Created To Be a Steward: Third Quarter

Stewardship and Financial Resources

July, August, September 2021

The third quarter installment of “Created to Be a Steward” features a focus on our financial resources.  While quarters one and two examined less conventional but no less important aspects of faithful stewardship (self-care and earth-care), the months of July, August, and September will lead us to the more familiar territory of the relationship between money and ministry.  Even if your stewardship emphasis will be later in the year (October/November), these materials can still benefit your preparations.  You may even wish to adjust your future selections from the lectionary, since these materials seek to approximate the cycle of prescribed texts.

It is no secret that in United States and Canada, it takes money to make mission happen.  With or without paid human resources and leadership; assets for the purchase of goods, materials, travel, and logistics, are needed. Local ministries most often have buildings (and associated expenses), staff (including compensation benefits), as well as administrative and program delivery costs.   At the end of the day, we need financial resources, and it is very helpful as a fiduciary best practice to have a reasonable estimate of what income we might expect to support those future ministry efforts.

Many of us are looking for the traditional support of “annual campaign” materials to help move us over the finish line.  We know from past experience that a well-run emphasis can clearly be of help.  But understand this: nothing will supplant good biblical preaching and teaching that demonstrates and affirms that stewardship is a spiritual practice.  It is one aspect of Christian Discipleship which also includes worship, study, service, prayer, and faith sharing.  All of the “campaigns” in the world with their engaging themes and technical prowess to connect your givers to a donate button will ever be able to provide what comes from a person who knows existentially they are a steward, and therefore their life’s mission is to engage in faithful and generous practices that benefit the whole creation. 

Therefore, we suggest a successful stewardship emphasis, concluding with an invitation to commit financial resources to the on-going vision of the congregation, will always included education. We provide a couple of options with this material, including a bible study written by Janet Long, (our contributor for the third quarter) based on the book of Ephesians (following the lectionary cycle of semi-continuous readings), and a series of video bible studies by Bruce Barkhauer.  Both can be adopted for “on-line” or “in-person” experiences. 

The word “campaign” is really jargon that no longer serves us in the 21st century.   We  encourage you to spend some time with Janet’s introduction to these third quarter materials for a closer examination of this idea.  As Janet explains, campaign is a loaded word, filled with connotations that are not appropriate for this time and place.  

In the church we often tempted to substitute popular cultural terminology for theological concepts, which is unfortunate.  Consider the narrative budget tool.  Churches, when presenting a narrative style budget, will often title it as such: “First Christian Church Narrative Budget”, when in fact it is a missional budget or at least “The Story of How We Live Out Our Vision”.  Even more simply stated a narrative budget is meant to express this simple idea: “How Your Financial Gifts Become Mission and Ministry”.  

As the summer progresses, we will be adding articles from both researchers and practitioners about how financial giving to sustain ministry is changing in the hybrid environment of worship as a mixed experience (on-line and in-person).  What are the experts and those on the front-line thinking they might attempt to do differently to acknowledge that the way we did things prior to 2021 won’t conform easily to a “nearly” post covid world?  How will we invite participation and make it easy for people to respond when they are no longer simply sitting in the pews?  How can a commitment made electronically still have the same sense of being a holy and spiritual act when we are filling out an electronic form that is created by keystrokes and submitted via a click on a donate button at our kitchen table instead of during a quite prayerful reflection in the sanctuary and physically moving toward the altar to offer our gift?

The core materials for this unit feature worship and preaching resources for July 25, August 1, and September 12, 2021, and a Bible Study on the Book of Ephesians that corresponds with lectionary epistle readings from July 11 through August 22.  Whether or not you follow the lectionary, these resources should prove useful to assist your congregation explore stewardship as it relates to finances.  

We hope these resources and these questions will be helpful in your continuing work to make real the values and realities of the Realm of God.  Feel free to participate in the message boards on our website that support this material – share what is working and what is not.  We can learn from both failure and success.

Pastoral Reflections

We will be adding thoughts and comments of pastors as they prepare for an invitation to stewardship and missional support in a post-Covid season of return and renewal.

Click here to follow. Add your own by sending them to

About our Contributor: The Reverend Doctor Janet Long

Rev Dr Janet Long

The Reverend Doctor Janet A. Long is the former senior pastor of Washington Avenue Christian Church in Elyria, Ohio, where she served from 1985 to 2018.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College, a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas. She is a past Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has served in leadership positions on the denomination’s General Board, Executive Committee, Audit Committee and Ecumenical Relations Committee.  Additionally, during her 40 years of pastoral ministry Janet served as a member of the Christian Church Foundation Board of Directors, the Board of Directors of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church, and prior to her retirement, served in various leadership positions of the Ohio Region of the Christian Church.  She is a highly regarded and sought-after teacher, preacher, and community leader and currently serves part-time as a Generosity Coach for the Center for Faith and Giving.  She and her husband, retired Army Colonel Dan Clark, live in Elyria, Ohio.



First, let’s quit calling it a “campaign”.  That word can elicit images of politics or war.  That word minimizes or negates the faith and discipleship that are represented in the practice of stewardship.  Let’s try “invitation”, as in inviting people to experience a closer relationship with Christ.  A conversation about semantics may be the best place to start.  What motivates your giving spirit?

That giving spirit is in your DNA.  To be created in the image of God brings with it a penchant for grace and generosity.  If “God so loved the world that God gave”, then we, too, are designed to be givers.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  The Spirit’s fruit is singular:  We are graced with the whole list, including generosity.

The invitation, then, is to find ways to unleash that inherent generosity.  Reminding people that they aregenerous is a good starting point.  Helping people discover how they can grow in generosity is that part of discipleship we refer to as stewardship.  It involves use of financial resources, ways of spending time, commitment to relationships, care of the earth, and development of abilities. 

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus invites his followers to invest in a vision of love and compassion.  While we think that we naturally will spend money and time and energy in a way that follows the heart, we often succumb to peer pressure or advertising pressure instead of seeking to reflect the values we hold most sacred.  We sacrifice the eternal for the temporal/temporary.  

Rather than reminding people of the toll the pandemic has taken on church finances or the importance of funding a church budget, consider telling stories of your congregation’s faithfulness to its mission and ministry.  Ask for single-sentence expressions of gratitude for what the church means and share them widely.  Invite a few growing and mature stewards to share their journeys with the congregation.

These written notes and spoken stories can become part of the offering during worship services.  Whether experienced in person or online, the sense of community needs to be awakened.  Brief emails or video clips describing the difference the church is making is a way of including everyone.  Expressing gratitude for gifts received by the church is an important practice in each Sunday’s time of offering.

Acknowledging that gifts are made online, through the mail, dropped off, put in an offering plate (or other pandemic-friendly receptacle), via automatic withdrawal, or by way of legacy gifts reminds the congregation of the myriad ways that giving can occur.  The same plethora of options can be made available when it comes time to gather the annual commitments made by the congregation.

What would it look like to invite people into a more faithful expression of stewardship?  Rather than focusing on the needs of the church, what if the focus were on the need of the giver to grow in discipleship?  Instead of asking for a commitment to help underwrite the church budget, with materials provided to build a case, what if a lovely invitation were extended with an enclosed commitment card as an RSVP?

Elevating stewardship to the celebration of sharing in the life of a generous faith community involves an invitation to a life of growing generosity for everyone.  Sure, budget projections must be made available—with both numerical and narrative explanations.  But the invitation to share in God’s work of transforming the values of this world is the true gift.  And our hearts will follow…

The Resources


(Ninth Sunday after Pentecost)

Call to Worship (based on Ephesians 3:14-19)

            Leader:  Every family in heaven and earth takes its name from God.

            People:  Every person is a precious and beloved child of God.

            Leader:  May we be strengthened through the power of God’s Spirit,

            People:  and may Christ dwell in our hearts through faith.

            Leader:  May we be rooted and grounded in love

            People:  and may we be filled with all the fullness of God.

Invocation (based on Ephesians 3:20-21)

            God of heaven and earth, thank you for creating us in your image and making us a family with all of your children.  We seek to be responsive to the needs of others and to show kindness and compassion in all things.  You are the power at work within us to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.  To you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

Hymn suggestions

            “Praise My Soul, the God of Heaven” (Chalice Hymnal, #23)

            “Pues Si Vivimos (When We Are Living)” (Chalice Hymnal, #536)

            “O for a World” (Chalice Hymnal, #683)

            “like a child” (Chalice Hymnal, #133)

            “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine” (Chalice Hymnal, #241)

The Call to Give of Ourselves

            The practice of sharing is expected of us from a young age.  Through our chubby clenched fists and our mantra of “mine”, we are encouraged to open our hands and our hearts to offer what we have to a sibling or a friend.  In the name of our Brother Jesus, we are called to see all humanity as our siblings and to treat others as our friends.  The giving of our offerings is an expression of God’s love at work in us.

Offering Prayer (based on the hymn, “Take My Gifts”, Chalice Hymnal, #381

            Take my gifts and let me love you, God who first of all loved me.  Now because your love has touched me, I have love to give away.  Take whatever I can offer–gifts that I have yet to find, skills that I am slow to sharpen, talents of the hand and mind, things made beautiful for others in the place where I must be:  take my gifts and let me love you, God who first of all loved me.  Amen. 


By Janet Long

A Sermon for Pentecost +9 – 7/25/21                                                          John 6:1-21

            Today’s scriptures remind us of a truth we know well: Some things never change.

Some of those things that never change are detrimental to the life we share as a human family. The psalmist points out the corruption, the abominable deeds and the lack of doing good of the godless. The lament goes on to point out that going astray, being perverse and doing evil are not acceptable in God’s sight.  Those who are not wise are accused of eating up God’s people as they eat bread and of not calling upon the Lord. It’s a stern warning, indeed, for people of every time and place.

            Some of those things that never change are beneficial to the life we share as a human family.  Several of those truths are clear in John’s telling of the feeding of the 5,000.  So important in the recounting of Jesus’ ministry, all four gospels include the feeding of the 5,000; Matthew and Mark add a very similar story in which Jesus feeds 4,000.  Six stories in all record Jesus’ feeding of 28,000!

            Some things never change: Everybody needs to eat. Jesus raised a hypothetical question with Philip: “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  With a plan already in mind, he was testing one of his disciples.  Philip didn’t answer the question directly.  He answered the question that had stymied him: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

            Some things never change: All too often, when we disciples are called to address a need, we respond with lack of money as an excuse, an obstacle, to mission. We lose the focus of our faith—to love and serve from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.

            But some things never change: Kids have some of the biggest hearts.  Two stories about two kids and two causes close to the heart of many in the church…

            Last Sunday, a boy some of you know named Jacob was in church while here visiting his grandparents.  He heard of the plight of the children and youth served by Cleveland Christian Home.  And he decided to do something about it.  He had received a belated birthday card containing a $10 bill.  Jake gave the entire amount to help his “other family”.

            And, just day before yesterday, Jake’s sister Kaitlyn decided to host a lemonade stand to raise money to help Camp Christian with its financial predicament.  Eight hours later, she had raised $94.58—and had plans for another sale of donuts, coffee and orange juice next week.

            A big-hearted kid was part of the big picnic described in John’s gospel.  Andrew reported, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.  But what are they among so many people?”

            Instead of saying, “I’ll show you”, Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”  And, maybe – just maybe – the miracle that day was that the sharing done by one child opened the hearts of everyone else and they began sharing what they had.

            Will we be inspired to generosity by Jacob’s giving the entirety of that birthday gift, by Kate’s efforts, by kids’ coins rattling around in a jar that will be given to change other kids’ lives for the better, and by a boy who shared his lunch?

            Some things never change.  But the kids touched by the ministries of Cleveland Christian Home, Camp Christian and this congregation are not among them.

            Some things never change: Jesus still cares that everyone in the world has enough to eat.  The psalmist responds to those who confound the needs of the poor by saying, “the Lord is their refuge.”  Jesus still cares that everyone in the world has enough to eat.  Jesus still calls his disciples to give people something to eat—to bless them with fresh bread and with clean water.  If we care a whit about Jesus, we have to care about the poor and hungry, for whom he exemplified an extra measure of care and grace.

            Some things never change: The God of abundance is a God of miracles.  There is not simply enough; there is more than enough.  In the six stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes, there are leftovers galore.  That’s what happens when love motivates us to give: There are leftovers galore, for, according to Jesus, “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

The preacher is encouraged to substitute similar stories about kids’ efforts to help other kids, through ministries supported by the congregation.

WORSHIP RESOURCES FOR 8/1/21:  (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Call to Worship (based on Ephesians 4:1-6)

            Leader:  We are to lead lives worthy of the calling to which we have been called,

            People:  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another 

                         in love.

            Leader:  There is one body and one Spirit, 

            People:  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 

            Leader:  one God of all, 

            People:  who is above all and through all and in all.

Invocation (based on Ephesians 4:11-16)

            Thank you, God, for the gifts you bestow in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  We pray to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of your Son, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  May we speak the truth in love, grow up in every way into Christ and build up the church in love.  We pray in the name of our Teacher and Savior.  Amen.

Hymn Suggestions

            “You Servants of God” (Chalice Hymnal, #110)

            “Jesus Loves Me!” (Chalice Hymnal, #113)

            “Help Us Accept Each Other” (Chalice Hymnal, #487)

            “Eat This Bread” (Chalice Hymnal, #414)

            “They’ll Know We Are Christians” (Chalice Hymnal, #494)

The Call to Give of Ourselves (“For God’s Gifts” by Howard Thurman – CH, #591) 

            To be used responsively with the singing of “Kum ba Yah”

            O Holy God, open unto me

            light for my darkness, courage for my fear, hope for my despair.

            Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah!  (first musical phrase)

            O loving God, open unto me

            wisdom for my confusion, forgiveness for my sins, love for my hate.

            Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah!  (second musical phrase)

            O God of peace, open unto me

            peace for my turmoil, joy for my sorrow, strength for my weakness.

            Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah!  (third musical phrase)

            O Generous God, open my heart to receive all your gifts.

            O Lord, kum ba yah!

Offering Prayer

            Generous God, you have opened your heart to us and given us all your gifts.  May we open our hearts to share all your gifts with all your children.  O Lord, come by here, we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


By Janet Long

A Sermon for Pentecost +10 – 8/1/21                                                            John 6:24-35

            With a name like Sellery — even if it isn’t spelled like the vegetable, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pastor David Sellery writes about “the Jesus Diet”.  It’s a memorable approach to today’s scripture reading in which Jesus attempts to refocus the perspective of those who are following him — actually, hounding him might be more like it.

            “The Jesus Diet” is all about healthy choices by making a lifetime commitment that guarantees results. That’s because it comes with a personal trainer.  Jesus is with us every step of the way:  feeding us, leading us, guiding our every move.

            In this week’s gospel, it’s the day after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.  The crowd thinks they’ve caught the gravy train and they don’t want it to end.  After some probing, they put in their order:  Give us a sign to believe in you.  How about a regular diet of manna raining from heaven?  Jesus seizes on their opening to explain who he is and why he’s here: I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

            Jesus is not promising an endless buffet of material goodies.  He is offering himself as the spiritual food that will fill our deepest needs.  The invitation to never be hungry and thirsty again moves us from following him — or, as is the case sometimes, hounding him — to consuming him.    

            You’ve known kids whose only food preferences are nothing but junk: Doritos, Oreos, fast food.  Vegetables are eaten only when a bribe is offered.  Meat must be cut into miniscule pieces and the number of required bites involves a major negotiating session.

            A lot of Christians deal with their lives of faith in much the same way.  They are spiritually picky.  They choose only that which is known, that which goes down easily, that which leaves a good taste in their mouths, that which does not require them to rearrange their priorities or to forsake too many of their preferences and appetites.  That pickiness allows for turning up one’s nose at the call to sacrifice and service, the call to tithe and to trust, the call to believe and be saved.  

            Jesus said to them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

This command could be loosely translated, ‘The business of living is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves.’  

We need to get ahead of ourselves and our desires to surround ourselves with that which does not satisfy.  We need to ask ourselves the difficult questions and to reorder our priorities to reflect our belief in Christ as our ultimate value.  

You know your own penchant for junk: It may actually be food—especially going out to eat; it may be clothes, or cars or collectibles; it may be entertainment or sports; it may be a stash of cash, a portfolio of stocks and IRAs, or a handful of lottery tickets.  

What we think will make us happy never does.  We get hungry again—for another meal in a brand-new restaurant, for the newest fashion, or car model, or item that’s just come onto the market, for the latest gizmo or gadget, for more investments or another try at the lottery jackpot.  

            Don’t settle for that.  Instant gratification and conspicuous consumption may be telltale signs of the times in which we live, but they do not have to be, and should not be, telltale signs of the life of those who follow Jesus Christ — who seek to consume him and to be consumed by his love for God and for the world.

            We are here to continue God’s work in the world.  We are here to share the Bread of Life with a world that is starving for love.  It’s a tall order.  But we have a personal trainer to show us the way. 

            Stay close to Jesus.  Follow his lead in prayer and through scripture, in worship and through communion.  “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  That life is eternal, beginning now.  So, instead of allowing ourselves to be consumed by that which does not satisfy, may our consumption of Jesus, the bread of life, be conspicuous–very conspicuous indeed… 

WORSHIP RESOURCES FOR 9/12/21:  (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Call to Worship and Invocation (from Psalm 19)
            Leader:   The heavens are telling the glory of God;

            People:   the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.  

            Leader:   Day to day pours forth speech,

            People:   and night to night declares knowledge.  

            Leader:   There is no speech, nor are there words, their voice is not heard;

People:   yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the  end of the world.    

            Unison:  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be                                           acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.

Hymn suggestions

            “Sing Them Over Again to Me” (Chalice Hymnal, #323)

            “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult” (Chalice Hymnal, #337)

            “Take My Gifts” (Chalice Hymnal, #381)

            “God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending” (Chalice Hymnal, #606)

            “Some There Are Who by Their Living” (Chalice Hymnal, #648)

The Call to Give of Ourselves

            “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  That love is deep and abiding, unconditional and eternal.  Responding to that love leads us to a path of discipleship, which includes the stewardship of giving.  When we love someone, we want to give them the desires of their heart.  Jesus desires our hearts.  He tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  To use our treasure in ways that show our love for Jesus brings us closer to him and brings the realm of God closer to us.  May we give with loving and grateful hearts… 

Offering Prayer (“A Prayer for Shedding Pretenses” by Miriam Therese Winter)

            O God of a Thousand Faces,

                        who sees through all our pretenses

                        to that silent, secret space within

                        where our true spirit sojourns,

            Prune away the duplicities that mask our best intentions

                        and all those quick defenses that disguise who we really are.

            Open us up to you and to all who would touch the truth of our being,

                        so all may see the integrity of lives given over to you,

                        now and forever.  Amen.


By Janet Long

A Sermon for Pentecost +16 – 9/12/21                                         Psalm 19; Mark 8:27-38

            “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”  I do.

            Our country’s justice system hinges on the worth of those words.  

            “Do you take this person to be your spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”  I do.

            Our personal commitments hinge on the worth of our words.         

            “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you accept him as your personal Lord and Savior and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world?”  I do.

            Our faith covenants hinge on the worth of our words.

            As one who seeks to proclaim the word of scripture and the Word made flesh and living among us, I believe in the ultimate worth of the Word–and the everyday worth of words.

            The worth of words in creation is affirmed in today’s Psalm:  The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words, their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.    

            The Psalm ends with a prayer that should guide every word that passes our lips:  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

            The reading from the book of Proverbs prescribed for today follows the theme:  Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.  At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:  “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?  How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.”  Are we being simple and scoffing–or listening and heeding?

            The day’s epistle reading from James follows suit: …the tongue is a fire.  With it we bless the Lord…and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.  

            According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus questions his disciples–first about the words others are using to describe him–and then who they say that he is.  And the follow-up questions should ring constantly in the ears of those who would follow him: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?” 

            Are you saving your life by losing your life–a bit at a time–for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel?  It happens by losing minutes and hours in service to others–visiting the lonely, feeding the hungry, listening to the troubled.  It happens through words of kindness and encouragement, hospitality offered at dinner tables in soup kitchens and your own kitchen, prayers said at the communion table and at a bedside.  

            Saving your life by losing your life–a bit at a time–for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel also happens by giving of the resources with which you’ve been entrusted.  One wise steward made the comment that money is “minted self”.  It reflects efforts spent working diligently and managing carefully.  Money represents our efforts.  But money doesn’t reflect our net worth.  Jesus makes it clear that he offers abundant and eternal life.  And we cannot reach out to him when we are holding onto our resources with clenched fists.

            If someone looked at your checkbook entries and your debit and credit card statements, would they see someone holding on for dear life — or someone losing their life for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the gospel?  The worth of your words professing to follow Christ calls for a financial investment.  The biblical standard is the tithe–10% of one’s resources.  I’ve known people who wouldn’t get started on the journey of tithing because they didn’t know if the 10% was meant to be before or after taxes.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you take the first step on the journey.  That first step may involve figuring out what part of your resources you are giving now.  And then setting a goal to increase that number.  That first step may take you down a different path–not of percentages, necessarily, but of perspective.  Is your giving relative to your standard of living?  Is your giving relevant to your life as a disciple?  Is your giving representative of your commitment to Christ?

            The kind of stewardship represented by Jesus’ call to save your life by losing your life for his sake and the sake of the gospel moves beyond a fair share or even a consideration of the church’s needs.  It moves to an approach to life where the goal is giving your life–including your money–away, for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the gospel.

            Jesus extends an invitation to us to invest in eternity.  The worth of those words knows no bounds… 


          Corresponding with the lectionary epistle readings for July 11 through August 22; 

            designed for a Church School class, a Disciples Women’s circle, a men’s group,                   a youth fellowship, or an intergenerational Bible study

Week One

Read Ephesians 1:3-14.  

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • What spiritual blessings have you received? embraced? shunned?  
  • What might it mean to be chosen “to be holy and blameless before God in


  • How do you feel about being destined for adoption as a child of God?
  • How do you show gratitude for receiving “the riches of God’s grace”

                        lavished upon you?

  • How do you understand the “mystery of God’s will…to gather up all things 

                        (things in heaven and things on earth)”?

  • How do your priorities demonstrate that you are living for “the praise of   God’s glory” in response to the inheritance you have received in      Christ?  What changes do you need to make?

Week Two

Read Ephesians 2:11-22.

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • We are living in a time of hostility and division (somewhat similar to the time in which the letter to the Ephesians was written).  How might Christ use us to break down the dividing wall of hostility between us and make peace?
  • How/When/Where do you experience the peace of Christ?
  • How do you share the peace of Christ with others?
  • How would you describe the experience of belonging (“you are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God”)?
  • What can you do to include others more fully?
  • How are you reminded of the truth that Christian discipleship is communal,          not individual (“built together spiritually into a dwelling place for       God”)?

Week Three

Read Ephesians 3:14-21

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • Do you feel “strengthened in your inner being with power” through God’s            Spirit?  (Please be as specific as you are able.)
  • How are you being “rooted and grounded in love”? 
  • Who do you rely on to give you roots and keep you grounded?
  • When have you sensed the “breadth and length and height and depth” of             Christ’s love for you?
  • How is it possible to comprehend the “love of Christ that surpasses           knowledge”?

Week Four

Read Ephesians 4:1-16.

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • The writer encourages the reader to “lead a life worthy of the calling to    which you have been called”.  Who encourages you to lead the life     to which Christ calls you?  How is your journey going?
  • The way we are called to live is “with humility and gentleness, with           patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to             maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Whose life is           an example to you of these characteristics?  How are you seeking           to live into this call in your own life?
  • What gift of those found in Ephesians 4:11-12 would you identify in           yourself?  How about in the others in your group? 
  • What examples can you give of “building up the body of Christ”?
  • What experience do you have of “speaking the truth in love”?
  • How are you growing up into Christ?

Week Five

Read Ephesians 4:25-5:2.

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • How do you respond to the practical suggestions (some would say “rules”)

                        for living a new life in Christ?

  • What is your reaction to the reason given for working?  (“Thieves must     give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their     own hands, so as to have something to share with the poor.”)
  • How do you share with the poor?
  • How have you experienced words being “useful for building up”?
  • When have your words given “grace to those who hear”?
  • What steps can you take to follow the last two verses of chapter 4 and to “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love…”? 

Week Six

Read Ephesians 5:15-20.

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • How do you respond to the advice to “Be careful then how you live…”?
  • Who is the most grateful person you know?  How can you tell?
  • How might you go about “giving thanks to God at all times and for             everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
  • How can you “be filled with the Spirit” (instead of some substitute)?

Read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Reflect on the following questions and share your responses with one another:

  • Putting on “the whole armor of God” is a reference to your baptism.  Short           of wearing a baptismal robe, how can you “wear” your baptism?
  • How and when do you pray?
  • How do you keep alert to the leading of the Spirit?
  • How do you live gratefully and generously for the gospel?   


A Conversation about Money

Let’s start with a few questions:

  • What is your first memory of money?
  • What is/was your parents’ approach to money?
  • What was your first job?  Were you happy with what you were paid?
  • What is your first memory of giving an offering?

What‘s your “money personality”?

  • Spender:  Money is the way to have what I want.  Focus: today. 
  • Saver:  Money is the route to the goal of wealth accumulation.  Focus: future.  
  • Servant:  Money represents potential blessings for others in Jesus’ name.  

Focus: eternity.

            The vast majority of Americans are spenders.  A smaller number are savers.  A very few are servants.  Are you satisfied with your money personality or would you rather be in a different category?

            Ron Blue, a pioneer of Christian financial advising, tells the story of a couple he was helping that made $85,000 per year.  He challenged them to give away one million dollars in their lifetimes—and they thought he was crazy!  But they couldn’t shake the thought.  When Ron ran into them decades later, they excitedly told him that they had indeed given one million dollars away…three times!  It had become much more fun for them to track cumulative giving than to track net worth.

            I know a couple who were challenged by the concept of 50/50 giving.  The idea came from the 1960’s when Disciples congregations were challenged to use half of their income for local operating expenses, while designating the other half for outreach causes.  This couple tries to live on half of their income, while giving the other half to charity.  This same couple also set up a reverse tithe for any unexpected income: They give 90% of any windfalls away and keep 10% for something special for themselves.  Also, thanks to last year’s tax incentives, they gave away over 100% of their adjusted gross income.  While they don’t have lots of money, they have found lots of joy through giving.  They claim to be rich in the deepest sense of the word.

            This experience bears witness to this truth: “No matter how much or how little money you have flowing through your life, when you direct that flow with soulful purpose, you feel wealthy.  You feel vibrant and alive when you use your money in a way that represents you, not just as a response to the market economy, but also as an expression of who you are.  When you let your money move to things you care about, your life lights up.  That’s really what money is for.” (“The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist)

For more, check this out–“God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School” by Greg Baumer and John Cortines.

These resources are provided free of charge to support the work of ministries in local congregations. Your generous gifts make this possible, and so we ask you to consider a making a gift today.

Fourth Quarter Resources