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Just a Thought or Two: EXCEL

Join us for worship at First Methodist!

Sunday – May 28th, 2017

9:30 AM  | Classic Worship
in the Sanctuary at First Methodist

11:15 AM | Contemporary Worship
The Open Door at Buskirk-Chumley Theater

 

 

EXCEL

Treasure and heart

We love children at First Methodist. This love is not a recent development. Some in our congregation remember when our stationary gladly announced First Methodist as the home of the Wesley Foundation at Indiana University. Caring about children, partnering with parents in the faith development of their children, loving teenagers and reaching out to college-age young adults, is in our blood. It’s one of the reasons we are entering into a new partnership with MCUM to provide high quality pre-school to the families of Bloomington!

Recently, I listened as a room-full of lay people told Bloomington newcomers what long-time church members most loved about First Methodist. I smiled as several people said, “It’s the children. We have more and more children here, and we love it”

Our money goes to the things and people we love. I believe this is what Jesus talks about in Matthew 6:21 when he says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

We have made a significant commitment to our young people through staffing, scheduling and use of facilities. We want to continue this effort; however, we need your help.


A gap

Our desire to continue the good things God has been doing in our ministries is challenged by a $100,000 gap between anticipated income and expenses in 2017. The gap is not a new thing, and some of you will remember that we dealt with a similar challenge two years ago.

This gap exists even after the budget was carefully reviewed and significant reductions made. The gap is a reality even though giving has been strong in the first quarter of the current year, and giving is growing at over 2% a year.

Two contributing factors to this perennial challenge are not a surprise: a $1.4 million debt which remains from the building project of 1999. This debt draws over $110,000 in principal and interest from our yearly budget. The second factor is a tradition of stewardship which often mirrors the denominational pattern of giving 2.3% of income to God rather than a tithe. We won’t solve these two challenges overnight but we have plans to address both in the coming months. Right now our leaders have decided to close the $100,000 gap with a short, month-long, stewardship “burst” we are calling excel.


excel

The early Christian community in Greece was going through a time of great hardship, and in the middle of that “severe ordeal” (2 Corinthians 8:2) those suffering Jesus followers gave an offering to help people on the other side of the Mediterranean. The first-century missionary pastor named Paul writes “their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”

The people of the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Corinth are then invited to join their suffering Greek friends in a lifestyle of generosity. Paul says to them, “Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in your love for us – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.”

excel is a simple, month long invitation to every member and friend of First Methodist to give an additional gift so we can close the gap which will enable us to continue the kind of robust ministries we now have. Closing the gap also means we will be able to complete some needed building repairs and participate more fully with other United Methodist congregations in our world-wide mission.

A congregational letter about excel will be emailed soon and speakers will share in worship on June 4th and 11th. Everyone will be invited to attend “excel Coffee & Conversation” on Sunday, June 4th from 10:45-11:15 in the Great Hall. Leaders of the church will be there to invite your questions…they are eager to share where we are and where we are headed! excel pledge cards will be available throughout June with a wrap up June 25th, excel Sunday.

We hope you will make your gift as early in the current year as you possibly can and gifts would be received no later than December 1st.


Together

When we do this, we will do it together. There aren’t two or three “big donors” who are going to take care of the gap and our congregational foundation has very limited resources. When people enter our big building they assume there must be a sizable foundation ready to pay the bills: unfortunately, that’s just not so. A few believe there are a couple “big givers” who stand ready to write checks to help. We do have some amazingly generous people but we are a congregation that thrives (or not) on the financial faithfulness of people just like you.

Divided over the remaining seven months, and divided between 275 giving households, the $100,000 needed to keep our ministries with the next generation going would amount to some $12.60 weekly. Some generous lead gifts would be helpful since some families are unable to give any more than they already do. The truth is, this can be simple! Many of us could do this by eating lunch out one less time each week, skipping a few trips to the nearest premium coffee shop, resisting the temptation to buy the latest hits on iTunes, or by going to the theater once a month rather than twice. Little adjustments, with savings directed towards what God is doing, can have a BIG IMPACT!

We will do this together. It will take all of us. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, keeps using the word “they” and “their” in referring to the suffering Greeks who begged

-begged! – to be allowed to give to the offering for the Christians back in Palestine. The writer of the New Testament letter doesn’t name one or two prominent families in the Macedonian church who gave the mission relief offering, but it is something all the people in the Jesus community did together!

As Paul invited the Christians at Corinth to “excel also in this generous undertaking” so I would invite you to join us in excel as we continue helping new generations grow in their Christian faith and love for all. Together, we can do this – just as with God’s help and leading, we raised more than $31,000 to help build a new parsonage for the Korean UMC on East 3rd Street.


Sitting in a child’s chair

As I thought about this article, I sat in one of those small chairs just for children in a preschool classroom at First Methodist. Looking around the room, I saw art work, toys and resources which reminded me of their lives. Week in and week out, our place is a place for children. At First Methodist they are welcomed, loved, woven into community, taught The Story of God’s love for the world – and for them!

My heart sort of skipped around and I found myself really, really caring about all of this. I truly believe God wants First Methodist to be a place where children, youth and college-age young adults can be welcomed, loved, known and discipled. Those first century Greeks, who were so generous despite their severe ordeal, “gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). Looking around the classroom, I know God wants us to be the kind of community where every generation can grow to give themselves first to the Lord.

Thanks for caring.

Thanks for giving.

Thanks for being willing to “excel in this generous undertaking.”

Grace and peace,

Pastor Mark

 

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  • We move to our Summer Schedule this Sunday. There will be one Sanctuary Service at 9:30 and The Open Door at 11:15.
  • This Memorial Day we remember and show our gratitude to all who have served our country faithfully and sacrificially through our military.  (In observance of Memorial Day, the church office will be closed this Monday.)
  • Our congregation will have several opportunities to bless and thank both Pastor Stacee and Alex Lamb. Look for more information soon about two great events:  a pitch-in picnic on Friday June 16 (the last day of Vacation Bible School) and a cookie reception in the Gathering Place on Sunday morning, June 18.
  • We would encourage you to send a welcome note (or maybe even a gift card!) to our new Associate Pastor, the Reverend Teri Crouse. Tell her something about yourself and tell her something about your favorite Bloomington restaurant /mechanic / physician / hardware store / concert series, etc:  Rev. Teri Crouse, Marquette Park UMC, 215 North Grand Blvd, Gary, IN 46403
  • Your prayers are appreciated as Diane Purnell, the wife of the Reverend George Purnell, former Lead Pastor at First Methodist in Bloomington has passed away. If you would like to send a card, please phone the church office (812-332-6396) for an address.
  • God can use you to be a part of the miracle of Vacation Bible School and our Summer Sunday School – sign up to help!

 

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This week we’re continuing our sermon series, THE STORY. If you don’t yet have your own copy of THE STORY, you can purchase one from the church office for $10 or order online here.  If you’re interested in going deeper, the Adult Companion Guide is also available.

 

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