The significance of what a small congregation of Disciples can accomplish should never be underestimated. One such accomplishment will be acknowledged when Associate General Minister and Vice President Todd Adams preaches at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Palo Alto, Calif., on Sept. 27. Adams will thank the congregation for its generous tithe of $93,313 in 2009 to Disciples Mission Fund (DMF). DMF is the common mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), providing financial resources to seventy-two ministries of the church.
“I think it’s a phenomenal model of generosity,” said Adams. “As wealth is transferred from one generation to the next, this gift reminds us of our responsibility to be generous in what we receive. Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, calls us to remember that we live in cities we did not build and receive from the land we did not plow and we are to be just, faithful and generous with all that we have as gifts from God.”
The gift was received after First Christian inherited a bequest in the amount of $933,136 from the estate of longtime dedicated members Ruth and Ralph Freeland. While the church averages only 50-60 people in worship each Sunday, the congregation still manages to give consistently to the Disciples Mission Fund.
“They have continued to give from their annual fund in addition to making the large bequest to DMF,” said Adams. “Considering the state of the economy and the current unemployment numbers, their gift is making a significant difference as giving from other congregations, Disciples Women, the Christian Church Foundation, and other sources is down 6% year-to-date.”
The church’s gift was divided between the Northern California-Nevada Region, the general ministries, racial / ethnic ministries, and institutions of higher education. The region received 65 percent of the gift or $60,653, and 35 percent or $32,659 was distributed according to the Mission Funding System, which is the agreed upon distribution of Disciples Mission Fund dollars. First Christian in Palo Alto has a policy of giving 10 percent of the gifts it receives to DMF and 5 percent to local causes.
“We gave it because we have an abundant God,” said Jon McCauley Smith, minister at First Christian Church in Palo Alto. “We don’t like to think about scarcity. For heaven’s sakes, Jesus took two fish, five loaves of bread, fed more than 5,000 and had 12 baskets left over. We are not dependent on the economy; we are dependent on God."
Smith said the church has not regretted its decision to tithe nearly $100,000, and the congregation can hardly wait for the next opportunity to sow a large gift into the Church. “If we as Disciples focus on scarcity, we are not going to be a very productive people. God wants us to focus on great abundance,” he said. “I’m glad that God can be blessed, the general church can be blessed and general ministries can be blessed through this gift.”
Ben Bohren, regional minister and president of the Christian Church in Northern California-Nevada Region, said the region was humbled by the very generous and gracious gift, and immediately sent a tithe of $6,065 to Lexington Theological Seminary in response to its recent financial crisis.
The gift to the region enabled it to do some really exciting things in ministry that it may not have otherwise been able to do, explained Bohren. It will also help to support additional staff members who work with youth and young adults and allow the region to do more work in transformation and with a new Christian training and study program.
“How wonderful it would be if the Freelands and members of FCC Palo Alto and Disciples across the region could see all the faces and places that this bequest will touch,” stated Bohren, who plans to be in Palo Alto on the 27th to help First Christian celebrate its gift. “Literally hundreds of lives will be affected by the humble, generous and faithful witness made possible by the Freelands and FCC Palo Alto.”
By: James Patterson