In Tight Economy, Church Models Generosity

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Adrienne S. Gaines

Despite a lagging economy and research showing declines in
church giving, a charismatic congregation in Tennessee wants to be known for
its generosity.

On Sunday, 700-member Grace Center church in Franklin,
Tenn., surprised the faith-based Siloam Family Health Center in Nashville with
a check for more than $112,000—the total collected from tithes and
offerings that weekend. Siloam provides medical care to people with no health insurance at an
average cost of $10 per visit.

“I noticed when things get tight economically we have a
tendency to hold on to stuff as believers,” said Grace Center pastor Jeff
Dollar. “I felt that in order to break that thing off of us, we have to move in
the opposite spirit. One way that you do that is you take up a ‘hilarious,’ so
to speak, offering and just give the whole thing away. And that’s what we did.”

Siloam President Nancy West said the health center’s staff
and volunteers had been praying since Ash Wednesday for God to bless the
health center. Because of job losses since the economic downturn, the number of
uninsured people seeking Siloam’s services has increased significantly, she

“I was totally shocked and just lost for words,” said West,
who thought she was visiting Grace Center to talk about Siloam’s work. “It was
just absolutely a great … ‘God moment’ of seeing people where faith had really
rose up in that they gave generously and obviously sacrificially.”

The contribution was the culmination of a two-day Resource
Revolution conference hosted by charismatic Bible teacher James Ryle, who has
been leading similar conferences across the U.S. Ryle teaches from 2
Corinthians 9:8, which says “God is able to make all grace abound to you
so that, in all things at all times having all that you need, you will abound
to every good work.”

“It is God’s desire
to find people who are willing to cooperate with Him by being faithful stewards
of the resources He has entrusted to them,” Ryle wrote in a blog posting Monday
about the Grace Center giveaway. “At His leading we respond in obedient
generosity-and the results are always staggering.

“I rejoice for what
has happened to Siloam Family Health Center,” he continued. “But I am
especially delighted to watch now with great expectancy at how the Lord will
bless this honest and humble congregation with His response from heaven for
their generosity shown here on earth.”

After a Resource Revolution event in 2008, Grace Center
presented a surprise $205,000 check to Fernvale Community Church, whose 123-year-old
chapel recently had been destroyed by a tornado.

“[God] knew exactly what that church needed,”
Dollar said. “We found out their insurance would cover only $400,000 of the
rebuild, and the rebuild cost $600,000. Then we walk in with $200,000.”

this year’s offering was less than in 2008, Dollar said it was more than five
times the $20,000 offering collected on a typical weekend. H
e expects
more contributions to come in but believes the $112,000 donation must
be what Siloam needs.

West said in recent months Siloam has hired additional staff
to expand its hours and take on new patients to meet the increased demand for
their health services. “We frankly did not know how we were going to be able to
sustain that,” she said. “It was a real step of faith for us to do that. … [The
financial gift] was just a sweet blessing of the Lord just confirming that
we’re doing the right thing.”

It also built up the faith of the Siloam staff. “It was just
this radical exhibit of giving, just radical giving, sacrificial giving,” West
said. “We’ve really been praying for miracles here at Siloam for us to see our
patients miraculously healed. And this has just really encouraged our faith.”

Grace Center members were told in advance that their giving would be
donated but did not know which organization would benefit. Dollar said he
prayed about which ministry to give the offering to, and someone later
suggested Siloam.

admits the church could use the money. The congregation has outgrown its
facility and wants to build a new one.
This is a sacrificial gift, absolutely,” Dollar said.
“When we give away this offering, we give away what our normal tithes and
offerings are for that week as well.”

But he said giving brings a unique reward. Last year,
despite the economy, Grace Center saw a 5 percent increase in giving. Dollar said some church members experienced
significant financial breakthroughs after the offering giveaway in 2008,
but he says God’s way of responding to giving is not always

“The interesting
thing is, the way that the Lord pays back is kind of value for value,” he said.
“He doesn’t necessarily pay you back with money, although He can. When you give
back to Him what’s valuable to you, He gives back to you what’s valuable to

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