In early August our new contemporary worship center opened for its first worship service. The following day, more than 250 children from Salisbury and surrounding communities filled this space as St. John’s, the Child Development Center and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church partnered to host our annual Vacation Bible School. In years past, our church had to limit VBS attendance to 125 children, due to space limitations. This year, on the greatest day of attendance, there were over 280 excited children filling our church and learning that God is “the highest power.” Without the commitment and many months of planning by church staff, CDC workers, and numerous volunteers, along with a congregation which embraced and carried out a vision for a new facility perfectly suited for such events, the growth in this ministry would not have been possible.
Are you wondering why I share this wonderful news with you?
Well, this is a story about the marvelous success and growth in our ministries here at St. John’s and a story about our future. This year, through the vision of many in our congregation who sought out ways to grow our Vacation Bible School ministry by reaching out to our partners at the CDC and neighboring congregation at St. Luke’s, we found a way to more than double our attendance from past years. However, this is not a success story rooted in attendance numbers or filling buildings with people. Much more importantly, it is about the fact that more than 250 children experienced the wonderful power of God for an entire week at St. John’s, something that hopefully sets the foundation for the Christian faith into which we pray they will continue to grow.
There are countless stories like this occurring within our church and through our congregation members, even outside the walls of St. John’s. These success stories are about the growth of our ministry in our community through the caring, concerned and committed people who call St. John’s home. We are a beacon of light, a pillar of hope and a fortress of faith within a community and world so desperately seeking a God that loves and cares for us all.
Friends, as we begin our annual stewardship campaign, I hope that we will think of stewardship as a way of life, a foundation of our being, and an expression of our faith in the God that has given to us all we have and all we are. Christian stewardship doesn’t begin on a certain day and doesn’t last for a finite period of time as our annual stewardship campaign does. While our stewardship season does serve as a refreshing reminder of our need to give back a portion of what the Lord has so generously given to us, what a blessing it would be if we made stewardship an intimate part of who we are, so ingrained within us as to be an extension of our faith story.
Some in our congregation may say, “It already is.” Some may say, “I want to be there, but I don’t know how.” And some may say, “This is just another annual plea for money.” Whether you are the example, the seeker or the skeptic of Christian stewardship, please know that our expressions of faith through the pledges we make on Commitment Sunday are promises — promises not for giving money, but promises for St. John’s future, promises to our children, promises to our community and a promise that, in a world so desperately seeking hope, we will stand together in unity and grow the Kingdom of God.
Let’s all begin to think of stewardship as “inspirational giving,” where we are inspired to give, and we become an inspiration to others through our gifts. As former First Lady of the United States, Barbara Bush, so eloquently stated, “Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” As you thoughtfully consider your pledge to St. John’s this year, please take a moment and pray this prayer, “Gracious Lord, all that I have and all that I am is because of you. Grant me discernment, faith and courage as I make my annual pledge, that I may give freely and willingly, as you would lead and compel me, so that I may leave a lasting mark on the growth of your Kingdom and the future of our community through the work being done by St. John’s Lutheran Church.”
Many thanks to each of you for your devotion, commitment, generosity and love for this church and all that it is and seeks to be. May we lift high the cross together as we walk through the door of possibilities into the future of St. John’s Lutheran Church.