The last of Bishop Robert Schnase's Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations is "Extravagant Generosity." This sense of generosity goes beyond the often talked about 10 percent tithe. It even goes beyond financial giving. As Schnase puts it, "Generosity aligns one's life with God's purposes." It is a giving from the heart instead of a sense of obligation.
One old children's song proclaims, "God loves a cheerful giver." Those who practice extravagant generosity enjoy the act of giving, rejoicing in the meeting of the needs. Bishop Schnase oversees the Missouri Area of the United Methodist Church. Nearby, in the suburbs of Kansas City, is the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection of which Adam Hamilton is pastor. Hamilton also writes about this joy found in generosity. He even tells the story of a young legally blind kid who has now raised thousands of dollars for charities by selling his paintings. This young man truly enjoys giving back to the community.
In looking at fruitful congregations, Schnase is challenging local churches to display extravagant generosity. Such congregations open their doors to the community. Here in Nashville we see many participating in Room in the Inn, hosting homeless men and women during the coldest nights of the year. Belmont and Hillcrest UMC host the Golden Triangle congregation, a ministry to refugees from Burma, Thailand and other neighboring nations. Extravagant generosity is very much tied to risk-taking mission and service.
Generosity is a spiritual matter. Fruitful congregations, according to Schnase, "speak in spiritual terms about the place of wealth, affluence, acquisition, materialism, selfishness, generosity, and giving." Schnase calls upon congregations to focus on generosity instead of the limits of one's budget or resources. Giving financial is important, but generosity is a calling from God.
Schnase closes his chapter on extravagant generosity by asking the reader about a time when giving was fun. Practicing extravagant generosity will change you, Schnase says, "the result of God's sanctifying grace that molds our hearts and changes our values and behaviors." For more on extravagant generosity and the response to Haiti's earthquake visit the Deacon's Word.
UMNS photo by Mike Dubose