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The Cost of Discipleship in US Dollars

For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. 2 Corinthians, 8:12

During our annual meeting this year I looked at our budget and saw a story of generosity. In 2023 our “little church” gifted over $382,000 in offerings! Wow! Thank you for being the church together in this way. 

What we do with our offerings as a church to bring glory to God amazes me every day, but for some odd reason seeing the number on paper it took me by surprise. 

Adding up our benevolence to the Grand Canyon Synod, gifts to our partners Vida Nueva and Emmanuel Lutheran Churches, campus ministries, camp ministries, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, the West Valley Community Food Pantry, and our mission serving our neighbors experiencing homelessness, St. John’s Mission Benevolence sent over $93,305 right back out into God’s kingdom to love and serve our neighbors. Thanks be to God! Doing the math in my head at the moment, with a little help from my iPhone calculator, I confirmed that this means St. John gifted almost 25% of all offerings to the Grand Canyon Synod & ELCA, local community partners, and ministries focused on serving our neighbors. We really do take our mission to Celebrate, Proclaim, and Serve seriously!

I want to take a moment and acknowledge that this is only a piece of the pie for how we give as followers of Christ. Some of us do not have money to give, so I am thankful that we do not worship the US dollar. God has given us more than just financial resources in life. We have been blessed with the gift of time. When we do not have a dollar to give to someone, we may have 10 minutes to listen to their story. When we do not have anything to put in the offering plate on a Sunday we may have the opportunity to take the time to hand out bulletins or greet people at the door. Your time is Holy to God! 

In the same way, when we are called to serve in a leadership role, God sees our gift of time to be holy. At our most recent “coffee, doughnuts, and fun day” over 20 leaders from St. John’s Lutheran Church, Vida Nueva Lutheran Church , and Emmanuel Sudanese Lutheran Church came together to offer their time to work around the campus so we may better welcome in the name of Jesus. It was clear that it was not only time that was gifted, but energy and expertise.

Our lawn is a place of respite for dogs as they run off the hot concrete and a playground for kids in between services needed to mowed and thatched. In the middle of the project the mower stopped working. Over the course of an hour I watched Dale Hurless use his energy, sweat, and knowledge of machinery to fix the mower, “Good as new” as Dale said to me. Our church council was elected and organized in June, each member of the council working with committees and leaders who all give of their time, energy, and expertise to celebrate, proclaim, and serve as St. John’s! 

Still, we live in a world where Caesar's money still has power. In 2023, the state average in Arizona for one hour of volunteer time gifted to an organization was $32.07 an hour.

We can use this figure to calculate our own gifts of time, because sometimes it is helpful to have those numbers on paper. Here are some examples:

The Cost of Discipleship in US Dollars

Campus "Work" Fun Day

20 workers x 5 hours = $3,207

Church Council Members

9 leaders x 2 hours x 24 council & committee meetings = $13,854/year

Team of Ushers

5 ushers x 2 hours x 3 services x 56 weekends = $53,878/year

The time, energy, and expertise you give is holy and is a gift worth celebrating. So, how God is calling you to use your time, your energy, and your expertise? 

To help you answer this question, I invite you to our Refresh St. John’s event on June 8th. This day of reflection will offer time to think & pray deeply about where God is calling us as a church and as disciples of Jesus. We will gather at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Phoenix to eat together, pray together, and vision together how God is calling us to make disciples even when we might feel like we have nothing to offer. 

Remember that Jesus sees your gifts as Holy, and so do I.

Pastor Dan


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