• ▲일년 간 교회 십일조와 헌금을 모두 지역사회에 환원한 미시시피의 트레이스 웨이 침례교회 모습.

미시시피의 한 작은 교회에서 헌금과 십일조 전부를 지역사회 어려운 이웃들을 돌보는데 사용해 훈훈한 감동을 안겨주고 있다.

클린톤 시의 트레이스 웨이 침례교회 존 리차드슨 목사와 교회 재직들은 2년 전, 어떻게 하면 지역사회를 더 잘 섬길 수 있는지 기도하기 시작했고 두 달간 기도와 금식 끝에 십일조와 헌금 모두를 필요한 이들에게 나눠주기로 결심했다.

리차드슨 목사는 "2009년 말 우리 교회 지도자들은 함께 기도하며 어떻게 우리가 속한 지역사회에 예수 그리스도를 잘 드러낼 수 있을지에 대해 방법을 고민하기 시작했어요. 우리의 기도는 '주님, 사람들이 우리를 볼 때 당신을 보게 하려면 어떻게 해야 하나요?'라는 질문이었죠. 그리고 기도할 수록 하나님께서 '만일 너희가 지역사회에 나를 보이기 원한다면 내가 그랬듯이 그들에게 후하게 베풀어라'고 말씀하고 계심을 느꼈습니다"라고 크리스천포스트와의 인터뷰에서 밝혔다.

응답을 받은 리차드슨 목사와 재직들은 이 말씀을 '우리 교회의 십일조와 헌금을 일년 동안 지역사회에 돌려주는 것'이라고 해석했다. 생각처럼 쉬운 일은 아니었지만 이들은 곧바로 실행하기에 이르렀다.

6년 전 시작돼 50여명 안팎의 성도들이 정기적으로 출석하고 있는 트레이스 웨이 침례교회는 2010년 4월부터 2011년 4월까지 총 6만 불을 지역사회에 헌금했다. 리차드슨 목사는 이 나눔의 이야기를 지난 6월 'Giving Away the Collection Plate'라는 책으로 출판했다.

작은 이들이 나눈 오병이어는 달랑 가방 하나만 싸서 남편의 학대를 피해 도망친 여성들, 중독에서 벗어나려고 몸부림 치는 이들, 직업을 잃거나 압류를 당하게 생긴 사람들, 그리고 갑작스러운 병원비 폭탄을 맞은 이웃들처럼 힘들고 실의에 빠진 이들을 격려하고 다시 세우는 일에 쓰여졌다.

십일조와 헌금 수입 없이 교회는 어떻게 유지되었냐는 질문에 리차드슨 목사는 '흥미로운 과정이었다'고 답했다.

한번은 다른 교회 지도자들이 트레이스 웨이 교회를 찾아와 이들이 하고자 하는 나눔과 섬김에 대해 들었다면서 현재 사용하고 있지 않은 교회의 시설 일부를 렌트비는 물론 유틸리티까지 무료로 사용하라고 제안했다. 또 교회 자체적으로도 필요 없는 예산은 삭감했고, 한번에 큰 금액은 아니었지만 하나님께서 다른 교회나 성도들을 통해 필요한 만큼 여러 가지 방법으로 채워주셨다고 간증했다.

나눔의 일년 동안 거둔 열매도 많았다. 나누는 과정에서 알게 된 한 남성은 아내가 떠나고, 경제적으로 힘들고, 오래된 미니밴 엔진에 불이 붙어 길에서 서는 등 산 넘어 산과 같은 어려움을 겪고 있었고 교회는 그와 함께 신앙의 여정을 걷기 시작했다. 현재 그는 교회에서 활동적인 성도 가운데 한 명으로 다시 세워졌다.

"그는 매우 내성적인 편이었어요. 그런데 한 번은 패스트푸드 음식점 밖에 한 노숙자를 보고 지나치지 못하고 하나님의 인도하심에 따라 그에게 가서 말을 걸고 음식점으로 데리고 들어가 함께 테이블에 앉아 먹었다고 이야기 하더군요. 그는 단지 노숙자 형제에게 음식을 사준 게 아니라 그의 존엄성도 세워준 것이죠. 나눔의 과정 가운데 사람들이 얼마나 영적으로 성숙하고 자라나는지 보게 되면 정말 놀라게 됩니다."

리차드슨 목사는 지난 일년의 나눔 가운데 중요한 몇 가지를 발견했다고 한다.

"만일 당신이 관용적으로 살기 시작하면, 특별히 하나님께서 당신에게 그것을 요구하고 계시다고 느낀다면, 하나님께서 얼마나 우리에게 관용적인 분인지 보게 될 것입니다. 베푸는 것은 그냥 좋은 일을 하는 것이 아니라 오늘날 제자가 되는 것에 가장 큰 장애물을 넘어서는 해결책이 될 것입니다. 이것은 지나친 욕심에 대한 해독제와 같죠.


By Alex Murashko, Christian Post Reporter
July 13, 2012|7:59 am

Simply passing the collection plate during Sunday services in order to help meet the budget was not good enough for the leaders of a small church in Mississippi.

So two years ago, the pastor and leaders of Traceway Baptist Church in Clinton began to pray about how to better serve their community. After two months of praying and fasting, they decided they needed to take all of their congregation's tithes and offerings and give it to those in need for an entire year.

"At the end of 2009 our leadership was praying and trying to figure out how we could better represent Jesus Christ in our community," Pastor John Richardson told The Christian Post. "Essentially, our prayer was 'God, what can we do so that when people look at us they will see you?'

"The more we prayed the more we felt like God was saying, 'If you want to show me to the communities, then become generous because I am generous,'" Richardson explained. "The way that we interpreted that was that we were to give away all our tithes and offerings for an entire year."

Just 50 people, many of them transient in nature, regularly attend the six-year-old Traceway Baptist Church. Yet, from April 2010 to April 2011, the church was able to give away $60,000 to people in the community that were hurting in many ways, said Richardson, who has written a book on the story and subject of generosity called Giving Away the Collection Plate (June 2012).

"Everything that was given to our church in the offering plates was given away to abused mothers that got out of bad situations basically with the clothes on their backs, or people that were trying to break free from addiction, or people that had lost jobs or facing foreclosures, or had extreme medical bills, or anything like that," he said.

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When asked how the church was able to operate without income from tithe, Richardson said, "It was an interesting process."

Another church came to the leaders at Traceway Baptist as they were still determining how they were going to manage what they felt God had told them to do, and said they would be honored if Traceway Baptist moved into the church's other facility that is not being used. It was offered free of rent and utility fees.

"We also cut back anywhere we could in our budget," Richardson said. "We asked others outside our church community for a one-time donation to the church. It didn't come all at once, but remarkably, over the course of a year, God provided for each of those budgeted needs."

He explained that once the generosity plan of the church began, it "came full circle" and was exhibited by those who had been helped financially by the church. The church learned of a man in the community who had an incredibly tough year that included his wife leaving him, financial hardships, and "one thing after another."

After his older-model minivan broke down while he was driving, resulting in a burned engine while at the side of the road, the church "started kind of walking with him [during his spiritual journey] and eventually was able to purchase a pickup for him in really good shape," Richardson said.

Later, the man, who now was an active member of the church, came to Richardson's office and told him the story of witnessing to a homeless man outside a fast food restaurant.

"Josh felt led by God to approach the homeless person. He's kind of an introverted guy, but he got up and he talked to that guy for a minute, brought him inside, took him to a table," he said.

"He offered him not only a meal, but his dignity as well. It's just that kind of thing. We were generous because God was generous with us and others just followed suit. It was really amazing to see how people started growing in their faith because they were practicing generosity and growing in their imitation of God."

Richardson said he had several important takeaways from the church project.

"When you really start to live generously, and especially if you feel this is something that God has asked you to do, it just opens your eyes to how incredibly generous God is to us," he said. "Generosity is not just a nice thing to do. It's probably the answer to the biggest spiritual hurdle that we have today in becoming disciples. When you are generous that's an antidote to greed.

"So, generosity helps you imitate the ways of God and become more like Him. It's a huge piece of the discipleship process that I think most churches are missing out on right now."

Richardson's new book is aimed at helping churches and Christians to think more about being as generous as possible, he said. "It's about getting them to a place where they start looking at their own budgets, their own personal finances and just say, 'Am I really living like this belongs to God or am I living like this belongs to me.'"

The Mississippi pastor is also one of the ministry leaders of GenerousChurch, a group equipping leaders to "release generosity" in their churches through leadership development, campaigns, and culture change.


Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/small-church-gives-100-percent-of-tithe-to-needy-for-a-year-78154/#S4BbekxOPGu76ef5.99

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