Who’s Getting the First Fruits?
By Vince Holbrook
They got paid on Monday. And now that it’s Sunday, there’s not much left to put in the offering plate at church. More of your flock thinks this way (and lives this way) than we want to think. According to Dave Ramsey, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. So who’s getting the first fruits?
If the banks that own their houses and cars are on automatic bank draft — carefully timed for the day after their paycheck is directly deposited in their accounts – is their pledge to your congregation also? Are they offering God their leftovers instead of their first fruits?
The concept of first fruit giving is mentioned 13 times in the first five books of the Bible alone. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” (Proverbs 3:9). Some translate the Hebrew word for first fruits, “bikkurim,” as “promise to come.”
“When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” —Leviticus 23:10
But the concept of first fruit is not just an Old Testament one. The New Testament continues this “promise to come” or “bikkurim,” describing the resurrection of Christ as God’s best and perfect gift of redemption to the world. Christ is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep – and the fulfillment of the promise to come (1 Corinthians 15: 20-28). James 1:18 tells us that we are a kind of first fruits. Romans 8:23 says we have the first fruits of the Spirit. And even in the end, Revelation 14: 4-5, describes the saints as first fruits in a passage that reminds me of our Moravian seal:
“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.”
So, about giving first fruits to the church in this present life: It’s easier than they think. Many Moravian congregations now have online monthly giving enabled by credit card on the Moravian Giving Portal. As the members of your congregation make their pledge this year, it is easy for them to schedule monthly payments for the day after payday. Whether they are able to attend all services or not, they’ll be honoring the Lord with their first fruits. Whether payday is on a Monday or Saturday, they’ll be honoring the Lord with their first fruits. If it’s snowing, they’re sick, or they’re traveling, their first fruit gift can remain faithful.
Incorporate a link to your congregation’s specific donor form on the Moravian Giving Portal in your Stewardship communication, website and social media this year. Encourage your flock to schedule monthly gifts that correspond to their pledge. Encourage them to give from their first fruits. Establish a First Fruits Society to recognize those who do this. If your Moravian congregation does not have online giving enabled on the Moravian Giving Portal, call Chris Spaugh at 1-888-722-7923.
Crossroads Info Session on Monday Oct 14 at 6:30 pm at Moravian Theological Seminary, 60 West Locust Street, Bethlehem PA.
Come with your questions. Learn about how Crossroads equips leaders in areas of Discipleship, Leadership, Care, Biblical Studies, Worship and Spiritual Formation. Find out how you can plug into the program and get the most out of our courses. Use the Crossroads link http://www.moravianseminary.edu/crossroads to learn more and to register online. Crossroads has educated over 150 laypeople and pastors over the last ten years including people in their denominational lay pastor track. We are interdenominational with excellent instructors who are passionate about their subjects. Come for one course or take them all. The program is very flexible to fit your needs. Real Time Distance Learning through Zoom is available in every course. Email any questions to Jill Peters at [email protected].
Crossroads Late Fall 2019
A course in Congregational Ethics that explores issues facing the church today such as power and control, boundaries, decision making, child protection, and financial matters through the lens of traditional ethical language. If you are a leader in your church, this is the course for you. Participant projects focus on contemporary ethical issues and how to present them within a congregational setting. Starting October 31, Road Hazards is Mondays and Thursdays, 6-9 pm until November 25. The exact schedule is on our website.
Online registration, textbooks and 2019/2020 course schedules are on our website at www.moravianseminary.edu/crossroads. Or you can contact Jill Peters at [email protected] for more information or with questions.
Winter: My Journey (Formative Spirituality) and Old Testament
Spring: Contextual Outreach (Connecting with our community) and New Testament
. . . that on Sunday, September 8, 2019, at Little Church on the Lane in Charlotte, Sister Safiatu Braima was received as a Provincial Acolyte to serve in the Sierra Leone Unity Mission Area? This took place at the request of the Board of World Mission. The Provincial Elders Conference (Southern Province) has the authority to appoint a qualified person to serve as pastor and, in some cases, administer the sacraments in a particular place for a specified period of time. There are currently four Moravian congregations in Sierra Leone. Plans are in place for developing a process of leadership development and working toward the first National Conference early next year. Please keep Sister Braima in your prayers as she returns to Sierra Leone later this month to continue her ministry with these added responsibilities. If you would like to support the work in Sierra Leone, please visit our website at www.moravianmission.org/give.
Donations can also be mailed to our office at 1021 Center Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018. Checks should be made payable to “Board of World Mission”. Thank you!
Quilt Camp October 2-5, 2019
Women’s retreat: Quilters and non-quilters alike are welcome. Join in the camp quilt or bring your own project and share in community, prayer and conversation with other women from around the District. Leader: Rev. Lois Bly Mease.
Fall Festival Saturday,October 5, 2019
Join us from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm for a wonderful day at camp. Enjoy food, a fun afternoon of yard games, crafts, and canoeing on Little Silver Lake. Come relive old memories and make some new ones! $5 per person includes food and fun at the Camp. Advance reservations suggested; tickets also available on the date. Contact Hope Conference Center for tickets at 908 459-4435 or [email protected]
2021 Interprovincial Ministers Convocation/Retreat
Start looking forward with anticipation now! The Northern and Southern Provinces are sponsoring an Interprovincial Ministers Convocation in May of 2021, and we want all our active minsters to be present! Many details remain to be worked out, and the planning committee is meeting monthly and will send periodic progress reports. Major expenses of the event are supported by the Thriving in Ministry grant: Moravian Clergy Connections, awarded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. last year.
Still to be determined are such important items as the specific dates and location, speakers and convocation theme, and worship plans. (As far as location, don’t think of a college dorm with bathroom down the hall; the intent of the grant writers is to give us all a more peaceful experience, so that we might even feel a bit “pampered”!)
You may have heard earlier that the event was scheduled for 2020, but the PECs meeting jointly determined that moving it to the spring of 2021 might make for better participation – 2020 is a district synod year, and it might be hard for pastors to attend district synod, take part in a camp or two, and an interprovincial retreat!
There’s not a lot to report yet, but we want you to know that the committee is at work and, and we want to ask you to join us in prayer for God’s grace and blessing for the event.
The committee consists of Nola Reed Knouse, chair; Adriana Craver (candidate for ministry, Southern Province); Rebecca Craver (pastor, Edmonton Moravian), James Heroux (pastor, Freedom Moravian); Michael Johnson (pastor, John Hus Moravian); Fran Saylor (pastor, Mizpah Moravian); Craig Troutman (pastor, Raleigh Moravian); and Audrey West (grant administrator, Moravian Theological Seminary). You’re welcome to contact Nola ([email protected]) or any of the other committee members with thoughts or suggestions.
New to the IBOC Store, suncatchers in five brilliant colors. Made of stained glass in Bethlehem, PA, these 4” stars are perfect for any window in the office or at home. Click through to see your choices.