“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com.
John was never a big favorite of mine. Camel hair, locusts, bad breath, ranting. It was just not my cup of tea. All very back woods and not very chancel choir. It’s a sad story too. Boys meet in womb…one leaps, one glows. Then they meet again in ministry fighting for the deference “…you are first, no YOU are first…no I insist that you are first.” I mean it feels ripped from The Importance of Being Ernest or something. And then of course there is the end…Jesus lets him die. And not just a quiet death like Lazarus (who, I am quick to remind, was resurrected!) but beheading – after erotic dancing no less. I mean really. Hardly stuff for churches with ladies in hats.
Of course, part of my frustration is that I was born on August 29th – The Feast of The Beheading of John The Baptist. So my birthday always has a sad tinge to it. Like mold on cake. One eats it but notices the green bit. I was destined for beheading which is, I suppose why I became church fundraiser.
But I think that my distain for John The Baptist was more about age than anything else. I was simply not old enough to appreciate him. Some things improve as one ages. Rainy days, for example are nice times for a nap. With age, I began to see more clearly how important the role of Prophet is. The old testament ones are easy to dismiss. But John, standing right there with Jesus in the water, well, that is hard to ignore.
True. We kill our prophets, even today. We elect accountants but we kill prophets. And why not!? There should always be a scapegoat in the wings onto whom to deflect shame. But not so with John. Jesus used John to catapult His mission – an event so shocking that, along with the Epiphany, the raising of Lazarus, and the Transfiguration, Jesus was assured of being famous when God did the “presto-chango” of shame into the Glory.
Raising money in churches, especially as the prospects diminish with the generational shifts, will more and more feel like the hard work of a prophet. Saying things people do not like hearing, asking for things people do not want to give, ranting about what’s important and what is not. These are the kinds of things that killed our prophets and still do. So if you are going to raise money in our church, or any church, you had better brush up on the majestic mission of being a prophet.
Go here for a meditation on the accompanying icon of John the Baptist (from Mt Athos, written for the author in 2000)