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On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

Whatever happened to Self Denial? This thought struck me while I was in the middle of my morning run the other day. “Whatever happened to Self Denial?” That’s the giving of soldiers and members of our churches beyond their tithe which supports the Army’s international effort in Third World countries.

For some reason or other, I’ve got the feeling that the Self Denial part of our World Service effort is declining significantly. It seems to have disappeared from our view like a falling plane disappears from a radar scope. When that happens, it can only mean one thing: somebody’s in serious trouble. Could that be happening to us? Are we in serious trouble? Could it be true? The totals of World Service and Self Denial appeals still seem to be rising. Nevertheless, I still had this nagging feeling about Self Denial. That part of the total was lower–not higher. Less–not more.

During one part of the run–an uphill part–I started drawing conclusions and expressing answers to my question. I changed these answers to hypotheses as soon as I got to the top of the hill.

One answer was: We just don’t care anymore. Once we cared. But now it’s different. By the time my run leveled off a little I discarded this explanation. I just didn’t believe it. Then I thought: “Well–if it’s a viable hypothesis–maybe we should test it out.”

Continuing my run and looking for others to blame, I immediately concluded a second answer to be: The officer just isn’t emphasizing our self denial effort sufficiently. I let this one rattle around awhile. I thought back to the days of Russ Clarke–our divisional commander when I was a kid. He had a sense of passion for the mission field which was unmatched, and he made things happen in the corps in relation to programs that guaranteed the soldiers would catch that passion and water it with their tears and their cash. Even after he retired he moved around tirelessly with a film he and I put together about the Army’s work in countries with high poverty. Believe me–we gave to Self Denial in those days. Clark never saw himself as only a fund raiser. He had his giant PASSION. We had more money than we needed, and others in this world needed some of it. He only thought of the people who needed help. They were hungry and needed food–they were homeless and needed shelter–they were naked and needed to be clothed ­they were sick and needed medical treatment–they were illiterate and needed education–they were without God and needed Christ.

Another hypothesis leaped up and bit me. It’s probable that those of us who attend our churches don’t feel our meager Self Denial efforts are needed to support our work in poverty countries. After all–the totals keep going up whether we give or not–and I don’t know about you, but I’ve got plenty of places to put what’s left of my income after taxes and expenses–so I’m happy that the money’s available from some other pocket–God bless ’em. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.

I decided to check this one out. I looked at the divisional and territorial totals over the years published in New Frontier and discovered that the special gifts from the territorial level have increased. I also discovered that our corps had been using some reserve funds over the years to make up our target. I suspected this was true of other corps and even of the divisions.

What I’ve missed was Russ Clarke’s PASSION. It’s not just about the money. It’s about caring. It’s about loving others. We inhibit our spiritual growth when we don’t give with passion of all aspects of ourselves to others. The only way to grow as a church and to grow spiritually is to give in a loving manner. I personally rediscovered this courtesy of Brad and Heidi Bailey when our band went to Chile last year. Maybe that’s why my thoughts turned to Self Denial in the middle of a morning run.

I think we need to do something about passionless giving–and I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep looking for Self Denial until I find it.

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