Who and Why 2010
Yesterday I did one of the most fun things I get to do all year – write out my end of year giving checks. J Go ahead – call me a dork, lump me in with all of those crazies who get a rush out of paying bills or cleaning toilets, and I’ll be just fine with that. Because for me, giving is one of the most exciting things I get to do throughout the year, and reading over everyone’s end of year appeal letters and reviewing in my mind an organization’s best moments of 2010 and moments yet to come in 2011 is just about one of the neatest things we get to do as givers.
And for me, it’s a bit more about giving FROM rather than giving TO. Allow me to explain. Giving TO is powerful. It makes things happen on the other side of the gift. There is some type of an ROI that you see when you do it, whether it’s tangible or intangible. It’s cause-driven giving, and it’s wonderful when your heart is so vulnerable and open that it allows itself to sacrifice and make an impact where there is a compelling cause and vision to give TOWARDS. This kind of giving is awesome, and it is where we start.
Over the last couple of years, however, a dimension has been added to my giving, and that is the dimension of giving FROM. Sometimes we have a tendency to get prideful about the amount we are giving TO places, and we take our generosity litmus test from the amount we ARE giving rather than the amount we AREN’T giving. So the question then becomes, What AREN’T you giving, and why?
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have any children yet nor do I have a spouse who dips out of the same money pot as I do, so my spending/saving/giving picture might look quite different from some of my readers. Which is precisely why I can’t ever think I have “arrived” in my generosity just because of some percentage or level of giving I think I might have attained compared to the average generous Christ Follower. That is absurd, arrogant, and fill in another “a” word here to complete the alliteration. Many of you have college tuition payments for your children, multiple mortgages for you and for your aging parents, medical bills for an unavoidable illness, and the list goes on. For all of us, however, regardless of our situation, giving FROM requires us to take a look at the condition of the heart from which we give and determine why it is that we’re not giving the rest of that amount we see there and what instead it is going towards – the things we do have a decision about. And I don’t care who you are, there are things in your budget that aren’t fixed – that you DO have a decision about. (In fact, I would argue in many cases that none of your budget is fixed when you really get down to it, and that the decision is yours about every line item in there. Read Who Gets Paid First.)
For me, my spending picture changed a bit this fall when I purchased a home last month. I could write more here than you’d ever care to know about my emotions in deciding on whether to do so as well as my emotions even now as I seek to keep my heart in check when taking a honest view at my spending/saving/giving picture. No worries – I did all the smart things and got a great deal, put a lot down, have a low payment, yada, yada. But now the temptation arises of x,xxx square feet needing to be furnished, needing to be decorated, needing to be filled with all the bells and whistles that my personality of hospitality demands, and I look over this sentence and my excessive use of the word “needing” and see that even there my view is becoming a little skewed already.
So I am in a constant state now of keeping myself in check, in a much more intentional way that I ever had to do before. And this is probably elementary to those of you who made this home purchase decision 20 years ago and since have added four little precious children you now have to provide for, sacrifice for, and make tough spending decisions about. I know bigger decisions are coming for me, but I’m just sharing with you where I’m at right now. And if I let it get out of control right now, then I won’t ever get it back.
So now that I’ve shared my giving FROM, I also do want to share my giving TO because they are birthed out of a heart of desiring to give FROM. Now the paragraphs that follow must be prefaced with this: I share this not to pound trumpets about how many different organizations I give to – I could be giving them all each $1 for all you know! So just pretend that I am, and that’ll make you feel better about me sharing such intimate information about my generosity in hopes of inspiring my readers in the final 8 days of 2010. THAT is my purpose in writing.
I must begin in the place a Christ Follower should always begin, and that is with my local church. Community Christian Church is one of the best places on the planet, and I could write a novel here about why I give to Community. But I’ll just say this: I fully believe that God’s plan for the local church is that it would be a catalyst for ministry to happen all over the place – for other organizations to be formed from it, other non-profits to be incubated as a result of it, and for individuals to be impacted within it to go out and evangelize their worlds. So I ask my readers, many of which I presume have a local church they love and are involved in, is your local church a catalyst for these things? List them out right now in your specific church context. Put that on a piece of paper, and send that in with your 2010 gift to your church. I’m not talking about your tithe or your ‘regular giving’ for December. Send in an extra end-of-year gift, and tell your pastor exactly why you are investing in this way. Tell him about the condition of your heart, tell him about why you believe in the ministry of the church. Tell him about why you believe in him. And do it today. To those of my readers from Community, I appeal to you to send in an extra gift to Community through the mail today or tonight/this weekend when you attend services. We need it now more than ever, and our church is living out the great vision from Acts 2:42 that epitomizes what a catalyst church looks like.
I move next to my undergraduate alma mater, Wheaton College. Any of you who know Wheaton College might ask why I would give to a place with a $350 million endowment, an annual budget that far exceeds most of our church’s annual budgets, and a constituency with several thousand other households that could bear the load of the giving instead of me. But I see it differently. Wheaton is not only a place that absolutely shaped who I have become personally and professionally, but Wheaton is also a place that is unwaiveringly committed to the mission of Christ through filling up and sending out young people into this world. More organizations, churches, non-profits, you name it, have been started by Wheaton grads than any other Christian liberal arts college in the US. And to not elevate the entrepreneurials, tens of thousands of others are serving in domestic and international capacities in all types of industries and ministries, living out their lives by the Great Commission and actively seeking for others to join them. I also give to Wheaton because they have asked. Wheaton is in its fifth and final year of its Promise of Wheaton campaign, a $260 million campaign that surpasses any other endeavor Wheaton has taken on in its 150-year history. I respect an organization who can put its priorities together in a compelling fashion, who can rally the hearts of its givers, and who can cast vision for specific ways it desires to move beyond its current pace in such a way that moves you to want to make it happen now. I’m excited to give to Wheaton, and for me it represents not only a gratitude for the education I have received as an undergraduate, for the professional expertise I gained while serving on their development staff, but it also represents a desire I have to want to see this legacy continue and even accelerate as a result of the advancement of this institution as led by its amazing and talented leaders.
Ok, I see what’s happening here… I’m going to have to write a whole lot less about each organization or else you’ll never read to the end (that is, if I’ve still got you with me!). So let me be a little more brief with the remaining ones, and feel free to ask me to expand on anything if you’d like more words:
Martin Luther Square, a church planting / community center initiative of the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod on Chicago’s south side (has no weblink yet because we’re still in the private phase!). Originating as one of the campaigns I am working on, this particular initiative has moved me to tears on multiple occasions, and I stand in awe at how this LCMS leaders are bringing together politicians, educators, pastors, and other community leaders for an amazing spiritual and economical revitalization of this are of Chicago.
Greater Chicago Food Depository – Back when I was a junior high youth group leader at Wheaton Bible Church in 2002-2004, we took about 200 junior highers on a mission trip to the inner city of Chicago, and we split them up into 6 groups to work in places all over the city throughout the week. I ended up leading the team at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. To make a long story short, this organization did a great job of following up with its volunteers and engaging us in continuing to be involved as well as prompting us to give. I excitedly give to this great organization this Christmas as I thank God for all he is doing in uniting people together to provide millions of pounds of food for the hungry all across the city of Chicago.
[The glorious privilege and danger I have as a fundraising consultant is that I become moved by many of the campaigns I work with. I cannot list them all here who I am giving to this Christmas, but I’ll just say this: Pastors, don’t ever think that your only target constituency is your current attenders. Others from the ‘outside’ who work with your church in some capacity are sometimes more affected and inspired than you might ever imagine. Ask boldly, and ask confidently. You might just surprise yourself at how your giving audience will grow beyond your pews/seats.]
Bill and Rachel Carroll, church planters in Paris, France – Besides the fact that these two are going to start one of the most amazing churches on the planet, my investment in them goes beyond what they seek to accomplish and dives into the heart of the people they are. Bill helped to unlock my inner creativity for worship through my love of playing the piano when he discipled me onto the worship team at Community about three years ago. It was Christmas of 2007 when Bill asked if I would play keys on a TSO song, which has now become one of my favorite things to play at Christmastime, and then continually invited me onto the team week after week. I now serve on a consistent basis with our current worship team, and it is one of the things I enjoy most about being a part of Community. The point I make in sharing that is that Bill and Rachel know how to develop people and grow them into who God is calling them to be, whether they are Christ Followers yet or not, and they do so in such a selfless way that has no personal gain but rather displays a true love for the person reaching their fullest God-given potential. They are two of the most creative people I have ever met in my life, and I pray God’s best for them as they plant a new church in France.
Now as I list all these things, I give not because they need it (because remember, I’m just giving them all $1 for all you know ) but because what it says in my heart when I give it. Think about that as you give your 2010 end of year gifts. Write out as I have done here why you give to certain places and what it does to you when you do so. Write out about what you are giving up in order to give to these places. That is your giving FROM story. Tell it to your kids, talk about it with your spouse. The impact that comes from sharing openly about things like this is greater than we might imagine. So be intentional about your end of year giving. Let’s make 2011 one of the biggest ministry years we’ve seen for the Kingdom yet, and let’s keep carving out pockets for generosity in our own hearts that replace those currently inhabited by other things. Reclaim your heart, and give from it.