Here We Go Again

You may have been hearing rumblings of it for a few months now, but later this month we will start a Generosity Initiative to raise money to build out our current facility. You might look at this addition as “part two” of phase one. We knew when we built our current building a couple of years ago that we did not build everything we needed. We knew that at some point in the near future, as our church began to grow, we would need things like classrooms for adults, more youth space, a place to cook and feast, and a place for our children to run wild. It would need to be a beautiful space, a space for people to linger and find connection, community, and healing. So here we are again… about to ask our congregation for money. And this time, as before, it is no small matter; we are setting out to raise three million dollars!
Having done this before, I have to ask myself: Is this worth it? Do we really need what we are proposing? Am I willing to invest in this in such a way that I will sacrifice money that might be used for vacation, travel, cars, other good ministries, or other useful and necessary things? Before I can bring myself to ask other people to sacrifice some creature comforts and other things they would normally purchase so they can help provide a “seat at the table” for others, I have to be convinced that my wife and I will be the first to be “all in.”
It is not that I don’t like to talk about money; I love to talk about money. Jesus talked about money more than anything, other than salvation and the kingdom. He always talked about money. In fact, he talked about it so much that two people arguing over an inheritance once sought out Jesus to settle their financial dispute! Why? Go back and check the gospels. One man asked Jesus how much he had to give away to enter the kingdom; to his dismay, Jesus told him everything! Jesus told another man who made a living of exploiting people to essentially give away twenty to thirty percent of his income. He exploded the myth of money as a source of security and power. He did this because money will seemingly buy you both, and the only way to keep money from being an idol is deep generosity.
One of the things I love about being the pastor of St. Patrick for almost twenty years now is that we have always had a culture of generosity. God is prodigal with his generosity—lavish and extravagant! God took his treasure—Jesus Christ, who lived from all eternity in a rich fellowship of mutual love, laughter, and joy with the Father––and gave his treasure away, so that we could be sons and daughters of God. All in! God went “all in” for us. Talk about generosity!
How does this affect us? How does this affect you when you ponder that God is the most generous? Before I tell you the story about how it affected Teri and me a few years ago, let me say this: I struggle to follow Jesus. I try to get my life ordered in such a way that I don’t need Jesus. I try to use my gifts so I don’t have to rely on God’s grace. I find myself actually surprised that I have not made more progress in the gospel than I have! But I take comfort in John Newton’s words that; “The value of remaining sin is that it will always drive us to Jesus.” I get that. I am not near where I should be and I grieve that sometimes; but, thanks be to God, I am not where I used to be!
This being said, about four years ago, while I was preparing to preach our series of sermons in the “Thriving” Generosity Initiative, I was reading and studying to preach a sermon called “God is the Most Generous.” I was deep in it; God was stirring my heart with joy and wonder at the lengths He will go to love and care for his broken people and creation. Even while I was pondering this, a foster child who lived down our street and played at our house all the time with my older boys was in our driveway, weeping. He told Teri and me that he had to find a new home. We talked for over an hour, prayed with him, and sent him home somewhat encouraged. That night neither Teri nor I slept. All I could think of was that, when I was a stranger to grace, Jesus took me in. When I was broken, Jesus didn’t bat an eye; He went to the cross so that I could have a home. The more that truth marinated in my soul, the more convicted I was that we had to do the same thing. In the morning, Teri and I both had come to the conclusion that we would do something that you couldn’t guilt me into—take in another child, a seventeen year old child at that!
Little did we know, that was just the beginning of the story. Soon we will adopt our foster daughter we have had for the past two years. This all started with pondering the generosity of God! Love really, really does things that even guilt cannot. (Take my word for it: You can’t guilt a man into taking in more kids when he feels like, with six “begats,” he has done his part to fulfill the Cultural Mandate!) But love can make a person do strange things, and when you really see God’s rich and generous love, it changes everything.
So on Sunday, October 22, after we all get back from Florida and Fall Break, we will kick off our next Generosity Initiative. We will have four weeks of sermons, readings, and devotions that will challenge us all to ponder how God’s generosity will challenge us in our quest to be a gospel community that is a place of welcome, sanctuary, and healing. We are calling it “Setting the Table,” because we believe that is what we are doing. In brick, mortar, kitchens, playgrounds, classrooms, and offices, we are setting a table to invite people into a living encounter with Jesus. We will pass out a beautiful brochure that will detail what we are doing, why we are doing it, why we are doing it now, and what it will cost. At the end of four weeks, we will ask each family to make a two-year commitment, above your normal giving, to make this vision become reality.
All of us who know Jesus, know Him because someone, or (more likely) a lot of “someones” in our far and near past, invested, not just a lot of time, but a lot of money to put us in places where we would hear the gospel. This initiative is about asking each of us to do the same thing—to invest in something that will not just be useful now but will echo in eternal joy and praise as we make new/better disciples who love God, love people, and love life.