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November 27, 2019
From his book "Garden City," John Comer shares how our view of eternity transforms the way we work today.
October 5, 2018
The essence of following Jesus is using our work to cooperate with heaven’s invasion of Earth.
I think of the end of 1 Corinthians 15 — the longest passage about resurrection and the age to come in the entire Bible. Fight-eight verses of dense, heady, complex, in-depth, technical, charged, explosive eschatology. And listen to Paul’s closing paragraph — this is the end of his sermon, his “practical application points”:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
So what Paul thinks resurrection means is that our “work” and “labor” are not in vain. They’re not all for nothing. They matter.
Of course, we read “the work of the Lord” and “labor in the Lord” and assume Paul means evangelism or missionary work. But he doesn’t say that. It’s ambiguous and unclear and open to interpretation.
What I’m getting at is all this eschatology, all this talk about the future, about resurrection and the age to come, should have a tectonic, pivotal, inspiriting effect on your work in the here and now.
There’s so much we could say about this, but here are four thoughts:
It needs to be said that good work is worthwhile even if it’s just for this age, with no bearing on the age to come at all.
Whatever it is you do — cooking, building, teaching, writing, mothering, project managing, beehive keeping — if you do it as an act of worship to God and an expression of love and service to humanity, that’s enough.
Work isn’t a means to an end; it is an end.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Most people don’t actually believe their work matters in the here and now. For its own sake. But its’ incredibly true.
If all you do is fill a gas tank to get somebody on the road or set up a mortgage for somebody to buy a house or sell a jacket to keep somebody warm, that matters, all by itself. And it’s enough.
Our work in this life is practice for our work in the coming life.
In one sense, what we do now matters, all by itself. We don’t need to add anything onto it or spice it up. But in another sense, it’s practice.
The philosopher Dallas Willard said this life is “training for reigning.” As cheesy as that sounds, he’s spot-on. Right now we are learning the skills we’ll need forever to God’s new world.
The Bible opens with God giving humans a vocation, a calling to rule, to look after his creation and make it flourish, and after a long, drawn-out detour through human history, the Bible ends with that vision finally coming to pass and even going forward.
So our future hope isn’t only that Jesus will rule the universe. It is, but it’s also that we’ll rule right at his side. As Paul put it, “If we endure, we will also reign with him.”
God is looking for people he can rule the world with. Right now, we are becoming those kinds of people.
Whoever you become will carry over into the next life. The saying “You can’t take it with you” may be true of stuff — your car or that sweet new pair of shoes, but it’s definitely misleading. You will take the person you become with you into God’s future. And who you become is your most valuable asset.
Some of the good work we do will actually last into God’s new world.
I really believe that.
In Revelation 14 we read that the dead “will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
Their deeds will follow them?
The word deeds is ergon in Greek. Usually, it’s translated “work,” but it can also be translated “occupation.”
So our work will follow us? Maybe even our occupation will follow us, past death and into the age to come.
Later, in Revelation 21, we read about the Garden city, and John writes “the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it … The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.”
This is an enigmatic statement at best, but it could mean that all good work, the accumulation of thousands of years of culture making, will somehow be brought into the made-new-Jerusalem.
But I am saying that when I envision the future, I imagine living in a home. My guess is it will have a rug or two. I imagine eating Thai food and drinking an almond milk latte and listening to Prelude from Suite No. 1 in G Major on cello and riding a bicycle and flying in an airplane and reveling in all the good, beautiful, and true things that image bearers have come up with over the millennia of human history.
It’s all the graffiti — the evil, ugly stuff that will disappear forever.
There’s a lot of human work that frankly will not survive the day of the Lord. It will not make it into God’s new world.
Stuff like …
All this stuff will be “burned up.” And people who gave their lives to “wood, hay or straw,” the kind of work that is kindling for the fire, will have nothing to show for all their effort and energy. They'll make it “in,” but barely. And with empty pockets.
But on the flip side, Paul’s hope is that some human work will survive judgment and go on to find a place in the new creation. That somehow — and I have no idea how — all our work that is “gold, silver, costly stones,” the kind of work that matters, will follow us into the age to come. God will find a way to take it, cleanse it, and integrate it into this new world.
If that doesn’t make you want to get really good at your job, I have no clue what will.
Know that all good work done in this age will be rewarded in the age to come.
There is far more continuity between this age and the age to come than most of us think. There is a direct correlation between how we live now and how we will live forever. Or to be more precise, between how we rule now and how much we will rule over forever.
I think of the parable in Luke 19 about the “man of noble birth” (read, king) who went on a long journey. Before he left, he gave each of his servants a mina — a large sum d money. When he came back, he wanted an accounting for his investment.
The first servant comes up and says, “Sir, your mina has earned five more.”
And what does the king say?
“You take charge of five cities.”
Five minas, five cities.
Responsibility now, more responsibility later.
The reward for work well-done in this age isn’t a mansion and a Maserati in heaven, as if the best God can do is acquiesce to capitalism’s perversion of the American dream; its’ more work and more responsibility in God’s new world.
Even if your work now doesn’t feel that way. Even if you’re a sanitation engineer or a gofer on a construction crew or housekeeping for a hotel or a checker at Whole Foods. Maybe you love what you do, maybe you hate it. Maybe you can change what you do, maybe you’re stuck. But either way, you can do it for a reward.
Editor's note: Excerpted from Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human. Copyright © 2017 by John Mark Comer. Used by permission of Zondervan.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.