Greetings in the name of our Lord.
As we reflect upon the words in the book of Acts 20:35 (NIV), "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" It becomes clear that giving is not just an act, but a means of grace. As a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, I am continually reminded of the rich traditions and practices that embody this principle within our denomination.
One such tradition, which beautifully encapsulates the spirit of giving as a means of grace, is the Alabaster Offering. This weekend, on Sunday, October 1, 2023, we at Southeast Church will be participating in this tradition, a practice that, I must admit, was unfamiliar to me before I stepped into the pastoral ministry in this denomination. Yet, once I began to grasp its significance, I was eager to share its profound impact with our community.
In this blog post, I endeavor to delve deeper into the essence of the Alabaster Offering, explore its significance, and illuminate how it exemplifies the concept of connectionalism (is the belief in the essential interconnectedness of believers within the body of Christ, where each individual's spiritual growth and salvation is not isolated but intrinsically linked with the communal pursuit of holiness. It emphasizes the idea that our faith is not merely a personal journey, but one deeply woven into the fabric of a broader Christian community, fostering mutual support, accountability, and shared mission) within the Church of the Nazarene. Join me as we journey together through the understanding of this sacred tradition, reminding ourselves of the joy and blessing in giving, and the grace we receive in the process.
The Biblical Origins and Global Impact of the Alabaster Offering
The Alabaster Offering, at its core, is an international building fund that provides financial support for construction projects around the world. Its origins lie in the biblical narrative of a woman who, in an act of extravagant love and devotion, poured expensive perfume on Jesus from an alabaster box.
The biblical references to the alabaster box can be found thrice in the New Testament. Matthew 26:7 (NIV) describes, “a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” Similarly, Mark 14:3 (NIV) recounts, “While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” In Luke 7:37 (NIV), we read, “”
Inspired by these biblical accounts, Elizabeth Vennum, an ordained Nazarene elder, conceived the idea of the Alabaster Offering. This offering, akin to the act of the woman with the alabaster box, is a symbol of our own sacrificial giving to the work of the Lord. It extends beyond the confines of our local congregations and reaches out to the global Nazarene family, funding the construction of churches, parsonages, regional and field missions facilities, and homes for missionaries.
The Transformative Power of the Alabaster Offering
One's participation in the Alabaster Offering extends beyond material giving. It becomes an act of grace, a reflection of God's love, and a testament to our faith. "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver," 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV). This scripture captures the essence of the Alabaster Offering - a cheerful, intentional, and grace-filled act of giving that resonates with the core values of the Church of the Nazarene.
The Alabaster Offering is a tangible manifestation of the Nazarene Church's connectionalism. This principle underscores the interdependence of local churches, districts, general assemblies, and each believer in the body of Christ. As Paul wrote, "so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another," Romans 12:5 (NIV). The Alabaster Offering exemplifies this interconnectedness and global reach of our church, fostering collective efforts to advance God's kingdom at both local and international levels.
As Christian People... Holiness People... Missional People we are a part of the catholic church (lower case "c", meaning global church). We are disciples and missional believers, committed to fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Our faith journey, therefore, is not solely about personal salvation, but also about social holiness—a beautiful confluence of individual and collective spiritual growth.
The Alabaster Offering, a humble contribution from our income, plays a significant role in building the global church and ushering in the Kingdom of God. This often-understated offering has generated over $100 million since 1949, facilitating land purchases and construction projects worldwide. Moreover, it serves as a means of grace, creating spaces for the Holy Spirit to move and transform lives.
Beyond funding construction, the Alabaster Offering supports other initiatives such as renting meeting spaces or repurposing existing structures on Bible college campuses. This flexibility allows us to be strategic and innovative in our mission field approach, catering to the specific needs of each region.
In essence, supporting the Alabaster Offering is an act of love, an embodiment of our faith, and a testament to our commitment to communal transformation. As we continue to give cheerfully, we are not only helping build physical structures but also fostering spiritual growth and unity in the body of Christ.
The Alabaster Offering is more than just a means of funding construction projects; it is a means of grace and a testament to the connectionalism of the Church of the Nazarene. This Sunday, as you prepare to give to this offering, let us remember the significance of our collective efforts and the global impact we can make together. Whether you are a member of Southeast Church or a Nazarene from a different part of the world, I encourage you to prayerfully consider supporting this offering and participating in God's work on a global scale.