It's my firm belief that leaders set the tone for generosity. Transparency creates a benchmark, and challenges those whom I lead to reexamine their assumptions. Our church body - that is, the majority people who make up the body of Christ, not just the leaders - has attenders who have yet to become members, and members who have yet to become active beyond large group worship. Could it be that fence straddlers need a compelling picture of Jesus as "the center" by which we order our heart, daily life, and wallet?
As Time magazine highlights this week, my generation, the Millennials, have such potential and yet such narcissism and self-image servitude. As a group of misfits in the process of being transformed by Christ, our church is home to a significant number of my generation. Many come seeking a singles type group, a place to form a significant relationship that develops into marriage. Many come seeking a community like 'me', because we need connections in this suburban jungle. Many come because the worship bands sound just like Christian radio. Many come because of a deep need or longing that just isn't being met by anything or anyone other than Jesus.
But don't we have our favorite preachers? Don't we shy away from multiplying new small groups or multi-generational small groups because we'll have to put in relational work again? Don't we give money on the weeks we attend, and let the others slip by? Don't we attend what fits into our schedules, rarely making a sacrifice to become informed or ask questions at Open Forums, Voter's Meetings, Feedback Groups? There were less than 5 people under age 40 in attendance last night... and those under 40 are the future leadership of the church.
I feel a deep sadness when I hear from people in our church who feel like they've found 'their group' and aren't interested in helping launch a new small group. One joy in this life is to know future eternal family a little bit, so that we'll get to hear the rest of the story when we dwell together in God's eternal house. I want to recognize a lot of faces on the New Earth! I want people who don't yet know Jesus to join us there, because I love them now and would miss them deeply for eternity!
Much like Jo Saxton, who wrote "More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers To Influence Your World" (and a Verge network leader who is also a woman), I deeply desire that our church body give 'birth' to spiritual children. No family remains static. Everyone is always growing and changing. New members join through marriage, adoption, and childbirth. Can you imagine a spiritual leader, alone and without 'grandchildren' at the end of her life? Or a small group who stayed through thick and thin, only to finally discover that there's no one around to do their work when they pass on? I want a really big spiritual family, through our church. A huge legacy, where I make choices today for the health and flourishing of those future children.
Some Personal Transparency
Let me be transparent about our family. When we were engaged, it was my job to find a church community. Having grown up in the area, I looked at several vibrant churches; I'd actually sworn off Lutheranism but came once by invitation... and was amazed by the memories and follow up of new acquaintances! I decided that 3 months of searching was plenty, committed to one year at Trinity engaged and one year married. Obviously, we've stayed! Once committing to attending Trinity engaged for 1 year, Nick and I regularly phoned each other and talked about the current leadership, vision, and mission. Within two weeks of marrying, we officially joined Trinity, committed to a small group that I'd already been attending, committed to an adult Bible class, and began giving. Being a part of a local church is like marriage in our minds; why delay commitment? I choose to love you!
On double income or single, our tithe (Biblical term for giving the first 10% gross income back to God) remains largely untouched. Nick's InterVarsity salary fluctuated based on donor giving, and was at one point about $1500/month. We gave by dollar amount in the lean months - a cap - not percentage, because we believe that God will provide richly all we need. When we experience increased income, we increase by percentage. Before we found out about Nick's job change, we gave 11%: 4.5% to our local church, 2% to International Justice Mission, 2% to a staff worker with InterVarsity, 1.5% to a couple serving overseas, and .5% as a benevolence to crises or people who needed a one time donation.
Our church has a 2.4 million budget and 1200 people regularly attend weekend worship. If all gave 10% equally (not the case at all!), that's $2,000/annually per attender, or about $20,000 gross annual income. Nationwide, the average Christian gives 2.5% to their local church... What could we do with a full tithe? I'm not thinking about renovations and air conditioning... Whom would be served?
So, if you're reading this, you're likely feeling challenged and affronted (how can she suggest __?). Please hear me when I write that I'm trying to find the fine line of speaking truth with love! I'm trying to start a conversation. And let's consider some small, concrete next steps.
Honestly, all the job and financial change in our lives has been a blessing because the process of reexamining every few months to years has cut a lot of fat from the 'me' categories and highlighted what's truly of value to us. The frequent changes keep us dependent on Jesus. We use auto debiting so that the allocated money goes where it needs to go right away. He's always taken care of us.
- Would you take a look at your finances this week and reexamine giving?
- Would you look up online automatic debiting for the organizations to whom you want to give?
- If you already do these things, would you consider sharing transparently with someone who could benefit from some financial leadership?
- If you're reading this, would you consider multiplying your current small group in the next 6-12 months? Even if you're not ready to lead, could you be a core member of a new group?
- Would you consider who will be your spiritual "Timothy" or "Caleb"?
- Maybe you don't have a dream yet for the future. Could you set aside some time to let God shape your dreams, of what kind of legacy you want to leave?