Are we a generous church?
Well, it depends…
…when it comes to time and energy given to serving on teams then, yes, I think we are a generous and committed community. The vast majority of Redeemer is involved in serving in some way and this is beautiful expression of family.
However, when it comes to money the numbers do not lie. Regarding regular, financial giving the cold, hard, honest truth is that we are not a generous church.
Obviously, this is not good.
Last Sunday I preached on generosity (listen here if you missed it) and shared these two sobering statistics:
90% of our leaders give regularly. That sounds strong but in reality that means that 10% of those leading do not regularly give. Regular financial giving to your local church community should be a given for all disciples of Jesus. For leaders, it is without question.
34% of the whole Redeemer community give regularly. 34%. I’ll just leave that there.
These figures show the number of people that give regularly. But they don’t reveal whether the nature of our giving is in any way generous or sacrificial. That is obviously a more personal thing to discern. Only we truly know our own hearts and how generous we really are. I and other Senior Leaders include ourselves in that. We are together in this.
What it means to be Generous
It’s difficult to face the facts because of what they tell us – that we are not a very generous church. We are not a very generous people. And it’s difficult to argue this any other way. If you are like me and you believe in the church, then that truth stings. So it should. It stings because I believe we want to be a generous church. Each Sunday we talk about our desire to be a generous people and this desire comes — not from a sense of duty — but as a response to the lavish, rampant generosity of God towards us.
The Apostle Paul outlines to the church in Corinth the simple dynamic of a heart responding to God’s grace:
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 8:1)
The grace of our God is truly astounding. Extraordinary. We walk in it every day. Nothing we have in this life is earned. It’s all because of sheer grace. And when we truly allow the reality of this love and grace to sink into us we surely cannot help but respond by giving our whole lives to this God and His Kingdom. We do not respond reluctantly or out of compulsion but from a well of devotion that should spring up within our souls. We become cheerfully undone.
Generosity is simply ‘love in action’. Love for the God who first loved us. Love for the God who sustains the cosmos… and our bank balances. Love for the God who gave himself for us in Christ. Love for His Kingdom as a vision of the world we are completely sold to. Love, demonstrated in concrete action. Love in response to “every generous act and every perfect gift [that comes] from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
When the love of God truly breaks into our lives any tethering to the kingdom of this world is severed for good.
Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matt 6)
Jesus own words — spoken in his Sermon on the Mount — cut straight to the issue. His words are clear. You cannot serve both God and money. Where you store up treasure is where you will find your heart. What you behold, you become. Where you invest, you tether your heart. The journey of becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus is one of yielding everything including our money. The reason that giving back to God first and giving to his work in the world is a principal of His Kingdom isbecause where we give our money determines the formation and location of our hearts. This is clear, significant and weighty stuff from Jesus.
If responding to God’s grace is lacking and if devotion to Christ and His Kingdom is not evident in our lives then we have a disconnect. Grace is simply astounding… but grace is not permission to remain spiritually immature. The Spirit of God — when allowed to have His way — will begin to convict, challenge and draw us to change our ways. Surely we need to take on the posture of King David in Psalm 139:
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Whats the big deal about money?
The big idea about money in scripture is that there can be no significant spiritual growth until our money and our attitude toward money are placed into God’s hands.
Why? Well, I think it’s because money is simply too big a force. It can be incredibly powerful for good and ill. Handled well, it is very useful. But it certainly cannot go unchecked. It needs addressing. Remember, the scriptures teach us that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil.
10 "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
— 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV)
With the help of the Holy Spirit, the job of those in spiritual leadership — like myself and Redeemer’s Senior Leadership Team — is to call a community to faithfulness and to becoming more like Jesus. Like I preached on Sunday, spiritual leaders are like personal trainers that coach a human body into shape. They draw attention to weak muscles or imbalanced physique so that a body can produce health, strength and power. The church is a body. Redeemer is a body. And we have a few weak muscles that are severely impacting our walk and need attention. Like a personal trainer, spiritual leaders and pastors cannot ultimately do the workout on behalf of others. They can only call things as they see them and call attention to the areas that need to change.
When our relationship with money is yielded over to God the church becomes mature, healthy, vibrant, strong and spiritually powerful. Our lives become venues for the generosity of God to show up in the world. We are ready to minster to a world caught in the impoverish lie of materialism and consumerism.
“Advertising has taught us that if we see beauty we should buy it. Philosophy says that if we see beauty we should reevaluate our lives and find ways to repair the world.”
— Elaine Scarry
Not Generous? Why is this?
So why are things the way they are?
Here are some thoughts:
Cultural/generational reasons: global cultural trends suggest that people today are more individualistic and less likely to be committed, give money or pay for things than previous generations. As a young church perhaps this spirit has taken root in our community.
Distrust in churches/leaders: This can be understandable as people wrestle with past experiences of greed, poor stewardship or worse in trusted leaders. Leaders must build trust for sure and we need to work to uproot the poison that distrust from previous experiences can have.
A failure on the part of the Senior Leadership Team: as the spiritual leaders/gatekeepers in the community we are tasked with calling people’s attention to maturity and discipleship particularly when it comes to the relationship with money/time/commitment. We are reflecting on ways we can do this better.
A misunderstanding of our ‘no tithing’ teaching: in teaching ‘no tithing’ have we missed teaching the principal of Kingdom Generosity that supersedes tithing.
Deeper spiritual concerns: No traction with our leadership/general spiritual apathy/lukewarmness/disobedience. Sobering.
Good things to celebrate
There is one more reason to add to the mix. In these days there are a small number of us who are pressing in on the more of God. We are not content and we want more. More of his presence. More of his Kingdom power breaking in. More salvations. More healing. More prisoners set free. More strongholds broken. More relationships restored. More grace abounding. More love winning. More.
And when that happens the enemy pushes back.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. —Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
In these days we have:
Opened a Prayer Room in 101 with the desire to become a house of prayer and a people of His presence. The prayer room was filled constantly during Holy Week with people seeking God and praying for our church, for Ireland and for our world.
We have experienced increase in the presence of God in our Pre-Gathering Prayer Times on Sundays. Join us from 10-11am in the Prayer Room.
We have restarted our monthly worship and prayer nights with a desire to make space to encounter the presence of God and welcome the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
We have employed new staff in faith that our community would be served better, most particularly our families and kids.
We have restarted Family Matinee as a primary vehicle we believe God has given us to serve families in our city, particularly refugees and asylum seekers.
We have positioned our Farmbox ministry to grow in scale by partnering with our friends at Origin Community Farm, purchasing a poly-tunnel and growing our own fresh fruit and vegetables. There are more families that need help with fresh food and our hope is that we can steward well and see God increase our capacity to help these families.
We have seen our location-based Tables established this year to help us practice the way of Jesus together in community.
We have seen a couple of our interest-based Tables begin to explore their particular mission — New Belfast have launched an event called ‘Lesser Heard’ that facilities conversation around difficult topics like mental health and sectarianism. Our Creative Table helped with our ‘Stations of the Cross’ art installation during Holy Week and have some plans for an exhibition later in the year that explores the themes of difference and diversity.
We continue to build key relationships with leaders, churches and peacemakers in our City including our on-going relationship with the family of churches in the Tobar Network.
The countless other ways our community practices the way of Jesus every week - prayers prayed, blessings spoken, encouragements spoken, sermons preached, meals shared, sick ministered to, people counselled and Jesus worshipped.
God is at work. Jesus is desiring to take his place as King. The Spirit is moving. We need to position ourselves for what he wants of us. As Senior Leaders we remain completely sold on the beautiful vision of the Kingdom of God and the project that he has give us as Redeemer Central to play our part in Belfast and be a place of welcome, presence, and healing to a broken city.
Things need to change with our finances. Currently we are spending more money that we have coming in. If nothing changes we will have some difficult decisions to make in the coming months. But the reality is that we have much room for growth and that is a good thing. We can take back ground that has been stolen. We can step into God’s promises and hopes and we can shatter the lies and the bottlenecks that limit our generosity.
As Senior Leaders we are committing to 6 weeks of prayer and fasting. We cannot do this alone and so we ask that you join us:
We are praying our monthly giving increases.
We are praying more people make commit to regular monthly giving
That the 34% doubles to become 68% or more.
We are fasting every Monday. Please join us.
We are opening the Prayer Room at 101 on a regular on-going basis (Tue, Wed, Thur 10am-4pm, Sun 9-10am). Book in here.
As Senior Leaders we have take the decision to change our collective approach by committing to give 10% of the whole Redeemer yearly budget directly to a Justice Fund. This will fund all our ‘garden’ projects that serve our city like Farmbox and Family Matinee. Previously these had been largely funded by grants and we feel that we need to own these as a community with the expectation that God might do incredible things when we give it over to Him.
We are holding a Gift Day for Farmbox this Sunday (12 May 2019) to give to the ministry of Farmbox. Last time we did this we raised £3000. Please come prepared to give cash and pledge IOUs as we share the vision of Farmbox and the stories of people God has entrusted us to help.
We are also committing to give 10% of the Justice Fund directly to outside work that we want to support — no strings attached. We have began to take steps to give monthly to supporting St. Patricks Soup Kitchen on Donegall Street. We hope to expand this to other organisations in the City.
We are individually prayerfully considering how much we each give to Redeemer and what God might have us give. We want to lead by example and for this to be sacrificial and faith filled.
We graciously encourage those we serve and lead to consider giving regularly.
That we can be in a position as a church to truly bless our city, extravagantly, and give to those in need.
If you would like to start giving or adjust your giving click the button below: If you are a UK Tax Payer please complete a Gift Aid form and return to the Redeemer Office.
I trust that as we do this we will see a move of God’s spirit in our community like nothing we have seen before.
Grace & Peace… For his Kingdom,