Rustlings (January 8, 2017)

I’m encouraging everyone to ‘close the gap’ this year. As I mentioned in a recent sermon, our church has been able to fulfill all her ministry and mission obligations in the last three years. We have reached and exceeded each of our annual budget goals. This year, we increased our budget to include new and expanded ministries. In order to ‘close the gap’ between last years budget needs and this year’s, I’m asking everyone to ‘close the gap’ – just a small bit – in their giving. What would a tithe (10%) of your income be? If you do not give a tithe, how wide is the gap between your gifts and a tithe? Close the gap a bit this year. Give a little more than you gave last year and enjoy the blessing of increased generosity to God’s work.

To relegate this discipline to financial gifts alone, however, would result in the persistence of many other gaps in our faith practice. More accurately said, we are going to ‘close the gaps’ (plural) in 2018. There are a multitude of things that divide us as a world, nation and culture. We stand on separate sides of political, religious, cultural, social and economic chasms. By closing the gaps, I am not suggesting we have to think alike, believe alike or practice faith alike. Closing the gap doesn’t mean we necessarily change. It means we do not let our differences create a space between us – a space often filled with ignorance, fear, suspicion and resentment. In January, we will close the gap between the established and the dynamic as we study the Book of Ruth. In February, we will close the gap between the white and black experience as we hear from four different African-American voices during Black History month worship; we will close the gap between spouses as we hold a weekend Marriage Enrichment Seminar; and we will close the gap between young and old as our children sponsor their annual Love Lunch with our senior adults. In March, we will close the gap between new and long-time church members as we deepen our fellowship at our Annual Church Retreat. In May, we will close the gap between Muslim and Christian citizens as First Baptist hosts the Muslim community for the first night feast of Ramadan.

This is just a sampling of the spaces we will be creating in 2018 to allow God to do God’s work on the many gaps in our lives. As you begin the new year, give attention to the gaps with which you struggle…and watch God do God’s good work.

— Jim