Breaking Bob: The $50,000 Bake Sale
During my family vacation in California this summer, I received a text from my associate pastor informing me Bob, an outstanding long-time member of our church, wanted to have a bake sale the first day of school. Admittedly, I was reluctant, and, after some thought, I concurred with my team that we should look for a better day. This was not due to any philosophical issues with a bake sale. After all, who in their right mind is really going to object to the promotion and proliferation of pastries? It was simply a logistical difference.
However, Bob was passionate and plans had already been set in motion.
The reason for Bob’s passion had to do with a special season of fundraising at my church in Puyallup, Washington. A gracious donor agreed to raise $500,000 toward our performing arts center/sanctuary and match what was raised by December 15 to go toward our mortgage debt with the conference. Understand, we've met in a gymnasium for almost nine years, due to placing Christian education needs first. We have longed to end the era of setting up/tearing down in the gym.
Bob has been one of the prime movers urging us to reach this goal. As plans came together for the bake sale he declared he would match whatever came in from the baked goods. This is where things get interesting.
Bob informed me a couple weeks prior to the sale he had two other donors willing to match whatever he had to give. This meant if someone bought a plate full of cookies for $20, it would become $80 toward our goal. Then that gift would be matched by our original donor, so the total would actually be $160 — half for debt and half for our project.
After hearing this I got excited and dubbed the upcoming fundraiser “The Breaking Bob Bake Sale.” The name caught on and others began to get excited, inspired by the generosity of Bob and the other donors, as well as his enthusiasm. People talked, people baked, people planned, and when the day of the sale arrived people gave … a lot.
When all the donations were counted and matched three times over, we had raised $26,000. That isn’t a typo. Not $260. Not $2,600. Twenty-six thousand dollars. American. Seriously.
It gets even better. When factoring in the match of our benefactor who is contributing towards our conference debt, the bake sale netted $52,000. I don’t know if there is an Adventist record for bake sales, but I will go ahead and optimistically claim it right now.
I remember Bob giving me the privilege of announcing the totals at church and watching eyes widening, jaws dropping and applause erupting praising God for His goodness, appreciating the volunteers for their time in organizing the event and appreciating those givers who helped multiply our efforts (thank you Bob, Dawn and Brittany!).
As I have thought about how we nearly missed a $50,000 blessing, I was reminded of something Paul wrote to the Ephesians.
Paul reminds the church God gave the church "apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:11–14). Part of a pastor's job includes getting out of the way sometimes to let members do ministry. This doesn’t mean the role of a minister is totally hands-free or lackadaisical but to resource more than restrict. Had we moved to another day who knows what would have happened?
Paul continues by saying that when the gifts in the church operate together it “makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15–16). Watching church members and community members buy plates of cookies for hundreds (in one case, thousands) of dollars due to a desire to build up the church (and maybe to give Bob a hard time, just a little) was exciting. It testifies to what our church bodies can do when we work together and give generously. And, if you felt the impulse to add something to our Puyallup effort, how could I refuse your conviction? Perhaps your local church, though, needs your partnership in a new and special way. May the Spirit lead us all to share our gifts and talents generously and to encourage each other’s visions for ministry as we seek to grow the kingdom for God’s glory.