We're going to be talking about fruits on Sunday. Fruits, Biblically-speaking, that is. While grapes and apples can still be offered to God as sacrifices of praise, what we're thinking about are fruits as symbols of what else we give to honor the Lord.
Proverbs 3:9, our stewardship verse this year, teaches, "Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce." You can read the entire passage (Proverbs 3:1-12) to get a feel for what is being taught and you can turn to Matthew 7:15-20 to read what Jesus said about being known by your fruit.
Churches, in general, find it increasingly difficult to convince people that their first fruits belong to God. A few corrupt church leaders have made people skeptical about what will come of their giving. Overextended lives lead to overextended expense accounts and giving to the church lands squarely on the discretionary side of the ledger. Other worthy causes compete for those discretionary funds. It can be tempting to think that other people will cover the church's expenses.
Those are worrisome realities that have led to the shrinking of ministry in many churches. So far, it hasn't at Central. Our ministries continue to grow, as does our budget and, thankfully, our giving. The proposed 2018 budget is 1.6% larger than 2017, a fairly modest increase, given the rising costs of insurance and maintaining a facility of over 100,000 square feet. I commend the committees and staff members who worked hard to keep the budget as lean as they could without compromising ministry.
I commend all who are invested in Central with your time, your talent, and your money. We need all three in order to not have to compromise ministry. By giving these, you can help our ministry continue to thrive. And, you'll bless others, the right response to being having been blessed, which, it turns out, becomes another blessing in turn. It is a joy to be part of ministry that matters.
The more you invest in something, the more you pay attention to it. The more you pay attention to Central Church, the more you realize how much of what we're doing for Jesus truly matters.
Thank you for joining us in worshiping him on Sunday and serving him throughout the week with your time, your talent, and your treasure - your substance and your first fruits.