Serve! - Issue 47 - July 2010

Published: Thu, 07/15/10

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Encouraging the church to think differently about outreach...

Serve E-zine

Issue #47
July 2010
In This Issue...

  • Generosity

  • Seven Bags

  • Cultivating a Heart for the Poor

  • The Buzz In My Ear

  • Plus Much More

    by Steve Sjogren

      "Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon." 

      It was noon. . .

    At first glance this could be a throw-away statement, but not so.  Noon says everything about the person who is about to visit and draw water.  Nobody drew water from the well at noon unless you didn't want to be seen by the townspeople, or you were a person of disreputable character, or possibly both.   It was too hot for a journey to a well on the outside of the city, the women of the city would leave in the morning while it was still cool.  It would be used as a social time, where they would walk and talk about life's events.  Not so with the woman who Jesus was about to encounter, he knew from the start she was an outcast, and his word's of life would help recreate who she was.

    "Would you give me a drink of water?" Jesus asked, "How come you a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman for a drink?"  Jesus answered.  "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh living water." (The Message)

    Generosity is what drives the kingdom of God!  God so loved the world he gave; God isn't stingy with anything He owns.  I wish I could say that for the church. It's often out for the best bargain, holding on to God's grace like it thinks there isn't enough.  If you really want more of God's favor on your church so you can impact your community you have to become generous. Our outreach cost money big time. To a secular accountant, it looks like a bad investment, but the returns are amazing. A friend puts it this way, doing what we are doing (for more information visit we are removing the black eye from the church." 

    Continue Reading This Article

    Seven Bags
    by Ken Glassmeyer

    It all started about twenty years ago when a handful of people with a heart for the city of Dayton, Ohio, led by Doug Roe and Scott Sliver, pulled their resources together and went to a local grocery store and purchased enough food to fill seven paper bags of groceries.  They set out to bring a little taste of the kingdom to a few hurting families that resided in the poorest communities of the Gem City. Fast-forward two decades and you see the incredible ripple effect of that small-scale act of mercy has had on the region. That small group of caring people transformed into a "pretty good church" that is now one of the largest distributors of emergency food, supplies, and services in the Midwest.  Their food pantry alone hands out over 6,000 lbs of food per week. Doug Roe now pastors the Dayton Vineyard that numbers in the thousands, Scott Sliver is still the worship leader, but also heads the amazing Hope Foundation, an incredible organization that spreads mercy and compassion throughout the region with a focus on kindness and ridiculous generosity.

    They have an awesome food pantry at their Fairborn campus that feeds several hundred families per month.  It is not your normal food pantry.  The décor is more akin to the showroom of a private buyers club.  Guests are served premium coffee and pastries as they wait for their turn to shop for free as well as get invaluable counseling, and prayer.  Everything done in this building is done with great love, and just walking through it you can feel the residue of kindness.  The smiles of the people being served is infectious.  Suddenly the Biblical phrase "bring the good news to the poor" has a new cognitive traction.  The mercy and compassion handed out in this place is tangible.  These folks have discovered a way to hand out "good news you can use" as one of the patrons I chatted with explained.  I walked from the comfortable client area into the back of the pantry and found that these folks have dedicated a great deal of the floor space of their church to endeavors of mercy and compassion.  In fact, it would be hard for you to walk more than a few steps in any direction on their campus without bumping into resources designed to serve others.  These people get it.  Not only is an outward focus part of their DNA, it is the very lifeflow of their church.  I was not only impressed with the dedication of design and implementation, but also the collective creativity of this "pretty good church."  


    by Dan Edelen

    For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them....

    --Mark 14:7a

    Foreign mission agencies speak of "unreached people groups." A closer look at those groups reveals a persistent truth: Almost all live in grinding poverty.

    In America, the truly poor also remain largely unreached by the Gospel. While finding two or more churches at a suburban intersection is common, few churches exist in poorer neighborhoods--and those that do possess little staying power. In addition, studies show a trend in urban churches of abandoning the city for the suburbs, which leaves the poorest congregants behind and diminishes the spiritual vitality of the community. A quick tour of any major urban center in America shows empty, broken church buildings blighting the streets.

    Nor are cities the only casualties, as poor, rural areas continue to see their church congregations dwindle. Many rural churches become little more than training grounds for fresh-out-of-seminary pastors, who learn a bit of ministry in the church before moving on to their "real" calling.

    Despite these realities, reaching the poor with the hope of the Gospel has never been more needed.

    Any look at evangelizing the poor must start with the truth that the hopes, dreams, needs, and wants of men and women are not dependent on income or class. A.W. Tozer wrote that because we are created by God, all our answers are found in Him. Indeed, rich or poor, each of us is lost without Jesus. He remains the sole answer to every longing of the human heart.


    Death and Taxes
    by Ken Glassmeyer

    No matter what politician you want to blame it on, there has been a recent trend in lawmaking and policy that will hurt the "new" poor even more.  Leaders in the church will need to begin thinking about these changes and how it will impact their community.  Pretty soon we will all have a deeper knowledge of just how much tolerance Jesus expects us to have as he modeled loving and hanging out with tax collectors.
    The "Medicine Cabinet Tax" may hurt the most.  Beginning next year, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).   In addition, new provisions impose a cap on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) of $2500 (Currently, there is no federal government limit). As of 2011, you will now not be able to get tax relief beyond the first $2,500.00 you spend on medical bills.  Most families spend at least that much on routine out-of the pocket health care costs.  If you have a person in your family with a serious medical condition or a special needs child in your family, you can spend that much in less than a month over and beyond what insurance of any form might cover. 
    There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel towards: parents of special needs children. There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs costs.  According to the National Child Research Center, the out-of pocket costs to such families can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars will not be permitted to be used to pay for this type of special needs costs.
    For those struggling families that have to dip into retirement and savings, the penalties increase in 2011.  Even worse the capital gains tax will be increasing and thus hurting those families that may be just getting back on their feet and trying to save and invest to insulate themselves from further economic downturns. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.
    Personal income tax rates will rise. On January 1, 2011, all tax cuts from the earlier part of the decade expire.  In the same year, taxes are scheduled to go up.  The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent.  Keep in mind that while unemployment may be hovering at 6% that figure is not as accurate as it used to be, as many of the unemployed simply started a small business such as taking in laundry, starting a day care in their home, a small landscaping company ran out of their pick-up truck and even flea market/eBay sales businesses just to make ends meet when their unemployment ran out.  These cottage industries will be taxed aggressively in 2011.  It is predicted that two-thirds of all small businesses will see an increase in their tax rate of 15 to 20 percent. Personal tax rates are also increasing. The lowest tax bracket is slated for an increase next year.  The highest bracket will see an even higher percent increase. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:
    - The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
    - The 25% bracket rises to 28%
    - The 28% bracket rises to 31%
    - The 33% bracket rises to 36%
    - The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%
    No matter what side of politics you favor, you have to see that attacking marriage is not good for the kingdom. The "marriage penalty" (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.
    Death is coming to call. This year, there is no death tax. For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. You would be surprised at how easy it is to have an estate worth that price, after you throw in property and other overlooked assets. A person leaving behind a home, insurance policy and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.  I am thankful that my local church has a financial services ministry that helps folks develop a budget, and even better, helps you with setting up a living trust to avoid passing the death tax onto your family, or even worse siphoning all the faithful stewardship you have done over the years away from the kingdom legacy you may have intended when you return home to Pappa. I plan on leaving a bunch of money to fund outreaches long after I walk the planet--in my mind handing it all over to the IRS is not an ideal outreach.

    Speaking of which, the organizations that help the poor will also be impacted indirectly as their funding sources from wealthy sponsors and donors begin to dry up from aggresive taxation.  Changes are coming to tighten the restrictions for charitable donations across the board with regards to taxable deductions and the types of organizations you will be permitted to give to and still receive tax credit. Charitable Contributions from IRAs will no longer be allowed. Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA. This contribution also counts toward an annual "required minimum distribution." This ability will no longer be there.  This will have a chilling effect on the funds all charitable organizations get from donors.
    Sorry to put such a damper on things, but if your church is not thinking about the "new" poor yet, you might want to bring it up and the next elder meeting and discuss it.  There is still some debate as to whether this recession is over.  No matter what your political persuasion might be, it is obvious that those families that only recently experienced poverty are still staggering from the adaptation their culture may have never passed onto them and now they are about to get smacked on the other cheek with taxation that may exacerbate their situation.  Churches across the land may need to step in the gap and provide mercy and compassion to those not used to needing it.
    Ken Glassmeyer
    Serve! Editor
    Issue Cover
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    More ArticlesMore Articles In This Issue

    Cover Story
    By Steve Sjogren
    Sometimes noticing a person and handing them a cold drink can be far more generous than you will ever know.

    Serve! Spotlight
    By Ken Glassmeyer
    Small things done with great love have a way of becoming bigger things done with even greater love in the Kingdom. Take for instance the incredible happenings in Dayton, Ohio. . .
    By Ken Glassmeyer
    Kande Wilson, Hamony Hensley and their staff at VCC Outreach Central have a cool idea they put into practice!
    Family Movie Outreach?
    By Ken Glassmeyer
    Hardly anyone can afford to go to a first-run movie even as a special treat for a Blockbuster these days. . .
    Deep Thoughts
    Cultivating a Heart for Evangelizing the Poor
    By Dan Edelen
    Studies show a trend in urban churches of abandoning the city for the suburbs, which leaves the poorest congregants behind and diminishes the spiritual vitality of the community.
    Looking Outward
    By Rick and Ellen Coffin
    Whether you are serving in your backyard, or overseas, you will find their stories inspiring!
    Video Spotlight
    Children of the Mountains Struggle to Survive
    By Diane Sawyer and Keturah Ray
    The oldest mountains in America are rich in natural beauty with their raging creeks, steep hollows and old pines. They are also one of the poorest, most disadvantaged regions in America. Click the first picture in the article to view the whole video.
    Servant Evangelism: Advice From a Pro
    Get A Part Time Job!
    By Ken Glassmeyer
    If you are a church planter, pastor, or outreach leader this is the best investment of ten hours of your time per week!
    Field Notes
    Hints On Discovering Hidden Poverty
    By Ken Glassmeyer
    In this current economy, you might be surprised at just how badly your neighbors need your help.

    Steve Sjogren's New Book Now Available!

    No Two Churches Are Alike--But They All Can Be Great!

    Instead of making your church more like someone else's, let the presence of God make your church the greatest church that only it can be!

    Steve Sjogren launched the servant-evangelism movement - a movement that fueled the growth of his church in Cincinnati from a handful of people to 6000 in 15 years. But along the way, Steve began to reevaluate the common assertion that a bigger church is necessarily a better church.

    In Making A Good Church Great, Steve shares what he has observed in more than 30 years as a church planter and coach: that a church's greatness has less to do with numbers in weekly attendance or the size of the sanctuary or staff. Instead, greatness is an ongoing process that is moved by the presence of God among His people.

    This book is an invitation to your community of faith to uncover its true and authentic greatness. Each chapter covers a different characteristic of a great church, including simple, upward, outward, safe, fun, inclusive, generous, true, cooperative, leading out, and more. Steve offers practical steps for your church, in its one-of-a-kind way, to foster each of these qualities.

    "Steve Sjogren always makes me think...and this book is no different. Grab a cup of coffee and a notepad as you read this book...Steve is about to challenge us all to lead great churches." - Nelson Searcy, Lead Pastor of The Journey Church (New York City)

    Copyright 2010