Don’t give me none of that bad economy talk!
The economy is bad. That’s the obvious. Now quit saying it and thus claiming it as true. Rise above it. Defeat it. Generously give your way out of this bad economy and pour into a certain investment.
This past weekend, Community did just that. Across all of Community’s nine locations, over $410,000 was given away to four teams Community’s attenders are actively involved in – the Village Team, the Neighborhood Team, the Barangay Team, and the Reproducing Church Team. Click on each one of these links to read more about the teams. This is the second year Community has done this ‘Celebration Generosity’ initiative, and last year the offering was $252,000. To give you a little context, Community’s typical weekly offering is around $90,000, so this type of exponential increase both years is truly remarkable!
So what does it tell us when a church can pull this off in this type of economy? Well, it tells us a couple of things:
1. The bad economy is only in our heads.
The economy may be bad, but it is only as bad as we want to make it when it comes to our churches. Generosity is a different issue, and we fail when we as the Church allow the economy to take the responsibility and opportunity off of us as church leaders to promote generosity within our congregations. Shame on us if we are taking advantage of that excuse to lose hope for cultivating generosity.
2. People are generous to causes they care about, regardless of their personal financial situation.
In this economy, your vision better be compelling and your message better be clear. If you’re a church, you have a spiritual responsibility to the people in your church to cast a compelling vision for generosity. Not because you need to meet the church budget, but because they need to experience the life-changing transformation that happens in someone’s heart when they exercise generosity. It literally makes them more like Christ and brings them closer to God. You’re robbing them of that opportunity, church leaders, when you start shrinking your vision in a down economy. When people are cast a compelling vision, they reallocate other areas of their life to make it work. They just do. Right now, one of your church attenders is being cast a compelling vision to go out to eat at an expensive restaurant downtown. Too bad you didn’t get to them first.
3. You have not because you ask not.
If you’re not asking, then someone else is. It might be an alma mater, it might be the local symphony, it might be the United Way. Someone is asking, and those guys are getting the gifts. It’s not about competition, not at all! We want people to give where their hearts are. But giving to the local church and exercising generosity as our worship to God is a glorious spiritual issue. It’s not about what we as the Church get from our people. It’s about what we want for our people. If I have a brand new visitor, I’m going to ASK him or her to join a small group because I want that for them. Ask your new people to join you on the journey of generosity, and explain to them what that means. No more of this, “If you’re a first-time visitor, please let that bag pass.” No more! What are we saying when we tell people that? Not just what are we saying to our first-time visitors, but what are we saying to our regular attenders and regular givers?… I smell some obligation in the room, not celebratory ‘I get to!’ giving.
4. We as the Church must set the example for generosity.
I’m in Uganda right now. Never been here before. I’m here with the board of Global Family Rescue, the organization of our Village Team. I’ve only been here for a day, and already I am blown away by little of a life I have led thus far. I have seen nothing. Being the hands and feet of Christ? I have not truly exercised that in the slightest, not a chance. As we drove through the streets of Entebbe and Kampala this morning, my eyes and my heart suddenly opened wider than I ever knew they had capacity for - in love of these people here. I don’t even know many of them yet and haven’t been to the actual villages where we’ll be serving yet, but I can’t explain to you the heart expansion that takes place even from driving through the streets and speaking with a few people. Generosity is the ability to totally throw ourselves into the arms of God’s love and give where He leads. That means our time, it means our finances, it means our relationships. It means our whole selves. I’m rethinking a lot of areas where I thought I was generous. I had no idea the rest of this world was out here.
Explore something you have not yet explored, something radical. Go to a third world country. Church leaders, if there are people in your church who have not yet experienced such large parts of our world, do whatever you can to make that experience possible for them. It will radically change their definition of generosity, and it will radically change the mission of your church.
Live generously. No matter what the conditions. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are. :)