Letter from Joseph Tkach — June 2012

Posted by colin on June 1, 2012 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

If you can sing well, you may not appreciate the dilemma I faced. But if you sing like I do, you’ll understand what I mean. I can recall many occasions during church services when the worship leader encouraged the congregation to sing louder. This put me in a bit of a dilemma. I am not much of a singer, and although the Bible puts the emphasis on “making a joyful noise,” I think a louder vocal contribution from me would add more noise than joy. So when the worship leader asks us to sing louder, it only makes me feel inadequate.
I often have a similar problem when preparing these letters. The last thing I want to do is to make you, a generous coworker, feel inadequate. So I hope you read these letters in the spirit they are intended. Not to be pressuring you to give more than you can afford, but as a friendly reminder, and a way of saying “thank you.” That is what the apostle Paul did when he wrote his epistles to the church at Corinth. These people had many problems, but a lack of generosity was not one of them. In his first letter he made them aware of the need to help their fellow members in poorer areas, and assumed they wanted to respond (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). In his second letter, he again told them of this need. He didn’t urge them or put them on a guilt trip. He praised them for their previous generosity and reminded them that the need to help was ongoing.
“If I wrote any more on this relief offering for the poor Christians, I’d be repeating myself. I know you’re on board and ready to go. I’ve been bragging about you all through Macedonia province, telling them, ‘Achaia province has been ready to go on this since last year.’ Your enthusiasm by now has spread to most of them” (2 Corinthians 9:1-2, The Message Bible used throughout).
Paul understood how the example of others could be inspiring and encouraging, so he told the Corinthians about the generosity of others. “Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).
I feel that I should follow Paul’s example and tell you about some people I have known who, like the Macedonians, have surprised me with their generosity. In my younger days as an assistant pastor, I used to visit the retired, the elderly, and especially the widows and widowers. I learned this from my dad, who some of you may remember was known as the “widows’ elder.” My dad would paint their houses and fix things in and around their homes. He also helped many of them sign up for supplemental social security and other programs. I give credit to my dad for this positive influence through example and I wasn’t surprised when I found myself doing those exact things when I was pastoring.
The time I spent with them taught me how valuable these people are in our church fellowship.
I remember one retired schoolteacher, in her late 70s, who lived in a mobile home. Another retired couple in their 80s lived nearby. I visited these elderly people at least once a month, and often more. They lived on fixed incomes and never complained. Once a month we would have Bible study together. Other times we would just play cards and have a lunch. They would laugh about the aches and pains of growing old. They were warm, friendly and delightful people. They didn’t sing too loud in church either.
When I relocated out of state, I missed my regular visits with them. But we kept in contact with postcards (of course this was before Facebook!) and celebrated the fun we had together. When one of them passed away, I was surprised to learn that she left nearly a million dollars to the church. She wanted the gospel of grace to be proclaimed and left a legacy to do so. She lived frugally, and at the time, I wasn’t aware of how much money she had saved for a final donation.
This reminds me of another lady, who has some extra income from a farm she owns. Every year she has donated money to allow some of the lower-income children in her congregation to attend a local summer camp. When she learned that in these tough economic times there were many children around the nation that needed help, she sent us a generous donation. Because of her generosity, dozens of young people have been able to enjoy a wonderful summer camp experience.
I thank God for people like this, and I thank God for people like you. Giving is an integral part of our worship, like our prayers and the singing of hymns together. Our giving is a reflection of and a sharing in Jesus’ own giving of himself to us. It’s a sign pointing to God’s own limitless generosity. Without your help and support, our work could not succeed. Whether it is just a few dollars or a million, I want you to know that it is deeply appreciated. Your chorus of contributions make it possible for us to serve many people around the world who look to Grace Communion International for leadership, teaching, partnership and inspiration.
As I remember you in my prayers, I ask God to richly bless you. I know he will, for as Jesus himself said, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity” (Luke 6:38).
With love from my family to yours,
Joseph Tkach

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