Pastor’s Column: A Harvest of Generosity
I recently had breakfast with a friend who serves an organization that raises funds to feed, educate, and share the gospel with under resourced families around the world. Because his ministry takes him to different churches each weekend, I asked, “Have you observed any similarities in the churches that are the most generous?” He responded quickly, “Well, they’re usually churches that give generously to missions and ministries outside their church. They seem to regularly teach series on Biblical stewardship and giving, and they’re always led by pastors who don’t believe in scarcity”. That last one was intrigued me the most. When I asked what he meant, he said, “Sometimes when I contact pastor’s about coming to their church to challenge people to give to our ministry they say, “wait until we are out of our building program” or “wait until our general fund offerings increase.” My friend said, “I then attempt to gracefully tell them that giving generously to bless others will be a key to blessing their own ministry.”
The ancient Jewish teachers believed that when we generously give we express our belief in the abundance of God, and when we hold back, we reveal our fear of scarcity. “One person is generous and yet grows more wealthy, but another withholds more than he should and comes to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24 NET) We’re thankful that we’ve experienced God’s abundance in our church. My wife and I started Oak Hills Church in Eagan, Minnesota in 1991. Before we had our first service we committed to support a missionary at $100.00 a month. We wanted to make sure that from the very beginning we were generously giving outside of our ministry. Each year now we give between 10 and 15 percent of our church budget to ministries and missionaries in our neighborhood and around the world.
When we bought property and began raising money for our church building, we asked people to first, make sure they were tithing. Second, to give regularly to missions and third, to prayerfully consider giving toward the construction of our new building. We discovered two very interesting things about being generous and trusting in God’s abundance. First, most all of the people who gave generously to our building fund were also regular tithers, and mission’s supporters. These folks were not necessarily wealthy, just people who trusted in the abundance of God. Second, we found that each year of our 3 year building campaign, we not only raised our goal of one million dollars (we were quite a small group back then), but both our general fund offerings and missions giving increased during those years. Since our building program we’ve continued to see the blessings of God when people are generous.
For many years we had a dream to build a beautiful, furnished home on our property that would be a peaceful place for our missionaries to live while home on their one-year furlough. Five years ago we asked our congregation to pray about giving to this project. Within a year, that house was built, paid for, and last week our 4th missionary family moved in after a 5-year term serving in an incredibly tough area of the world. I met the family in our lobby just a few days after they had moved in with their three young children. Within a short 5-minute conversation the mom said to me three different times “Thank you for allowing us to live in this beautiful home, I can’t believe we get to live there for a whole year”.
I left that conversation thinking “…this is how God works. People generously give. They then experience God’s blessing in their lives while at the same time an exhausted missionary family, after generously giving of their lives serving Jesus in another part of the world, also experience God’s blessing. All this because of the generosity of God’s people.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and said “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” (2 Corinthians 9:10 NLT) One of the best ways those of us in church leadership can help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus is to teach them to trust in the unlimited resources of God which will then, as the apostle Paul wrote, “produce a great harvest of generosity” in them.
Our Pastor’s Column Generosity Series is sponsored by Thrivent Financial.