Defining Moment: We were made for IMPACT!
About a week ago I attended the advance commitment dinner for Community’s 2-year IMPACT initiative. As we sat and shared dinner with good friends all around us and were challenged to sacrifice beyond what we had ever experienced, a realization came to my mind. It’s something Dave has been saying for the last several months, but it never really sank in until that evening.
We really are MADE FOR IMPACT.
Some good friends of mine, Doug and Mary Leddon, gave their giving testimony that night at the dinner. Doug shared how he has gone through a radical transformation in the past three years as he has continued to release more and more of the hold money has had on his life. Doug and Mary both have substantial incomes and could have the potential to be considered ‘wealthy, affluent Naperville residents’…if they wanted to. If they wanted to, they could purchase a fancy home in Naperville and drive fancy cars, but instead they have lived in their ‘starter home’ for the last 18 years. They drive very modest cars, and their children are being raised to learn the value of a dollar and its potential when used for God’s Kingdom. The whole family is involved in serving at the church. Doug and Mary lead a small group, they lead our First Impressions hospitality team on Saturday nights, they lead teams in Community 4:12 – our ministry to an under-resourced community in nearby East Aurora, and Mary has recently taken on the role of co-director of our Caring Hearts and Hands service ministry after serving the past several years as a women’s small group coach. Allie and Sarah serve as leaders in Kids’ City and for junior high StuCo. They also serve in Community 4:12 as well as assist in First Impressions on Saturday nights. 11-year-old Bobby is active in junior high StuCo and frequently helps out the family on the First Impressions team as well.
The transformation in Doug’s life over the past three years has been incredible. I have often referred to him as the ‘poster child’ for generosity at Community. You can read some of his blog posts during our 10-for-10 Worship Challenge by clicking here. But this evening was different than when I had heard Doug and Mary share their testimony before. This evening was different because they were intensely inviting us on the journey with them – a journey they were taking in a HUGE way and that we all had not yet taken.
Being in the profession I am in, campaign dinners are like candy to me. I love them, and I can’t get enough of them. I love sermons on money and generosity, and I love being challenged and asked to give. Strange I know, but it’s why I do what I do – I love it and I believe in it. Being challenged in the area of generosity has changed my life, and so it is my life’s mission to challenge others similarly and catalyze a movement of generosity in churches. But this evening Doug and Mary challenged me. They, combined with others who spoke that night, challenged me in a way I had not been challenged before.
After Doug and Mary shared, another couple who are good friends of mine shared their story later in the evening. This couple was Jeff and Pam Haines. Jeff serves on the board of Global Family Rescue with me, and Pam serves on the Leadership Commission (elder board) at Community and leads women’s small groups. They have become close friends, and I respect them very much. Jeff and Pam shared about their 18 years at Community and how God worked in their marriage, worked in their health, worked in their family’s life, and worked in their friends and neighbors’ lives over the past 18 years. I thought about what they said and thought, “I want that to be my marriage in 18 years.” I want to invest in a church who will surround us and strengthen us and challenge us so that we can live out the Jesus Mission.
So when the pledge time came and we were asked to fill out our cards, we did so with a realization that we were MADE for this. Our hearts crave to impact the world around us. That is why I serve as a generosity strategist to churches all across the country. And that is why we are choosing to invest in Community Christian Church. We are MADE FOR IMPACT.
And you know what else? Here is the cool thing. Jon Ferguson got up after the pledges had been turned in, and he asked us to take a look around us in this room and remember exactly where we are at this moment. For many of us, he says, this will be a defining moment for us in our life with Christ. For me, it certainly was.
I look across our table at Doug and Mary, a couple who I consider to be two of the most generous people I know, a couple who has supported me and inspired me endlessly as if I were their own daughter. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
I look to my left to my good friends sitting next to me, Dave and Sue Ferguson, a couple who has not only served as the leaders of this church but who have personally invested and challenged me beyond belief. The years I spent on staff under Dave’s leadership have yet to be matched by any other time in my life. I have been sharpened, challenged, encouraged, inspired, and led courageously by this couple. It is from Dave’s God-inspired asks that most of my gifts have been given. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
I look to the next table over and see Tim and Diane Bakker. Tim serves on the board of Global Family Rescue with me, and Diane serves on the worship team and in StuCo. Besides being my former boss and a good friend, Tim has challenged me significantly in my walk with Christ. There are few people in this world who can tell me I am wrong, and Tim is one of them. Diane is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in my life, and she stood by me during a tough time in my life. I will never forget the friendship she extended to me in a time of need. Tim and Diane have challenged us with their generosity, and I will always remember how they gave thousands of dollars to the church and to build a house in Uganda after Tim won $50k in a putting contest. Most families would have used that money to buy themselves something nice, but not the Bakkers. They sacrificed generously to set an example for the rest of us to follow. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
Also at the next table over are Brad and Anne Prunty. Brad serves as our Plainfield campus pastor and our regional campus pastor over the north zone. Anne serves as our IMPACT director assistant, and she has been responsible for putting together all of the events and content for the IMPACT campaign alongside its director. Brad and Anne have set the model for generosity, not just as leaders of a very generous campus, but as staff as well. They continually inspire me with how they search for opportunities to become more generous and extend their lives and hearts out to others even when they are committed to so many things. The Plainfield campus has grown to be known by its generosity, and that is largely due to Brad’s and Anne’s leadership. I am honored to call them friends. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
Also at the next table over are Steve and Thelma Kerby. Steve serves as our Aurora North campus pastor, which will be our next newest campus in just a few short months, and Thelma serves in small group ministry and multiple other capacities at the Montgomery campus – soon to be transitioning over to serve at the Aurora North campus. I’ll never forget the first trip I took the campus pastors on just after I had began as stewardship and generosity pastor at Community a few years ago. I had only been there a month, and John Ciesniewski and I took the campus pastors and a lay leader of their choice to Saddleback in California for the Exponential Generosity Conference. It was this weekend that inspired the months to follow. Steve was one of the lay leaders picked by Carter, our Montgomery campus pastor, to join us on this trip. Steve was currently serving as the Montgomery small groups director at the time, but Carter saw in him a higher capacity for leadership. Steve and Thelma have continually challenged me in my personal growth, and they have supported me through various transitions of life. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
At the table to our left are Jeff and Pam Haines, who I mentioned earlier. If my life looked like Jeff’s and Pam’s in 18 years, I would consider myself very blessed. To be surrounded by a church family who encourages and strengthens my own family to live out the mission of Jesus would be a life I would hope to get to live. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
Also at that table are my good friends Rudy and Amber Stefanski. Rudy serves on our Leadership Commission (elder board), and Amber serves in generosity and in women’s ministry. In fact, Amber has recently joined the Generis team as my assistant and is doing a fabulous job. I couldn’t ask for a better associate in ministry and a good friend. Rudy and Amber are living a life of radical generosity. Though young in their age, they are mature in their giving. They have given up family vacations, overdue kitchen remodeling, money they could have spent on themselves, and all kinds of time to invest in the Jesus Mission at Community. Not only have they been givers themselves, but they are huge champions for generosity at Community. I’ll never forget when I asked the Leadership Commission to personally underwrite our first Generosity Conference in 2008, and Rudy and Amber were one of the first to commit a significant amount of dollars to the total. They are truly modeling how Jesus calls us to live generously. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
At a table further back I see Lisa Ferguson, while Jon is up at the front sharing from the stage. Jon and Lisa have become close friends who never cease to challenge me in my faith. Jon not only served as my boss while on staff at Community, but he has become and remained a trusted friend. I see the commitment Jon and Lisa have to one another, to strong family values centered around commitment to Christ and a love for community, and I want that modeled in my own family as well. I have enjoyed getting to share time with them and are excited for the possibilities that may come in partnership with them for Community’s new campuses in the city. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
At another table further back I see John Ciesniewski. Amy was home with the boys, but she is still to be mentioned as an vital part to this duo! John and Amy Ciesniewski have modeled a life of frugality and of generosity not only as the leaders of the Shorewood campus but also as the leaders of the IMPACT campaign. John, also one of my former bosses (did I mention I had like four of them?!), has been someone who has challenged me intensely in my convictions and stretched me in my thinking. While I might have told him he was wrong most of them time instead of listening to what he had to say, it is undoubtedly true that John has had a profound impact on my life. John is brilliant, and sometimes a stubborn person like me finds that hard to deal with. J John and Amy demonstrated loving hospitality and inclusion to me when I was first starting on staff, and they are extremely generous with their time and resources as they reach out to the Shorewood and Joliet communities. What a privilege to invest alongside of them.
At tables all around the room, I see families I love and am privileged to be surrounded by such as Greg and Laura Bruno, Brian and Amy Theis, Bruce and Cheryl Jones, Brian and Judy Zehr, Michael and Carla Strominger, Dave and Shelley Egeland, Cesar and Fanny Rodriguez, TJ and Ginger Friesen, Sean and Jill Bublitz, Matt and Julie Leman, and so many more who I know I am missing right now or weren’t there, but you are all are so important to me. I love you all so much, and it is such a privilege to invest alongside of you.
As I look at my IMPACT pledge over the next two years, it scares me as well as excites me. It will be a challenge, but it will be an honor to be in this together - together with Doug and Mary, Dave and Sue, Tim and Diane, Brad and Anne, Steve and Thelma, Jeff and Pam, Rudy and Amber, Jon and Lisa, and hundreds of others. We are in this together, and it is my privilege to be MADE FOR IMPACT and investing alongside of you. J