I have always been intrigued by the passage in Mark 12:41-44 where Jesus was in the temple watching people as they gave their offerings. When Jesus observed a poor widow giving two small coins worth only a few cents, he made a point to tell his disciples that she had put more into the offering than anyone else had.
He didn’t say this because of how much she gave, but because she trusted God to provide for her needs. She gave sacrificially to partner in the ministry. Jesus isn’t impressed by how much we give; he is more concerned about our heart and the attitude in which we give.
I had a chance to witness this firsthand a few months ago when I interviewed a young married couple in their mid-twenties who are both full-time college students. I thought it would be interesting to get their youthful perspective on the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB). After hearing their thoughts, I shared with them about our CLB goals and how God is using the CLB to further his kingdom.
I left it at that and I did not ask them to give to the CLB because, well, they were poor college students. Much to my surprise, about a month later they decided to financially partner with us by giving $1,000. They wanted to make a difference in our world by being part of a disciple-making movement.
As most of you are aware, donations given to the CLB come from either churches or individuals. As we seek to expand our giving support to meet the goals to which we believe God has called the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, we realize that we are relying more and more on individuals who feel called by the Holy Spirit to financially partner with us. Whether the amount is small or large we thank the Lord for the gifts we have received from individuals.
To better communicate with individual donors contributing to our budget, about three years ago we started the Cornerstone Network. This is a small group of individual donors, each contributing $1,000 or more to our fiscal year budget. Identifying and isolating these financial supporters has allowed us to engage them with greater communication at a fraction of the cost to communicate with our entire database. This group is called the Cornerstone Network, not because they are the Cornerstone—Jesus is the Cornerstone of our faith, our salvation, and our mission—they are the Network. They are people the Lord has brought together and blessed with a passion for this ministry, creating a foundation of financial support.
Since its founding, the Cornerstone Network (CSN) has continued to grow. A household becomes a member of the Cornerstone Network as our Finance Department is made aware of contributions totaling more than $1,000 per fiscal year (FY). As people have learned of the Cornerstone Network, they have made the decision to increase their giving… and their sacrificial giving is making a difference.
Of the donations we received from churches and individuals:
- In our FY 16-17 we had 171 CSN Members contributing 29% of our total contributions.
- In our FY 18-19 we had 271 CSN Members contributing 43% of our total contributions.
This is significant support, and without this financial partnership we couldn’t fulfill the mission the Lord has called us to.
Some people have the misconception that the CSN is only made up of wealthy people. From what I see, it is made up of a variety of individuals from various income levels and backgrounds who have chosen to give over and above what they give to their local church, because they are excited about what God is doing through our denomination. They have sensed the Holy Spirit prompting them to partner with us in this disciple-making movement and have purposely decided to make giving to the CLB a personal priority.
A person can be a member of the CSN by giving as little as $84 every month for 12 months. Most individuals give to the CLB general Shared Ministries where their donation is used where it is needed most, but some people enjoy supporting specific ministry projects. For example, last year we had a couple “adopt” a Seminary professor and pay his salary for the year. Others have chosen to “adopt” an unreached people group through Lutheran Brethren International Mission, or some have supported a specific North American Mission church plant.
We understand that not everyone is able to give large sums to the CLB, but we are praying that God will continue to raise up individuals who would be willing to financially partner with us on a regular basis, regardless of the amount they can give. So, whether a person decides to give annually, quarterly, monthly, by check, or with a recurring automatic gift through our CLB App or website, we are extremely grateful.
This brings me back to why are we encouraging people to financially partner with us. It is not about the size of the gift. It is about lost souls coming to Christ! I am reminded of the personal testimony of Isaiah Dewan. Isaiah was a drug addict and dealer in New York City. On a number of occasions he tried to commit suicide, but God used the preaching of the gospel and the friendship of people in Epiphany, our CLB church plant in Manhattan, to help Isaiah realize that he needed a personal relationship with Jesus. As a result, Isaiah received Christ as his savior and his life has changed.
Our hope and prayer is that God will use your gifts to lead many people to faith in Christ, both in North America and in unreached people groups around the world. If you would like to know more about how you can financially partner with the CLB, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to speaking with you.
Steve Tonneson is Associate for Ministry Advancement for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.