My friend, Alan Walworth, retired from the pastorate some years ago to work with churches across the country. He helps them plan capital campaigns and create cultures of generosity in their congregations.
Often, he tells the true story of his visit to a west Texas church about to begin a costly, but crucial capital campaign. The leadership in the church hosted a listening session at a church member's house, where Alan came to cast the vision for the project.
Just after the meeting started and Alan was speaking, the back door flung open and in walked a grizzled, old cowboy wearing a sweat-stained Stetson and boots slathered in mud and more odious organic materials. He didn't say a word, walked into the middle of the circle and some scooted over to make space on the couch for him, where he plopped down. Magnetically, this cattleman seemed to suck all the air out of the room.
Alan continued his talk, and after about 10 minutes of explaining the proposed project, the cowboy threw his hands up, and declared, "That's all I need to hear. I don't need another peep out of this fella right here."
Alan was speechless and feared the whole project was about to be torpedoed right before his eyes.
The cowboy spoke, "I'm not gonna introduce myself, because y'all know me. And y'all know I've made a lot of money in this town, and y'all know how much of my money my wife, Betty, gave away around this town. She'd come to me and say, 'Honey, you know we got that little zoo in town, and they want to bring in a new exhibit for the kids to learn about animals, so we need to give them whatever they need.' So, I did.
"Then Betty came and said, 'Honey, the symphony is just about the only place in town where people can get any culture, and they need to replace some of their old instruments, so why don't we just give them whatever they need?' So, I did. THEN, she came to me and said, 'Honey, our local museum is going to have to close its doors if we don't get this endowment going. Let's give them whatever they need, because this town needs some art.' So, I DID.
"Then, the preacher came asking me for money, and I said, 'Now, hold up, I done give all my money to the zoo, the symphony and the museum, and I got nothing left to give.'
"Back a few years ago, Betty started getting real sick, so we went to the doctor. When we sat in the hospital and heard the diagnosis, it wasn't the zookeeper who sat with us and listened and prayed while we weighed her options for treatment. When she began radiation, and all her beautiful hair fell out, it wasn't the conductor from the symphony who knit her a wool cap and bought us dinner.
"When I finally put her in the ground, and sprinkled the dirt on her coffin, it wasn't the museum board members who sang 'Amazing Grace' and kept checking in to pray with me and see how I was doing. It was you people. And, I know Betty loved this church, and now so do I. Whatever y'all believe we need to do, my 'yes' is on the table. 'Cause there's nowhere else I'd rather be."
The church, especially one like NorthHaven, occupies a unique place in our world, and it's growing more unique all of the time. It must be protected and invested in if we are to continue being the body of Christ in the world. It requires our generosity.
There are a lot of good causes in this world, but in the church, we offer what no one else can. What other community in our world welcomes all people on equal ground, regardless of socio-economic standing, age, race, gender, orientation or political affiliation?
Where else can so many diverse ideas and individuals find themselves bound together as one people, one family, one church? But that's exactly what I see happening here at NorthHaven Church.
I believe in what we stand for: an inclusive community of Christ followers inspiring, challenging and equipping one another to participate in God's great story. I believe that's exactly what we're growing toward, and I hope you do, too.
But it is going to take all of us doing our parts and giving of ourselves that which God generously gives to us. So, those of you who are able, consider giving a special gift to support the work God is doing among us today and to sow seeds for the future.
Thanks for being exactly who you are, NorthHaven. There's no where else I'd rather be.