by Dr. Charles E. Kinder, President Emeritus
There is something most everyone has power to achieve, but too often it never happens. The good that could have been done is not accomplished. The desires of the procrastinator are not fulfilled. It’s about your will. Will your will be done, or not?
I share two stories with very different endings. The first took place during my tenure with The United Methodist Foundation for Evangelism.
I was trying to persuade a multi-millionaire bachelor in Texas to make a major donation to help strengthen the evangelism ministry of our denomination. After a few years of listening to my appeals, one day he telephoned me. He said he had decided to leave on third of his estate to the Foundation for Evangelism, one third to his local church and the same to a home for children in Texas. That amounted to approximately $33 million for each organization.
Now, the rest of the story. He died before he spoke with his attorney. Because he had no will, his estranged sister, who was also wealthy, got an estate of approximately one hundred million dollars. This happened because this Christian gentleman had no will. He put it off too long.
You may think that was unfortunate. Yes it was. But it would be just as unfortunate for people like us not to have a will and have the fate of our estate determined by the state.
Here is a different story. A woman from Florida was a member of a Board of Trustees for a United Methodist college. A lawyer made a presentation to the board about the importance of wills. After the meeting she said to him, “After my upcoming trip to London I want you to do my will”. He replied, “Ma’am, when it comes to wills there is no tomorrow”. She agreed to do it immediately.
She died on the flight to England and our United Methodist college received ten million dollars. If she had waited, her will would not have been done. The state of Florida would have decided how to distribute her estate.
That second story had a wonderful ending. But it would be just as wonderful if you and I have our will prepared in time and remember the Church. Jesus made it clear that smaller gifts may be greater contributions.
Everyone who has anything has an estate. If it is ten thousand dollars, or ten million, it’s an estate.
I am sure most lower and middle income people think they don’t need a will, if they think about it at all. If we do not have a will, it will likely make it difficult for our survivors. If we don’t have a will, the state will distribute our funds according to legal procedures and it could take a long time — maybe years. It would be wise to deal with this now. No matter how little we have, we surely want to make the decisions regarding the distribution of our funds.
Through the years, I have tried to teach the people I served to continue their Christian stewardship in their wills. If they had heirs, I suggested that they tithe their estate. If they had none, I recommended that the seriously and prayerfully look at how they could further the cause of Christ with what funds remain at the end of life here on earth.
Think about it. Pray about it. Talk about it. Do something about it NOW! Where there’s a will there’s a way – a way to make your own decision about the distribution of your estate – a way to support Christian projects beyond your lifetime.
Charles Kinder was the first full-time employee of The Foundation for Evangelism (FFE). Under his leadership (1977-1989), Foundation assets grew from less than $200,000 to nearly $1 million. As a result, FFE was able to initiate the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, FORWARD Magazine and the first E. Stanley Jones Professorship at Boston University School of Theology. There are now 13 ESJ Professors serving seminaries in the U.S., Zimbabwe, Russia and Germany. Dr. Kinder is now President Emeritus of The Foundation for Evangelism.