Is it still hump day when many of us are following the "stay at home" guidelines? In either case, may you Wednesday be a day of joy for you.
Preachers draw on life experiences for illustrations in their sermons and lessons. I am no different. Because of our years on the foreign mission field, I have often made a reference to the impact of local cultures in various aspects of daily life. Missionaries also deal with clashes between the culture they grew up in and the culture they now find themselves living in. Some of these clashes are minor, some are humorous, some can be embarrassing, and others downright frustrating.
One of the frustrating culture clashes we encountered had to do with having local pastors in our host country understand the concept of designated giving that is part of U.S. church culture. It was not uncommon for a local pastor to ask us, or another missionary, for help in contacting U.S. churches in order to raise funds for a specific project. In those circumstances, the missionary served as a vetting agent for the U.S. churches he or she had relationships with. Many churches accepted the stated need that the missionary communicated as having already been evaluated as a legitimate need. What happened on more than one occasion was that when those funds would show up, local pastors would use the funds for something other than what they had initially said the funds were for. This was not the result of deception but something more pressing, in the pastor's opinion, had come up between the time the request was made and the funds came in.
Having missionaries communicate that although the funds were there, they could not use them for the more pressing need they had determined. That they were required to use the funds as initially stated simply made no sense to them. One pastor made a comment that provided insight into their perspective. He first asked, " Are those funds a gift?" When I said they were, he then said, "If something is truly a gift, once it has been given to me, it is mine. Since it is mine, I have the right to use it as I think is best. Otherwise, it was never a gift. True gifts do not come with strings attached.." In the end, this became as "agree to disagree" situation.
The misunderstanding on designated giving reaches into the body of Christ as well. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes [And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.] The enabling gifts to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers are given specifically for the purpose of equipping others. They are designated gifts. The equipping of the saints is done (given) for the designated purpose of building up the body of Christ. The enabling of the Holy Spirit is given with a designated purpose.
We are to use what gifting we have been given for the purpose it was given, not what we want. Regardless of what gift we have, in the end, it is for the benefit of God's church.
Have a blessed day pondering how your gift should be used.