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Decatur Baptist Church gives members $10,000 to bless otherscomment (0)

September 18, 2008

By Martine G. Bates

A curious thing happened on a recent Sunday at Decatur Baptist Church. When the offering baskets were passed around, they were already heaped high with envelopes, each containing between $5 and $100. Instead of putting an envelope in, attendees were urged to take one out. The money in the envelopes totaled $10,000.

But there was a catch. They had to give it away — to bless someone else with it.

According to Pastor of Adult Ministries Larry Waye, the unusual move was part of a Live Like You Were Dying series the Morgan Baptist Association congregation was participating in. Based on the song by country singer Tim McGraw, the series includes sermons, Sunday School lessons and daily readings e-mailed to church members.

“The study challenges people to not wait until they have a crisis in their lives but to do what Colossians 3 tells us and set your affections on things above,” Waye said.

Each weekly emphasis is based on the song or a part of it, which urges the listener to consider the brevity of life and begin to speak sweeter, love deeper and forgive others.

While planning the love deeper emphasis, Senior Pastor Doug Ripley recalled hearing about a church in Charlotte, N.C., that had given money to its members to give to the community.

“As we were talking about the things we were doing in this campaign, we thought, ‘This is something we could do,’” Ripley said. “God has allowed our church to be $13,000 over budget, so we gave $10,000 of it away.”

On the Love Deeper Sunday, Ripley preached from John 12, relating the story of the alabaster box Mary emptied to anoint Jesus.

“All of us have an alabaster box,” he told the congregation. “What do you have that’s an equivalent to that woman’s jar of perfume?”

Ripley urged the members of the congregation to engage in an “extravagant expression of love” as they prayed about how to bless someone with the money in their envelopes.

“We’re asking people to start living like they were dying,” he said. “If you knew you were dying, you would do a lot of things differently.”

But those participating in the money giveaway had to follow a few rules, Ripley said. They could not use the money for themselves, and they could not give it back to the church. The money must be used to bless someone else, and they must report back to the church what they did with it.

Ripley made suggestions as to how the money could be used. Families, friends and Sunday School groups could pool their money. A person who got $5 could buy a book or magazine or a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Twenty dollars could buy flowers or a gift card to a restaurant, while $50 could pay for groceries or a tank of gas.

Participants were asked to either send their reports in to the church’s Web site or write them down and turn them in to the church.

Reports started coming in almost immediately. One group said it took the money to a pharmacy and asked the pharmacist to use it to help a senior citizen fill a prescription. One woman used the money to pay a chorus fee for a high school student who did not have support from home, while still another gave the money to a woman whose husband is ill and has no insurance. Many added their own money to what they got from the church. 

Connie Pearson, a new member of Decatur Baptist, reported having some doubts about the practicality of the campaign at first but was convinced otherwise by the love deeper project.

“Putting ‘blessing money’ into the hands of every church member became very practical in stimulating the person in the pew to look for someone with a financial, physical or emotional need that the pew-sitter could meet,” Pearson noted.

Her husband, Steve, agreed. “It is absolutely biblical in the sense that we use what God has blessed us with to bless someone else. And this project enables people to do that.”

Of course, the pastor hopes that participating in this project is just the beginning.

“We as Christians have been blessed to be a blessing,” Ripley said. “All of a sudden on Monday, people were walking around looking for someone to bless — people that they might not have noticed before.”

Connie Pearson was one of those people. “My envelope contained $5,” she said. “Just having that $5 has caused my radar to become more sensitive to people in need.”

Ripley said he has been asked whether giving away $10,000 in shaky financial times will hurt the church. His answer?

“Absolutely not. Luke 6:38 says, ‘Give, and it shall be given to you.’ I have taught our people that during these hard times, you give your way through it.”

But it is not all about money, Ripley pointed out in his sermon. “For most of the people you come across, what comes out of your mouth will bless them more than money. This is Christianity in action.”

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