Your Journey of Generosity | Dr. Chip Bennett
Your Journey of Generosity
Just Take The Next Step | Week 3
I want to ask because maybe somebody in here doesn't know how to do this. I want you to go back to when you were a kid, and I want you to remember learning to ride a bike. I don’t know if you can remember that. How about learning to swim? That was a scary moment for me. My dad told me I was going in the pool one way or the other. I'm still a little scarred from that one. It may also be that you grew up around a lake or water, and you remember that first time you waterskied. Or maybe you grew up in the mountains and you've been able to snow ski. Or maybe it was asking somebody out.
We all know that there are things in our life, and it's interesting how it works. When you're on the side of not knowing how to ride the bike, there are other people on the other side who have already ridden the bike, and know how to ride the bike, that are trying to convince you that learning to ride the bike will be the greatest thing that you could ever do. And if you're on this side, sometimes the way they're saying it makes it feel like they're pressuring you, they're pushing you, they're coercing you, or they're manipulating you, and they're like, “You can do this. It's going to be the greatest thing in the world. You're going to be driving this bike, the wind's going to be going through your hair, and it’s going to be awesome.”
Of course, when you're on the other side, you're like, “Don’t take off the training wheels at all. I rebuke all of you and your positivity.”
Or swimming. There’s always that apprehension to things that now, when we get on the other side of it, we become those people who go, “No, you can do it.”
The person on the other side's going, “Calm down.”
There's a lot of fear and apprehension. So, I think all of us can relate, and there's probably something in your life where you can relate. Whether it's riding a bike, swimming, or maybe you jumped out of an airplane, and you remember what that was like. I've never done that, and I don't plan on doing that. Somebody would have to kick me out of that, at this point. But that being said, I think all of us know what it's like to have to take that step where there's some apprehension, where there's some fear, and where there are some questions. Of course, the people on the other side, sometimes, as good as they may intend to be, can oftentimes be a little off-putting to you and I when we're on the other side and we've not learned how to swim or we've not learned how to ride that bike.
So, I say all of that because I think everybody here, at some level, can relate to that. You know what it's like to have that, “I just don't know that I want to take off those training wheels. I don't know that I want to put my head under the water. I don't know that I want to put these water skis on, and come out when the boat goes. I've watched people flip.”
People in the boat are like, “You can do it. You can do it.”
And you're like, “No, I can't.”
We all know that. So, the reason I mention that is because when it comes to Christianity, when it comes to walking with the Lord, there are so many things about following Jesus that can be that step where we go, “Oh, I don't know. I'm a little apprehensive. There's a little bit of fear. I just don't know.”
Christianity has got a lot of those things, and there are people on the other side going, “No, you can do it, man. You can share your faith. No, you can do it. You can go to that prayer meeting. No, you can pray out loud.”
I don't know about you, but does anybody ever remember the first time you got asked to pray out loud? I remember mine. It wasn't very good. I say that because the people on the other side, they mean well, but sometimes it doesn't always feel that way. But when it comes to Christianity and all these things — and this is why we're doing this series called “Just Take the Next Step”— there are so many things that I want to talk to you about taking that next step. There is one part of Christianity, and you know this, I know this, and all of us know this. There’s one aspect of Christianity that sort of stands above it all when it comes to giving that feeling of apprehension, the little bit of, “Oh, I don't know. I can't believe this.”
You know this, I know that, and everybody records it. The statistics are there. Whenever you talk about taking the next step in generosity or giving, all of a sudden, everybody goes, “Ugh.”
If you're new here, you're going, “How did I show up on this weekend? Surely, they're not going to talk about giving right now.”
But I want make sure that you hear this from me. First of all, last year, I did not do one message on giving. I didn’t do one. Okay? So, typically, I try to do one at the beginning of the year, but I want to do this differently because I already know. I'm totally aware that when you talk about taking that next step in giving, peoples’ walls go up. I mean, some of you are already trying to figure out how you can get some concrete blocks to put in front of you to shield yourself from whatever I'm going to say. But what I want to show you is this, because this is what I want you to see. If we did not have generosity in a local church, if there weren't people that gave — and let me make this very clear. Giving is not just finances. We’ve got this nice, little thing that we say in church. It's not really biblical in terms of the names, but that the ideas are. To give, you have your talent, you have your time, and you have your treasure. All of those things are part of giving. All of those things are part of generosity.
So, when you talk about being a generous person, do you give your time to things other than yourself? Do you give your talent to things other than just things for yourself, or to make sure that you make ends meet? And do you give your treasure? Are you willing to give, financially, to things? All of that is a part of giving and generosity. Let me show you something. If the local church, specifically Grace — if this church were not generous, let me show you some things up here. I could spend all weekend on this. I want to just take some snippets of some things, and then I also want to tell you about some things that are going on. But I want to give you some thoughts here.
We have, right now, at Grace Community Church, 3,000 people — sometimes it's 3,200, 3,300, but just use it to round it off — that physically come and sit in chairs, on the weekend, here at Grace. Let me tell you something. That would not be a possibility if it weren't for the generous hearts of people at Grace who gave so that we could purchase this land, so that we could build this building, and so that we could do the things that we do. It wouldn't happen. I'm going to say this to you, and I think you will agree with me on this. If it was 3,001 or if it were 3,002, who would not want for someone to get in here to hear the Gospel, to hear about Jesus, and to hear what He can do? So, we want to continue to reach more people, but that would not happen. Twelve years ago — twelve years ago — we were in a building with about 20 people. In over 12 years, this has happened. I'm going to tell you something. So many people have been generous, kind, giving, and all of this stuff, and that's why we're here.
Look at this. We’re already way past 300. We're moving towards 400 children every weekend, 11 years and younger, who roll through this building on a weekend. That's a lot of kids. You know? I mean? That's just a lot of kids. Listen to me. You can't take care of the kids if you don't have the things that they need. Curriculum. We have sound equipment. We have things that we do, crafts, and all that. There’s not a truck that comes by churches every Saturday and says, “Here’s your free children's stuff.”
It just doesn't work that way. So, how are we able to do those things? Because of generosity. Because people are generous. Our youth and young adult ministries are flourishing. I mean, we’re having to expand here to give them more room because we need more room. Just online, we have a thousand people. It’s sometimes more, but I'm just trying to be — I'm conservative. I grew up in a church where the pastor would've been like, “We have 5,000 people that come every weekend. I know some people are pregnant. You’ve got to count them. I know some…”
No. You just count. We have two people who count in every service, so that we get it right, because I can't stand bad data. If it’s three people who showed up, it's three people who showed up. I want to hear that five people showed up. I want to know. But listen to this: We have a thousand people who tune in online at the service times. Now, there are a lot more who watch it, but can I tell you something? We wouldn't be able to reach those people if we didn't have those cameras, if we didn't have the soundboard, if we didn’t have a soundboard back behind the platform where somebody's back there, in a room, mixing sound not for you, but for the people who listen online. We couldn't do any of those things. We couldn't reach the people on social media. We got on a TikTok. It's this pagan platform. Have you ever heard of TikTok? I mean, I think TikTok is Greek for Satan. Don't let your kids on TikTok. I don't normally get weighed into this, but get them off that thing. It's terrible. Anyway, we waded onto TikTok, decided to preach the Gospel on TikTok, and got 40,000 followers.
So, we couldn't do that if we didn't have cameras, if we didn't have sound boards, if we didn't have microphones. Guess what? There's not a truck that rolls up, once a month, to the church and says, “How many microphones do you all need? We've got them for you. How many sound…”
No. It requires resources, and it requires generosity. We have 5,000 subscribers on a YouTube channel where all we do is teach the Bible. It’s growing every day, and people are going there to learn about Scripture, and so on and so forth. Let’s continue on here. We have middle school services. Check this out. We have a great relationship with NewGate Montessori School, right down the street. We have such a good relationship with them that we asked them, “Hey, is there any way that we could use that building on Sunday so that our middle school kids could have church service?”
They said, “Yeah.”
So, now we have a bus — it's multiple buses now because we’ve got to take busloads. We take middle school kids, at 10 o'clock, to the NewGate School, and they have their own church service, then are bussed back, and we're planning on adding to that so that we have more of those services. We couldn't do that if it were not for the generosity of the people here at Grace. We closed on the property across the street. We now own this piece of property across the street. Okay? We’re going to clear it off, and we’re going to put parking. Most of you are smart. You come at a different time than the 10:00 a.m. service, here at Grace. The 10:00 a.m. service, here at Grace, I don't even know what you liken it to because the cars just go down Telecommunications Parkway as far as you can see because there's no parking. There are trucks on the side of the road. We line up under the portico here. It’s crazy. There are not enough seats in the sanctuary. We have people who sit outside and watch the TV out there. Well, we need more parking, so we're going to clear that off and get more parking.
Not only that, but we moved the staff across the street to the insurance building. So, we now have offices over there because we're going to blow out the whole space back here to create a room that will seat 300-400 people because we need space for our youth and young adults because we don't have space.
So, let me tell you something. That doesn't happen just because somebody rolls in and goes, “Do you know what I think I'm going to do? I'm just going to donate my time to blow out the whole place.”
No. It requires resources. If we didn't have the generosity of our church, we couldn't do those things. The balcony in the parking lot, people ask, “When’s that going on?”
Well, there's such a thing called permits. They're of the devil, too. They just need to be rebuked. I don't know why it's so difficult. I’m from Kentucky. You just looked and said, “Build a shed.”
We said, “We’re going to build a shed.”
Nobody thought about going downtown and asking somebody if we could build a shed. Here in Sarasota, they frown upon that. So, you’ve got to get these things called permits. You know what I'm talking about. I'm being funny, but the permits will probably be done April-May, so we want to get through Easter. Probably June 1st is when we'll start doing all the stuff. It will be in, for sure, by Christmas, but that's going to be going on. We're going to add another 300-400 seats. We're actually going to add another 300-400 seats back there, as well, if we have overflow. We can put a live band back there. There are things that we can do, but we're growing. We’re busting at the seams in every way, and all of this takes place because some of you all — the majority, to be honest with you — decided that you were going to get on the bike, you were going to ride, and you were generous. You know this, and I know, that people who are generous are happier. They usually live longer. There are so many stats about generous people. You know you’ve met the stingy person, right? If you're it, I'm not trying to call you out or be snarky. Okay? Don't think that I'm giving you a hard time. The point is that we know this.
So, what I want to do is I want to try to go into a passage of Scripture that I suspect the majority of us are not that familiar with. Paul is writing to a church, and he's trying to get them to learn how to ride a bike. He's trying to help them learn how to swim. It’s a great couple of chapters. I'm not going to be able to go through the whole couple of chapters. I'm going to sort of highlight some things, but this may be the first time. Maybe you've read the Bible before, the yearly Bible, but it's probably a passage of Scripture that you don't remember if you have read it because, typically, there are ways our brains work, and there are certain things we remember and certain things that we don't. You may have never heard this passage before, but what I want to do is I want to give you a little bit of background so that you can understand what Paul's doing, why this is important, why being generous, and why taking the next step in our generosity, wherever we're at, is something to at least think about. It's at least something to consider. Just like if I were to say, “Hey, take a next step in your prayer life, your worship life, or your commitment to sharing Christ,” y'all would go, “Yeah.”
Okay. Well, let's talk about being more generous because you know and I know that you can't hang a lot around Jesus, you can't really devote yourself to Jesus, and not somehow be kind, generous, helpful, and all those things to other people. So, Paul has written to a church that's located on the Peloponnese between Athens and Greece. It’s the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth is an interesting study in and of itself because it’s a selfish church. It's not a very spiritual church. There are a lot of problems in the church at Corinth. In fact, it's probably the worst example of what it looks like to be a Christian of the churches that we have in Scripture. They all think they know everything. They have unchecked sin. They have all kinds of problems going on. They're fighting about food, all the things, and the religions going on around. They're mad at each other, they’re haughty, they’re prideful, and they don't understand spiritual gifts. Paul actually tells them, in 1 Corinthians 11, that it would be better if they don't even come together as a church. Can you imagine if Paul rolled in here and said, “Hey, yeah, you guys would be better to just shut down than do what you do.”
Man, I don't know about you, but I'd be like, “Man, I want to get this right.”
He has to tell them, “When you guys come together, it's actually not for the better. It's for the worse.”
Their communion is messed up, their spiritual gifts are messed up, their order of service is messed up, and they don't even understand the resurrection very well. So, it's a pretty messed up church. But I'm going to tell you something. Thank God the church at Corinth is so messed up because at least it lets me know that I’ve got a shot. Don’t you sometimes feel that way when you read Scripture? Like, “Man , thank God that person was in Scripture because I can relate.”
So, he’s writing, this is in 2 Corinthians, and Paul is on his third missionary journey. Paul has something that he wants to do. He wants to take up an offering for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who have fallen on very difficult times. You can read about this in places like Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 16. You can read about it in the book of Acts. Luke talks about it. He's got this idea that he wants to take up an offering, and he wants the Gentile churches to participate in this for a couple of reasons. In Romans 15, he mentions it, as well, the offering to Jerusalem. He's like, “Hey, the Gospel came from Jerusalem. You guys, spiritually, have been awakened. You’ve come to know Jesus because the Gospel came out of Jerusalem. So, why don't you help them, financially?”
He's not saying that it’s tit for tat, that because you’ve got spiritual stuff you need to now give money. But the point is he's saying, “Help them out.”
So, he's got this idea of helping them out, and he's also wanting to foster these good relationships between Jew and Gentile Christians. He doesn't want them to fight and have problems, so he's trying to get people in. Well, the problem is that the church at Corinth, which he's talked to them about this before, is not a very spiritual church. Where you find a non-spiritual church, you usually find a non-generous church because spirituality and generosity go together. The closer you get to Jesus, the more you’re generous, kind, and all those things that you become because that's just what it is to be a follower of Jesus. It’s to be kind, generous, love people, and all of that. Turn the other cheek. We all know that. So, he writes to them, and what he's trying to do is he's trying to say, “Hey, I want to help you ride the bike. I want to help you swim, but I don't want to do it in a way that's off-putting, I don't want to do it in a way that you feel like I'm pushing you or anything, but I just want to lay it out to you.“
So, by way of the Corinthian correspondence, by way of Paul helping them to understand generosity, we learn a little bit about generosity. So, let's look at this passage. You could go home and read. It's 2 Corinthians 8-9. I won't be able to go through all of it, but I want to go through some of it. Like I said, for some of y'all, this may be the first time you've seen this, or the first time you've maybe paid attention to this, but I think it's something that's worth at least looking at. Because you know me, and you know this about your pastor. You know that there’s not one word or one passage of Scripture that I'm scared of teaching on. We’ll teach on all of it. So, if it's 2 Corinthians 8-9, that's what we're going to talk about. You know that. We believe the Bible is the Word of God here. That may be in the minority in today's world, but I can tell you right now, as long as I'm the pastor at Grace, we will teach and preach the Word of God authoritatively. Okay? So, let's get to work here.
He says, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,”
Now, when Paul writes to the church at Corinth, they think they know everything. Have you ever met a know-it-all? Have you ever been one? He uses this phrase, and it's sort of poking. He keeps saying, “Do you not know? Do you not know? Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do you not know?”
He says, “We want you to know.”
So, there's a little bit of a poke here because they think they know everything. He says, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given.”
Now, typically, when we hear the word “grace,” we think of unmerited favor, we think of salvation, and we think of the work of God that God does in our hearts and lives, which is fine, but that's not what he's talking about here. He's talking about God's grace working in a church. He says, “I want you to know about the grace of God that's been given among the churches of Macedonia.”
That’s going to be Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea.
He goes, “I want you to know, man, that God has done something incredible in these people's lives.”
I want you to lean in here because this is really, really, really good.”
He says, “…for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”
It's like, “Whoa.”
So, they're in a severe test of affliction. What’s probably going on in these churches is because of them accepting Christ and following Jesus, they have started to lose their jobs. Many of them were in trade guilds, and what's happened is they've been kicked out of the trade guilds, which means that they're going through a lot of problems and they're in extreme poverty. He says, “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty…”
Now, lean in here. Typically speaking, we don't think severe affliction and extreme poverty would lead people to have an abundance of joy. Can I tell you something? I want you to hear me. As long as I’ve got breath in my lungs, I'm going to teach and preach Scripture the way it is. We're never promised this perfect life, rainbows and butterflies, as Christians. In fact, oftentimes, we're told that there's going to be difficulty in our lives. But what we are told that we should have, regardless of any situation that we're in, is joy. We should be people that have a joy that comes from the fact that we know the end of the book. We know we're on the team that wins. So, no matter what we see here, no matter what's going on here, we've got a hope that gives us joy in the midst of whatever it is that we find ourselves in. That’s good Christian teaching. Good Christian teaching isn't, “Come follow Jesus, and everything's going to go perfect.”
Heresy is what that is. Good Biblical teaching says, “Hey, Jesus saves you and I, but this world's pretty tough. It’s not put back to right yet, and there are going to be a lot of problems, but the one thing Jesus can give you and I in the midst of difficulty is joy.”
Okay? So, he says, “I want to tell you about the grace of God that's happened. These people that are going through a severe test of infliction in poverty, they've got so much joy that it's overflowed in their life in a wealth of generosity.”
You go, “How in the world could anybody be generous when they're going through affliction and extreme poverty?”
Paul says, “No, no. You’ve got to lean in here, guys. I mean, I know you guys are probably wondering, at the church of Corinth, whether you should participate in this, whether you should be generous, or whatever. Man, let me tell you about these people in Macedonia. Let me tell you about them. They overflowed.”
I want you to follow this.
He says, “For they gave according to their means,”
This is a biblical principle. Usually, you can't give what you don't have. He says, “They gave according to their means,” which was not much. It's not the amount. It’s what you have and how you respond. It’s what I have and how I respond to what I have. He goes, “They gave according to their means.”
He says, “…as I can testify, [they gave] beyond their means,”
They went even further, and these were people who were in severe affliction and extreme poverty. I hear people, all the time, go, “Well, I really can't be that generous because…”
These people were in bad shape, and they were generous.
He says, “…[they did it] of their own accord,”
Nobody had to push them. Nobody had to sit them on the bike, kicking and screaming. Nobody had to throw them in the pool. Nobody had to strap the skis on and make them. They did it of their own accord. I want to tell you about the grace that hit this church and the churches in Macedonia, how God was working in them, and doing this. Listen, it gets even better.
He says, “…begging us…”
That's crazy. These people were in severe affliction in poverty, begging us. We didn't have to ask. They were begging us. For what?
“…for the favor…”
They understood something. They understood that there's something about being generous that brings favor into our lives. Listen, I know the people on TV and other places have made that thing messed up, saying if you give to God, He’s going to give you back all these things, and whatever else. That’s not the way it works. What I am telling you is this, though. When you're generous, when you give, when you serve God, when you follow God, and you do the things that God's called you to do, you have favor in your life. It may not always look like a big car or big house, but you have favor. There's something about what God does in us when we follow what He tells us to do that’s supernatural. It's just supernatural. Maybe you're here, and you’ve got the training wheels on, right now, and you’re like, “I don't really know.”
I can only tell you that for those who have given, served, loved and poured into others, there's something God does in you that's pretty cool. It’s cool.
It says, “…[they begged] us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…”
Like, “Man, they wanted to be in completely.”
“…and this, not as we expected,”
“We didn't really expect that.”
“…but they gave themselves first to the Lord…”
Which is where all of this usually happens. Everything happens, in our Christian life, when we first give ourselves to the Lord.
“…and then by the will of God to us.”
Now, Paul continues to talk about this until he gets to 2 Corinthians 9, and then he sort of sums it up. He does this three-verse summary. He says, “Here’s the point I'm trying to make,” and you can go read the ending of 2 Corinthians 8 and into 2 Corinthians 9, but he says, “This is the point that I want to make.”
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
For Paul, this is a spiritual principle. When we're generous and we're kind, there are things that come back to us. We don't do it for those reasons, but that's the case.
He says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart,”
“We can't force you onto the bike. We can't push you in the pool. We can't push your head under.
He says, “…not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves…”
God loves somebody riding a bike who’s having a ball. God loves somebody in the pool who’s splashing and having a ball. God loves somebody who's on water skis, kicks off one, and goes to a single ski. He wants people to be cheerful in what they do. Here’s the crux of it.
He says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
This is really the issue of what it is when a church is generous, that you don't have to miss out on the opportunities to do the good deeds.
You can pay off school lunches. You can pay off medical debt. You can do the things that we do. You can put movies on at Waterside. You can grab a bus and put middle school kids on there. You can help people that are going through difficulty. You can pass out gift cards during COVID. You can do the things that we did because the generosity was there, and you don't miss any good work. That’s really the reason we talk about giving and being generous. It’s not what God wants from you and I, but it’s what He wants for you and I. A generous heart really makes a difference. Let me just give you a couple of real quick take-homes.
First of all, generosity is a grace that the Lord gives us as we submit ourselves to Him. I readily concur that there are some people who are naturally generous. That’s just who they are. Okay? But most of us — let's just be honest. Let's just be honest. Most of us want to make sure that we're taken care of before we do something for somebody else. Can I get an “amen?” Will you be that honest? We do. If you’ve got a bowl of cereal, you're like, “I might give you a couple of my cinnamon toast crunches, but…”
My two dogs, they're Cockapoos. They’re more on the poo side. You can see, when they go to the bowl, that one is bigger. They do their thing. They’ve got some code. Dogs have some code. But typically, we want to take care of ourselves first. Generosity is a grace. It's something that’s imparted to us as we devote ourselves to the Lord. You can see it here in the passage. We want you to know about the grace of God that's been given. You can see that in 2 Corinthians 9:8. God is able to make all grace bound to you so that the good works can be done. You have everything that you need so that you may abound in every good work. Anything that needs to go on, you can do. So, generosity is something that starts with you and I in our commitment to the Lord, giving our hearts and lives to the Lord, and spending time with Him. It's something that He does in us.
Second, generosity is not really contingent upon what we have. We think that way, as Americans. I've had so many people, over the years, who have said, “I really want to participate in this thing that you all are doing, but I don't have…”
I'm like, “Man, we've done a terrible job of teaching them.”
It's not the amount. It’s just not. It’s what do we have, and how are we stewarding what it is that we have? I can tell you there are people in churches that have very little who are far more generous than people who write very big checks, but could write much, much bigger checks if they wanted to. That’s not to be snarky or to give anybody a hard time, but it’s just not. You see here, he says, “In their abundance or in their extreme poverty.”
Most of us wouldn't think that people who were in extreme poverty could overflow in a wealth of generosity, but that's the beauty of Christianity. Christianity's not like everything else. God doesn't look at it the way everybody else looks at it. He doesn't look at it by the amount. He looks at what you did with what you had. There's this great story that was in World War II. After Japan had surrendered, they had all the people out on the deck of the aircraft carrier, and they would bring up the fighter pilots. They would give them pins for the planes that they had shot down. Maybe one got three, one got five, or one got ten. Then they called out the name of the mechanic. He's like, “What are they calling my name for.”
They said, “No, you’ve got to come up here.”
They started pinning these planes on him, and he's getting more pins than anybody else. He’s like, “Hold on. I'm not a fighter pilot. You don't understand. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
They’re like, “No, no, no. You don't understand. None of those guys who got those pins would've been able to get those pins if it weren't for you that was working on the planes. So, you get all the pins that everybody else got. All of them, together, go on you because you're the one that made the planes work so they could go do what they do.”
Listen to me. That's the way God's economy is. Sometimes we look at the big, fancy stuff, and all of that stuff. What God's looking for just for you and I to be generous and kind with what we do have. Don't look around. Don’t worry about somebody else's number or any of that stuff. Just be you because generosity is not contingent upon all the things that we have. It's an attitude of our heart.
The last thing, and this is the thing I want to do. What are the next steps? Because I get asked this all the time. What are the next steps that I could take, as a person here at Grace? So, let's start at the bare minimum. There are probably some people in here that come, you hang out — and we're glad you're here — and you don't give anything. That's fine. When we get done here, there are not people outside with cars, there's not a phlebotomist out there. I mean, that’s not what we do here at all. But what I'm saying is your next step would be to just start to get involved, and that’s up to you. That has to be something that comes from your heart. But what I decided to do is I had some fun. I wanted to give you some building blocks, here, on how to do this. So, the first people, the next step would be to be an occasional giver. Some of you all are there, and I want to hear this because this is important. If you're an occasional giver, you have no idea how important your occasional gifts mean to what we do here. It's important. Now, can you take the next step? Yes, you can, but I don't want you to hear your pastor give anybody a hard time. We appreciate every single person that gives anything because your gifts, what you do, helps connect people to Jesus, and helps make the ministries that we do here at Grace significant.
So, please don't hear anything other than, “Hey, I appreciate you, but can you take the next step?”
Yes. So, if you're an occasional giver, the next step for you would be what I call a percentage giver. Now, you can call this whatever you want to call it, but for me, a percentage giver is someone who gives a set amount on a regular basis. That may be where you're at, right now. You go, “Well, I give X amount, and it's just on your little website thing. It’s just X amount.”
That’s great. We need you, too. We love you. Thank you for what you do. You make a difference in every ministry that we do. If you give a penny, you're a part of what goes on here. That's so important that you hear that. But the next step from an occasional giver would be to be a percentage giver. It would be to say, “Okay, we're going to sit down around the table, and we're going to figure it out. Well, we can give this on a regular basis,” and that’s the next step. Now, if you want to take the next step, this is a biblical step. You can go from one step to another. You can jump more. It’s okay. The next would be to be what we call a tither. This word has such a bad connotation in church. It's the word people hate. Tithing means 10%. Where that comes from is the Bible. It doesn't come from church people that decided, “How much do we want? Let's get 10% from everybody.”
No. It comes from the Bible. It’s in the law, but it predates the law. Abraham tithed. So, tithing, giving 10%, is not tied up in the law, although the law does talk about it. Tithing is giving 10%. In Malachi 3, he says that we bring the tithe to the storehouse. Keyword there. You don't give a tithe, you bring it because the Lord considers that as His. He doesn't consider that as yours and mine. He says, “You can live on 90%, but 10% is mine.”
So, when you read it in Scripture, and you see these things, the reason we talk about this is because that's a biblical thing. But you may not be there, and that's okay because, just like in your prayer life, some people can pray for five minutes, some people can pray for an hour. Some people can share Jesus, some people can’t. Your pastor's not going to give you a hard time. I'm just saying here are some steps that you can take if you want to go, “What is my next step?”
What's the next step after people who are tithers? Well, then there is above and beyond giving. What you do there is you're a tither, but then you decide that you want to do more than that. So, you go above and beyond that. Many of you all are there. You may go, “Well, that sounds like a pretty good spot to be. I'm there.”
Well, the next step — and this is the step that I really believe God wants to get us all to, whether we get there in this life or not is a whole other story — is a lifestyle of generosity. It's where everything you do, everything that you're a part of, you just want to do whatever you can to be a part of helping further the kingdom. In other words, when they sing, “I surrender… 10%.”
No. It’s, “I surrender all.”
Right. So, lifestyle generosity says, “No, this is where I want to be.”
So, all I want to say is this: This gives you some idea of what you can pray and ask God to work in your heart. That’s all I'm asking. We won't do this again this year. We may not even do it next year. The bottom line is, though, that giving is a biblical thing. I think that, in all sincerity, because I really try hard, I just gave a pretty good message on giving. It's not nasty or ugly. I know I'll get some emails. I love you. I'm not trying to give you a hard time. I'm just telling you that giving is biblical, it is part of Scripture, and if you really believe the Bible is the Word of God, you can't get away from talking about some of these things periodically. All I want you to do — all I want you to do, as your pastor — is to say, “How do I want to get on that bike? How do I want to get into that pool? How do I want to put on those skis?”
You and God have got to work that out, not me. I'm not here to coerce anybody. I'm not here to push anybody. Let tell you something. Our church is very healthy, and our church is in a great shape. I mean, you ought to go home, seriously, and get on your knees. When you look at what's going on in the church world in America, you ought to thank God for Grace Community Church because this church is a healthy, healthy church. Very healthy. It’s healthy because of the generosity of the people that go here. So, I want to thank you for your generosity. I want to thank you for your giving. I want to thank you for supporting the things that we do. I just want to ask you, how can you take the next step? I have to ask myself the same question. Me and Mindy have to ask ourselves the same. We do it regularly, but especially every year. We sort of sit down and say, “What are we going to do next? What's the next thing?”
She’s got a heart for Compassion International kids. I, literally, don't know how many other kids we have, at this point, because it's a lot. Jeremy Camp was here a few years back, he was trying to get to a certain number, and it was deficient. We signed up. My point is that I just want to encourage you to think about that, to pray about that, and to be a part of it because, I'm telling you, we have so many opportunities, right now, to do so many things to reach so many people. We just want to be able to meet every good work when it comes.