers, and supporters who made Day Camp another success.
I’m so grateful to those who have expressed their support and have assured me they’re praying fervently for Emmanuel. Please pray daily for: a sense of healing and reconciliation, the protection of leaders, a renewed sense of calling and purpose, wisdom and discernment for leaders, and a heart for our community.
Grace and Peace
Church Council Chair