My church is doing something crazy. At least it feels crazy.
We are growing rapidly right now. At this time last year we were averaging around 800 people per weekend in our worship gatherings. This year we are pushing 1,200 people per weekend at those same gatherings. The church is growing. This kind of growth is exciting. We just baptized 14 people a few months ago, and just a few weeks ago, over 40 people, in the middle of my message, stood to indicate they want to take a step of obedience and publicly proclaim their faith through baptism. On Easter Weekend we anticipate baptizing well over 50 people. What is happening is incredible.
This kind of growth also presents challenges. We have a huge increase in needs. There are more people to disciple. More demands for our counsel. More ministry needs to meet. More supplies to buy. More staff and leaders to minister. More logistics to navigate. And I could keep going.
Show Me The Money
These needs cannot all be solved by money, but one thing we cannot deny, is we could use more resources to keep up with everything that is currently happening. Our giving at church has gone up recently, but with growth like this, you typically do not find the giving growing at the same pace as the attendance. This results in limited resources to do all the things you need to do. We have to make wise decisions and prioritize where to direct funds.
This is where the crazy part comes in.
Several weeks ago I preached a message on finances and giving to the congregation entitled: Generous Stewards. In that message, I taught from Malachi 3:6-10. God accuses the people of Israel of robbing Him. How so? With their tithes and contributions. They were withholding their first, the tenth, from God. God called this robbing Him and, as a result, it led to a curse being upon them – something nobody wants to hear. God then tells His people that if they give the tithe, the firsts of their earnings to Him, that He would open up the storehouses of Heaven and pour out blessing upon them until there was no more need. He even challenges them to test Him on this to see it is true.
Which Idiot Are You?
I went on to give an example of two people: Fred and Ted. Fred hears the teachings of Scripture concerning finances and giving, he knows he is to give the first of his earnings to God and invest it in the local church’s mission of reaching people, but as he looks at his life and needs, he is convinced that in order to go from A to B financially, and do the things he needs and wants to do, he will need 100% of his income. Ted is just like Fred. He knows the teachings of the Bible on this subject. He too has needs and wants. But he has determined that he is going to trust what God says in His Word and is going to give 10%, the first of all his earnings, and use 90% to go from A to B. He also believes there is the thing called C that he will experience that he would forfeit if he does not. C is that place of God’s favor and blessing, as well as the joy of knowing you are walking in obedience to God’s Word. Both Fred and Ted thinks the other is an idiot. Fred thinks Ted is an idiot for buying in to all that stuff and giving that much money away. Ted thinks Fred is the idiot because he is forfeiting the favor and blessing of God on his life because he is disobeying the commands of Scripture on this subject. The question I posed to the church was: Which idiot do you want to be?
Since that message, I have been troubled. As a church, we made a decision last year to give 5% of our budget away, which was a good step, but we were still operating like Fred. Because of our growing needs and the demands that are increasing as a result of growth, we have believed we needed nearly 100% of the dollars we receive in order to go from A to B. In fact, we have more needs than we have money. But since that message I have been convicted that we needed to approach the church’s finances like Ted.
Whenever this conviction would arise, I would find excuses to dismiss it. I would reason with myself that we had too many needs and we were already short of the finances we needed. The thought would temporarily subside. Then one morning, around 3am, I woke up and could not shake the thought that we needed to begin tithing our church finances. If we are going to preach to our people that we can trust the Lord to provide for us, if we are faithful to obey His Word, then why are we not – pardon the pun – putting our money where our mouth is? If we take Malachi 3 seriously, and we believe God can open up the storehouses of Heaven, then why are living with clinched fists with our resources? If we believe it is impossible for us to out give God, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, then why are we acting as if there only a handful of resources available to us? Something had to change.
The Right Kind of Idiot
Later that morning, I texted an elder and asked him if he thought this idea – to begin immediately taking the first 10% of what we receive in tithe dollars and use it give away to ministry and blessing outside the walls of our own church – was crazy? I essentially asked him if I had lost my mind. I knew what he was going to say, but I was hoping he may tell me put away such crazy talk. He didn’t.
The next day I pulled a few other key leaders aside and shared my conviction with them and they too thought it was right. It may sound crazy, but a church that needs every dime it receives, and more, made a decision that day to take God at His Word, to trust Him, and to begin setting aside 10% of the first every donation, and begin working through how we can be a blessing to others outside our church. We want to be the right kind of idiot.
Where Is It Going?
So where are we going to send that money? We are working to develop multiple strategic partnerships locally, nationally, and globally. We have several commitments to support missionaries on the ground in China and a church in Haiti. There are also missionaries we have relationships with we may begin supporting. We are interested in helping partner to plant churches in strategic cities in the United States. Even in our own city there are non-profits, ministries, and opportunities for strategic partnership to further the mission of God.
We are learning to trust God and walk in obedience, just as we are teaching our congregation to do. We believe God’s blessing and favor is upon our church. We do not want to do anything to forfeit that, including hoarding our resources.
It is an exciting time to be a part of TJC. The hand of God is in our midst. Lives are being changed. Marriages are being restored. People are repenting of sin. Folks in bondage are finding freedom. The lost are being saved. We believe it’s only the beginning. God desires to do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine. So we are committing to walk in obedience, even when it looks scary, because we believe that is where joy, satisfaction, and blessing is found. In a time when the easiest thing to do would be to cling to every dime we receive and use it to further meet our needs, we are choosing to walk by faith and obedience in order to help meet others needs.
Yeah, we’re crazy. But it sure beats being normal.
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