Tag Archives: Epistle to the Philippians

Radical Faith: Why one church gave away their tithe for a year

What follows is by John Richardson.
***

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking on the water?

The disciples were half-way across the Sea; Jesus was standing alone on the bank of the water; the Father said, “Go ahead, step on top of the waves.” That’s an amazing moment of faith to me.

I completely understand that Jesus is fully God. But the reality is also that He is also fully man: a man who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) So stepping on top of the water must have been a remarkable moment of faith.

In the logic of the moment, Jesus obviously realized that this had never been done before. People don’t walk on water.

A few species of lizards can run across the water, but they know not to slow down. Several bugs can float on top of water, but they don’t have the mass of a fully-grown man. And in this moment, the Father is telling His fully-grown-man-Son to stand on a liquid surface.

The amazing part is that Jesus trusted Him enough to take that first step. That’s a ridiculous amount of faith. It’s in the realm of God asking you to flap your arms and fly. It defies all laws of nature. But Jesus trusted enough to follow in simple obedience.

Not too long ago, our church stood on the bank of the water. We’re kind of slow. We didn’t even understand how close we were to the water’s edge – and to a ridiculous faith challenge.

Our prayer was simple, but honest. We came to God asking one question that we genuinely did not know how to answer. We prayed,

“What can we do so that our neighbors will consistently see You when they interact with us?”

Much to our surprise, we sensed that the answer from God was, “Become generous as I am generous.”

And as we prayed further, we realized that He wasn’t kidding. He was prompting us to give away all of our tithes and offerings for an entire year.

For our small church community, this was one of those “Go ahead, defy the laws of nature” moments. God was challenging us to put our faith in action. He was asking us to love our neighbors with our resources.

After much fear and trepidation, we decided to go for it. Our faith paled in comparison to that of Jesus, but the Father held our hands as we stepped onto a liquid surface.

From April 2010 through April 2011, all of the tithes and offerings that were given to Traceway went to help the abused, neglected, sick, poor, and unstable of our city.

These gifts from God went to keep a few families out of home foreclosure after job losses. Other gifts went to provide housing for abused mothers who escaped literally with their children and the clothes on their backs. Some gifts went to pay medical bills and build handicap access ramps. Others went toward providing a vehicle for a family and aiding in disaster relief after a devastating local tornado.

These gifts were not a redistribution of wealth. The gifts were an entry point into the lives of these families. Each donation provided an open door for sharing the love of God and providing these people with a church community that would embrace them.

To be completely honest, not all of the giving turned out the way we hoped.

We had a few Peter-esque moments where we thought we were going to sink. At other times, we struggled because of the attitudes of the recipients. Some of them wanted a handout and nothing more. One lady even got mad at us after the 1997 Toyota Camry that we donated to her was not up to her standards. In those moments, we saw the mess that often accompanies incarnational-giving.

But we also learned how deeply God values our willingness to walk into the unknown with Him.

Potentially on par with that, we learned that God values our willingness to walk into the mess with Him. After all, that’s what He does…day after day after day. He joins each of us in our mess. He loves us and generously gives us gifts that nudge us closer to Him.

The faith of the people who make up Traceway Church is typically closer to that of a sinking Peter than that of a buoyant Jesus. But we are learning to trust the voice of God and stay alert to His movements.

As God calls us to follow, we hope to run forward with courageous faith. We are learning to trust the voice of the Father and create environments to unleash radical faith as He leads.

How will we trust God today!
***

John Richardson has been a pastor and church planter for over ten years. His passion is to see the church more accurately reflect the heart and ministry of Jesus. His first book, Giving Away the Collection Plate is available at http://www.tatepublishing.com. John and his wife, J.D., have three daughters and live in Mississippi.

3 Comments

Filed under Choices, Faith, Generosity, God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Loving others, Money, Religion and Spirituality, Serving

Still more to do!

It’s been a long and busy and tiring and productive week! We are working on some long overdue projects at the house and hired my nephew Joel from Michigan to come help for the week. Among the things we got done were:

  • Second-story windows wrapped in aluminum and caulked.
  • Porch roof shingled.
  • Porch beam prepared for soffit.
  • A window replaced and siding rehung.
  • Brickmold around the deck door replaced.
  • Ran some new wiring.
  • Laundry Room (LR) mudded, sanded and painted.
  • Cabinets installed in the LR.
  • Underlayment board and ceramic tile put down in the LR.

Whew! We worked several evenings and pushed our bodies well beyond the comfort zone. Susan and I are delighted at all that has gotten done this week – thanks in large part to Joel; but there is still more to do.

The same is true in God’s kingdom work here on earth. What we did last year or last month or last week to further God’s agenda of loving Him and loving others is great! But there is still more to do! After offering an impressive list of what he had already done, Paul says this:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

I press on! I keep going! I persist in what God has for me to do! I give myself to something bigger than myself. I empty myself giving every last ounce of energy and effort. I continue to envision what else might be possible.f

It’s a new day and there is still more to do!

Leave a comment

Filed under Determination, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Loving God, Loving others

What are you doing?

Peace is one of those words that has come to mean so many different things to different people that we’ve lost how it was originally used by Jesus. We most often think of peace as the absence of conflict or strife; but it’s much more than that.

Peace is more about a sense of being whole or complete. It’s about possessing adequate resources no matter what the need. And it’s more of an inner state of being than anything dependant on external circumstances.

Consider what Jesus told His disciples as He was preparing them for His upcoming death, burial, resurrection and departure from this life to return to the Father.

I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. ~ John 14:27 (MSG)

Describing this same peace of God to the believers in Philippi the Apostle Paul wrote:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:7

So why isn’t this peace of God that goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend more evident in you and me? How can we come to experience such peace; this sense of being well and whole? By keeping company with God!

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4

This new year will certainly be filled with it’s share of ups and downs. While we can’t know all that 2011 holds for us, we can know the peace of God that is able to sustain us through anything that might be coming our way.

What are you doing to pursue intimacy with our Prince of Peace?

1 Comment

Filed under Encouragement, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Praise