About two years ago I received a phone call from a church member, one of our deacons, who asked if I would be willing to go pay a pastoral visit to her “Care Connect”. Our deacons are assigned members of the congregation who are not able to frequent worship for mobility or medical reasons. The assigned deacon makes regular phone calls and visits, reminding these members that they remain vitally connected to the church. This deacon shared with me that her “Care Connect”, a woman in her 90s, had been asking her some questions that she thought would best be answered by a pastor.
I agreed with a curiosity as to what these questions might be and knowing that this deacon was a knowledgeable and mature Christian quite capable of answering any question that might have been asked. I pulled up to the small home not far from the church one afternoon and made my way up the driveway. I was greeted by a nurse at the door who provided the church member with full-time care. She let me in and politely showed me to the room of the waiting church member. I was greeted with a quiet nod and offered a chair by the member sitting quietly at her desk and for a few minutes we simply sat in silence. When she finally spoke she asked about the church and we made some polite small talk. Then she turned, looked at me and asked the question, “How much money am I supposed to leave the church in my will?”
I looked back, blinking slowly, a bit stunned by her candor, but also appreciative of her clear sincerity. It was apparent the question had been on her mind for some time. She wanted to know what the “right” answer was, and she wanted me to tell her. Perhaps you have had similar questions or, perhaps, it has never occurred to you to include the church in your estate planning. In all cases I believe the answer is the same and we have Paul to thank for it. In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul is addressing the issue of giving to support Christian ministry in the early church. He writes,
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
-1 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV)
Notice that Paul never mentions an amount. He highlights a process that leads to situationally specific outcomes. In other words, this will look different for each person. What Paul wants to make clear is that the process should be intentional, carefully thought out, and prayerfully discerned so that we each give out of joy and not obligation.
This is what I shared that day to a woman who was carefully and prayerfully discerning how God was calling her to give. I simply encouraged her to continue along that path of discernment. Some months later she entered the church triumphant and the church was notified that she had chosen to include the church in her estate. My sense is that she did so cheerfully, and it is our Christian duty to cheerfully receive her torch, carry it as far as we can lighting the way for others. Together we follow her lead – hopefully with the same wisdom and cheer as I saw exemplified in her.
For more information on legacy giving, please visit this link. First Pres members who see their resources as a trust from God and choose to invest a portion of their resources today in order to provide a faith legacy for future generations comprise the Neumann Society. If you’d like to speak with someone about joining the Neumann Society or about legacy giving, please contact any of the church pastors or Steve Wofford at (954) 598-9333. He can answer questions and direct you to some helpful materials.
-Rev. Nicholas B. Merchant