Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving

One of the most difficult challenges for the church is effectively bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to a negative world in desperate need of something positive and transformational. The need for positive leadership seems more acute now than ever.

As our culture continues to be affected by the aging of generations, changing economic realities, increased competition for charitable support, and a continually evolving vision for the church, a new approach to address personal generosity would be helpful. There is an apparent need to change from the traditional culture of fund raising in church to positioning generosity as a core value of discipleship and individual spiritual experience. There will never be enough fund-raising gimmicks to sustain significant giving in the church. Hearts must be encouraged so giving becomes an outpouring of one’s love for God.

The use of the word generosity is a part of the change in communication. Frequently, the word stewardship has been applied to the approach to finances in the local church. Unfortunately, that word carries negative “baggage.” The word generosity, however, communicates the appropriate biblical and spiritual value. In his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Robert Schnase identifies Extravagant Generosity as one of the five fruitful practices. “The practice of generosity describes the Christian’s unselfish willingness to give in order to make a positive difference for the purposes of Christ” (Abingdon Press, 2007, p. 112). He also says, “Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit, a worthy spiritual aspiration” (p. 116). This program guide is designed to walk church leaders through a step-by-step process to planning and implementing the program Extravagant Generosity: The Heart of Giving.

From the Biblical Foundation

In the famous verse of our faith about the very nature of God (John 3:16), we again see giving explained as an expression of love: “God so loved the world that he gave . . . .” The thread is also seen in other passages. We read in 1 Chronicles 29:9 that the people responded to the financial appeal from David “whole-heartedly” (NIV). Then in Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And looking again to Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth, Paul suggests that generosity, as reflected by the Macedonians, came from first giving themselves to the Lord (See 2 Corinthians 8). They made a spiritual decision. In addition, Paul says, “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Without more insightful teaching about what constitutes meaningful life, the prevalent cultural momentum of acquisition, consumption, and accumulation of possessions becomes our default value. First Timothy 6:17-19 provides an important framing passage:

Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. In- stead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.

Generosity, not consumption, is a key value of a meaningful life.

--Michael Reeves and Jennifer Tyler

If you would like to order this resource, please contact Cokesbury.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications

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