There are times when the peculiar will cause you to pause and think.
For instance, during the first of November, the TBMB received an anonymous donation of two pennies in an envelope addressed to no one in particular, and with no specific gift designation. The envelope had no name or return address, just an Etowah postmark and inside the giver’s two cents.
It seems someone went to a lot of trouble to give only a couple of copper coins. Who would do that? More curiously, why? Someone offering their metaphorical “two cents worth” regarding something we’d done as a mission board? Was someone making a condescending reference toward the widow’s mites placed in the temple offering box (Luke 21:1-4)? Maybe they were actually contributing all they could?
Ironically, the day after the two-penny offering arrived, Dr. Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, and currently serving as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, presented to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board an extra Cooperative Program contribution above what the church had budgeted in 2020. The gift, $100,000, was given during the Virtual Summit broadcast on November 9. What a remarkable, generous, and sacrificial gift.
Extravagant as that gift is, Dr. Chesser, would be the first to tell you that there is no measuring what God can do with a sacrificial gift of two cents. After all, it has been 2000 years since an anonymous widow gave her little coins and we are still telling her story because God chose to include her in the canon of Holy Scripture.
I am convinced God is much more interested in the attitude of the heart when it comes to giving, and by God’s grace, someone with the right attitude can move mountains. I’ve seen it.
While I was pastor of First Baptist Church Morristown in the early 1990s, we were hoping to retire the remaining debt (approximately $650,000) on the worship center on one special giving Sunday. Doing so would allow us to utilize those designated capital funds for other ministry needs.
As a congregation, we prepared in advance. We prayed, fasted, promoted, and came ready to give, and we received around $621,000 from a joyful group of Christ followers on that glorious Sunday morning. Sure, we fell short of our goal, but the end of the debt was easily within sight.
The next day, a mom came by my study with her young son. He had something he wanted to give me. He had $59 in his little hand. That’s great, but the story gets better. He had been so bothered by the fact that we had prayed to eliminate the debt and came up short that he had his mom take him to the bank where he removed $59 of $60 that he’d saved up in an account.
“I’m sorry Bro. Randy,” he said. “This is all they’d let me get out. I had to leave a dollar at the bank to keep my savings account open.”
I was overwhelmed and humbled. What a physically small but hugely sacrificial heart. I experienced a little of what the Lord must feel when encountering a genuinely cheerful giver. I sent a letter the next day to our entire congregation telling our members what our little friend had done in going the extra mile to see the elimination of our worship center debt.
The following Sunday we were all so inspired by his $59 gift that we collectively gave an additional $30,000-plus to retire the building debt. Over the next several years that church raised over $4 million to build needed buildings, doubled its ministry budget, and tripled giving through other mission support channels like the Cooperative Program.
There were some standing in the temple yard who probably looked on the old woman and said, “She only gave two mites.” And against $650,000 someone might say, “Well it was only $59.” But, when God is in it, little becomes much.
So, two cents were anonymously sent to the TBMB and deposited for use toward Great Commission work. I believe it will be a joy one day getting to heaven and learning who in Etowah gave those two pennies. But I think it’ll be a lot more fun to see how far God stretched those two pennies to accomplish His work here in Tennessee and beyond.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey.