How to worship God more deeply by giving of yourself
A story about feeling cheated
Some years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about the connection between worship and the work of the mission of Christ. Ralph and I helped a family in our church by giving them much-needed financial support to pay their electric bill one month. In appreciation, the mom weeded my garden, toiling in the hot sun all afternoon. But I didn’t want her to do that! I felt cheated.
We had given the help because it was part of our tithing to God, and what she gave us was far less than what God would have given us if she hadn’t repaid me with gardening. I didn’t tell her this, though, because God could still choose to bless us and because she felt that she needed to give something back to us for the sake of her dignity.
This is what happens in a culture of consumerism. People don’t know how to accept (or give) only for the sake of worshiping God.
At Good News Ministries, we don’t sell anything. Even the courses we produce are not sold. Nor do I have a “fee” for my speaking engagements. We ask for donations, not fees. This is our mission work: to offer everything at no cost or obligation. Everyone who makes no donation at all is treated the same as those who donate thousands of dollars year after year. Please help us do our mission work by taking from us freely — take everything we provide that can serve your needs.
If our gift to you motivates you to get involved in our mission by giving — from God through you — to support this ministry, others are blessed. The Lord is blessed. And the Lord blesses us all.
This has been our policy from day one of this ministry (January 30, 1995). Our mission is to disciple (teach, build faith, grow spiritually) the members of GNM and to reach (find, evangelize, invite) those who are inactive or barely alive in the Catholic faith. A GNM member is anyone who connects with us in an ongoing way, such as by subscribing to our online services or by sharing their talents, wisdom, skills, finances, prayer support, or other collaborative offerings.
My teammates and I fail in our ministry to GNM members if we build consumerism instead of discipleship.
What is Christian consumerism and how does it happen so easily?
Consumers expect an exchange of goods: I give you something and you owe me some kind of payback for it. The retail culture in which we live belongs to the world; Christianity is counter-cultural. Jesus paid a huge price to ransom us from slavery to sin. He asks for nothing in return but worship: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7, Jeremiah 11:4, Ezekiel 36:28, etc.), and “You shall love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Therefore, at Good News Ministries, we give ourselves fully to God for your sake, and in his name, we ask for nothing in return but worship of Our Lord.
This philosophy does not mean that we can afford to provide our services without relying on benefactors. We have staff, an office lease, website server costs, and other expenses that keep Good News Ministries going and growing. We have no source of funding except donations. Jesus said that the worker is worthy of support (Matthew 10:10). Saint Paul noted that, according to Jesus, those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14) . However, I am not writing this as a fund-raising appeal. This is a non-fundraising campaign. I am not asking for donations. What I am challenging you to accomplish is a fuller worship of Christ. Can you think of some ways to accomplish this goal?
How to be a true disciple
Loving God with our whole heart, mind and soul (the act of worship) is the work of discipleship; you and I spend lifetimes learning how to do this fully and well. Loving others as ourselves is the work of apostleship; you and I are called to find, evangelize and invite into worship those who are not disciples yet.
To worship God means to give him our very best. We don’t go to Mass to get a good homily or to guarantee our way into heaven or even to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, as if we’re buying this by paying with our time and our weekly offering of money. That’s the mentality of consumerism. In true faith, we go to Mass to worship God. We go to give. We give God a tithe of our time. We give him our full attention as we listen to Jesus speak through the scriptures and homilies. We give him our hearts generously to let the Holy Spirit change us, purify us, and send us forth to be his apostles. We give him our money as an offering of love in support of the works of his kingdom. And meanwhile, God gives us (not as an exchange, but as a free gift) his Word, his presence in the Eucharist, and his salvation so we can eventually reach heaven.
How do we rob God?
At Good News Ministries, we want to help you worship God more fully than ever before. We want to empower you to understand the connection between giving to God and receiving from God, not as consumers but as faith-filled Christians who experience the truth of “whatever measure you give to others is the measure you receive” (Matthew 7:2) and “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…. Try me in this, says the Lord. Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessings upon you without measure?” (Malachi 3:10). Note that in verse 8, God says, “You are robbing me! How? Of tithes and contributions!”
(Remember, this is a non-fundraising letter. Let’s dig deeper to discover what God wants to tell us.)
As Christians, we have the faith that informs our souls that our relationship with God was purchased by Christ’s torture and death on the cross and he gives everything to us freely. We cannot buy our own salvation. And then we naturally extend this to include all things pertaining to faith, without thinking much about the consequences of this train of thought. This is why it feels more right to receive from our churches and other Christian organizations than it does to give to them. (Some folks have told me, “Everything having to do with faith should be free of charge.”)
As Christians raised in consumerism, it becomes even more unbalanced. We trust God to a point. When it comes to our money, we trust ourselves more. We protect what we have in case giving too much away will leave us in financial trouble. But Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13). We’ll hate one and love the other. If we truly want to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, we’ll have to hate our inclination to trust ourselves more than we trust God.
(This is still a non-fundraising letter.) If you want to prove to God that you trust him, I won’t mind if you throw some of your trust toward Good News Ministries, but this is not why I am writing to you today. “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that your gifts will be credited to your spiritual growth…. They are a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:17,18b,19).
Worshiping God as the Owner of Everything
God wants us to worship him as the Owner of Everything and to whole-heartedly embrace our role as stewards of what he gave us and we are now storing (in that storehouse of Malachi 3) on his behalf. He gives it to us through paychecks from jobs that we got because he gave us the ability to work. He gives it to us through a variety of other means, too. And when it doesn’t seem to be enough, is it because we had not “measured out” enough to his causes? Is it because we put ourselves into debt by spending more than we earned? Is it because we’re fishing on the wrong side of the boat (like Peter and his buddies in John 21) while Jesus is telling us to try something different, something that doesn’t make sense or suit our personal preferences?
What does a successful “non-fundraising campaign” look like?
Every December and July-ish, we run a fundraising campaign to replenish what we’ve spent to keep Good News Ministries going and giving. But fundraising appeals feel like a consumerist transaction. For the sake of this ministry’s survival, our message has been: “If you want to continue to receive from Good News Ministries, please give to Good News Ministries.” Some readers think this means there’s a fee for receiving the Good News Reflections. This is not the impression we want to make.
So we’re running a non-fundraising campaign. If it’s successful, many of our quiet subscribers will become newly active members, worshiping God by helping to spread the Good News, connecting with us through the sharing of talents, ideas, wisdom, skills, prayer support, or other collaborative offerings (and yes, sometimes financial support, too).
If this campaign is successful, already-active members are making new discoveries in their discipleship and will now join us (or become more involved) in the apostleship of the mission, serving as missionaries, changing the world one soul at a time. And maybe we’ll even be able to (I can dream, can’t I?) skip the December fundraiser (or at least shorten it), because more GNM members are worshipping God more fully with their finances.
How does your faith need to grow? We learn by doing. Discipleship grows when we share what we’ve learned to disciple others. Worship deepens when we give ourselves to the mission of Christ. Good News Ministries needs you. Together, we will make a bigger difference than I can do without you.
Ideas for how you can be a Good News Missionary
You’re probably already giving your time and talents (and money, too) to your local parish, your local community — and this is very good! Whatever your circumstances, with God’s help you can also deepen your worship of God as a “Good News Missionary”, probably with very easy effort. The more team members we have, the easier it becomes for us to make a huge difference.
There’s room for you on the team. One of the most delightful privileges I have as director of Good News Ministries is the opportunity to empower people to use their talents in the mission of Christ. What do you enjoy doing? Ministry should be fun!
Talk to me. How can I serve you by opening up an opportunity where you can make a difference for Christ?
Next are some ideas, but you’re not limited to these. You’ve got interests, experiences, talents, ideas, wisdom and skills that are valuable to the mission of Christ. Because the Holy Spirit is in you, you’ve got what it takes to build the faith of other disciples or to evangelize those who are inactive or barely alive in the Catholic faith, and Good News Ministries can enable you to come fully alive in your giftedness. Tell me what kind of time and talents and dreams and desires you have; my team-mate Graciela, who serves as Director of Missionaries (a.k.a. Volunteer Coordinator) will respond to your offering.
Blessings of Peace and Grace,
Good News Ministries
If there’s ever anything else I can do for you, please let me know.