Good morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation.
Happy Valentines Day…
Now, if I was really sappy, we’d be doing a message on LOVE today since Valentines Day only falls on a Sunday every 5 or 6 years, but good thing I’m not sappy. J
We are continuing in our “Fundamentals” series this week
We are doing a 4 week series where we are focusing on 4 different items that I felt were “fundamental” for our church to talk about in its early infancy.
4 things we haven’t really talked about yet, but if we are going to thrive as a church, things we need to talk about
For instance, last week, we talked about “SERVING,” and how we should serve like Jesus Christ served us
And after the message, we gave an opportunity for people to serve here at Renovation Church if they wanted to, and we had multiple people sign up to serve for the first time, AND sign up for multiple spots
39 volunteer slots filled!
That’s a fundamental thing for our church that is going to help us THRIVE as we get our roots down in this community
And we also talked that fundamentals are important because they are the things that help us sustain long term growth with God
We challenged the fact that too many Christians have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and they learn all about the heresy of Arianism, different schools of eschatology, and the dispensationalists vs. the amillenialists,……but they don’t have a strong prayer life, they aren’t serving in the church anywhere, and aren’t really showing love to their family
It’s not that going deep in the realm of knowledge isn’t important (it is), but if you are not CONTINUALLY mastering the fundamentals, it doesn’t matter
This week’s fundamental that we are going to focus on is: Stewardship
Sorry, we were doing all “S” words this series, and that’s the best I could come up with. J
But the definition of “Stewardship” is essentially this: The careful and responsible management of something entrusted into one’s care
And God has entrusted a lot into your care. He’s entrusted some of you with children. He’s entrusted you with gifts and talents He’s given you (which we talked about last week). And He’s also entrusted you with money.
Which is what we are going to focus on today
Now, before you get all nervous and tense, let me preface a little bit
For one, a wise pastor told me once, that if you’re ever going to talk about money in church, do it when things are going well
And indeed they are here at RC.
For most church plants, it takes them 3 years to be 100% self-sustaining
For us, we are 95% self-sufficient and expect to be 100% within the next couple of months. 2 and half years ahead of schedule. Which is AWESOME!
Secondly, If I’ve ever been accused of anything regarding talking about money in my 6 years as a pastor, it’s that I don’t talk about it.
In fact, this is probably only the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve done a message semi-related to money in the 6 years.
Some pastors talk about money once a month J
If you’ve been at Renovation since Oct., you’ve noticed we haven’t said boo about it
I’m just not a money, money, money, type of pastor
But I realize that that could be actually be a fault of mine too
Because the act of “Giving” is a fundamental part of what we do as Christians
In fact, there are THREE things we do as an act of worship every single Sunday.
We worship God in song. We hear from his Word. And we give to Him an offering.
I guess we do connection cards every Sunday, but I’m not sure that’s an act of worship
But we give an offering every single week. It’s a fundamental part of what we do.
So I think this topic is important for us to address. Fundamental for us to address as a 4 month old church.
There are a lot of people in this church who are new believers. Maybe this is a topic you’ve never even heard talked about before. Maybe you have no idea what it means to be a Christian Steward with money.
I think it’s important that we address it early on in the life of our church
And that doesn’t mean that now I’ll become someone who I’m not and start talking about it every month, but I do know it’s fundamental for us to at least address
WHY GIVE / IT’S GOD’S MONEY
So why give to God? Why give to a church or a Christian organization? Or to anything?
Well, I think it first of all stems from a theological understanding that what you have is not your own. Everything you have is from God.
(James 1:17) - NIV
17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(1 Timothy 6:7) – NIV
7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
It’s like the old saying goes, You can’t take a U-Haul behind the hearse
Nothing is our own.
We can’t even begin to comprehend this topic until we get that everything we ever have (even if it’s not a lot) is a blessing from God
And we give because God gives to us
As Matthew says, “Freely you have received, freely give.”
We’ve received not only finances to live on (and often even more), we’ve received life, we’ve received forgiveness, salvation.
Stewardship really, is this concept of everything we have is from God, and YOU are the steward of those resources.
You are managing God’s stuff.
Whether it’s a lot or maybe not. Maybe you’re even unemployed, and right now, you feel like, David, I’m not managing a lot right now. J
Either way, whether a lot or a little, you were put in charge to watch some of his money for these 75 years you are on earth.
That money was here before you, and will be here after you, and it’s His.
The question is, as his steward during your lifetime, how will you manage it. What will you do with it? What kind of steward will u be?
Will you be generous? Selfish? Tight with it? Open with it? What kind of steward will you be?
A CHEERFUL HEART
If you are going to attempt to be generous in what God has given you, one of the most basic Biblical principles is to give with a cheerful heart
(2 Corinthians 9:7) – NIV
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
If giving to others or to church becomes a chore, then God isn’t interested.
I’m not saying that every time you put something in offering you should be fist pumping, but it should do something in your heart
How cheerful you are in giving is really a good litmus test for whose money you think the money you have is
If you’re convinced it’s yours, you won’t feel cheerful in giving it away
Let me give you an example
Mill City Church example. Each person got $10
If they would have asked each person to use $10 of their own, would have been different.
It’s the same principle w/ God, if you’re overly convinced the money you have is all yours, it’ll be harder to be cheerful about giving it away
So we try and give away what is not ours with a cheerful heart…but not with fanfare and parades, but in humility.
Because we didn’t do anything to earn it in the first place.
Don’t hear me wrong. Some of you worked really hard to get where you are.
You went to school FOREVER. You worked super hard to get a promotion. Put in endless hours.
That’s a lot of work. Sure you earned it. But, it’s still from God.
He kept you somewhat healthy. He kept you alive. Who’s to say it couldn’t have went differently?
I mean, we gotta work hard in life, but even so, what we have is STILL just a blessing from God.
And the Bible tells us to bless others with that blessing.
And do so as much as we can in secret
(Matthew 6:3) – NLT
But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
We give for the glory of God, not to get your name on some plaque or in the newspaper, or to move up on some university’s Gold Donor List to Platinum Donors. J
America’s gotten quite good at the system of charitable donations.
We have easy ways to give, get a day Disney if you give here, get a tax refund, fill it out in just 3 easy steps…
And honestly, those things are great. I’m glad we’re being smart about enticing people to give.
But don’t get lost in the system. It’s about God. It’s about using whatever God gave you to serve him and to bless others. Don’t forget that.
SOME PRACTICAL STEPS
So what are some practical steps to giving?
These are important. And I know some of you might still even be thinking, this isn’t worth talking about. I’ve heard it before. People should just give and give from their heart.
That might be true for a lot of you. But don’t assume everyone is where you are.
When I was 18, I had been a Christian for about 3 or 4 months, Bible Study w/ Tim L., “Are you giving a portion of your money to God?” “Throwing a couple bucks in” Him, “The Bible has principles for what we should give”
But I didn’t know that. And neither should we assume that everyone else has a deep understanding of that either. Especially in a young church like this.
The Bible talks about systematically setting money aside for God
In one of Paul’s letters in the NT, he’s collecting money for the church in Jerusalem (to help the poor), and he writes this:
(1 Corinthians 16:2) - NIV
2On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
I think one of the best places to start in terms of giving is to make a habit out of it.
For instance, I was gonna go workout yesterday. But as the day, got started, I made the fatal flaw of saying, “I’ll go in the afternoon if I’m caught up on work.” Then I said, “I’ll go at the end of the day, if there’s still time.”
Well of course, there wasn’t time.
If I don’t put it my schedule and make a habit of it, well, good luck to me
Or, better yet, if I’m not able to make that come first. To schedule it at 3:00, and work everything else around it, it’s probably not gonna happen
And giving to God is really similar
The Bible often talks of giving in terms of agricultural terms (which is a lot of the commerce that people gave back then), and it often uses the phrase of “Firstfruits”
It’s this idea that you give to God first.
You sit down at the beginning of each week, of the beginning of each month, or the beginning of your budget year, and you say, here’s what we’re gonna give to God
Because otherwise we just give leftovers.
And I don’t want to give leftovers to God. He gave me so much.
And I don’t think most other people do either. It’s not like your heart is saying, “God I just don’t care that much about you.” No.
I think it’s actually more indicative of our inability to form habits then it is a reflection of our heart
But, the reality is, if we’re not purposeful in it, if we don’t make a habit of it, the chances of us doing a good job in it is pretty low.
When my friend Tim convinced me to be a consistent giver, I was 18 yrs old and working at KBEK
I made roughly $130 a week. So, for me (and I decided to give 10%), to set aside $13 a week, wasn’t a big deal.
And that was a habit I could put easily put in place. And was able to continue it as I made more money as life went on. But it’s all about forming a habit in the first place.
As a church we recognize that this is a lot harder for some people than for others
And one of the practical things we did about this is to offer online and automatic giving
If you go to website, you can very easily/safely set-up online giving where u can give anytime u want OR, u can even set it up to take out every week, twice a month etc.
And if you’re a person who struggles to keep with habits, maybe that’s a good tip. A good place to start.
If you’re feeling a little stuck when it comes to the giving thing. Stuck in terms of 1) it doesn’t feel very cheerful to you, and 2) You’re not sure you even have the motivation to step up your giving…
I would recommend that you add a little “very personal” giving in your life
Listen, giving to your church is important (talk about that), but sometimes churches are over-obsessed with themselves.
The best way to develop an attitude of gratitude towards giving is to give to someone you know.
Do you know someone who’s going on a missions trip? Fund them
Do you know someone who’s out of work? Write them a check for $100
Do you know someone who needs help with medical bills? Sneak a check into their mailbox.
I don’t think we do enough of this type of giving quite frankly. This is the type of giving that often really inspires me, and gets me going, and gets me wanting to give even more to things like my church.
Just a thought. Just a recommendation if you need something to get you kick-started in this whole giving thing
So, here’s the big question for a lot of people. How much should you give? How much does the Bible say you should give?
First of all, like any of these fundamental topics we are doing, we could spend a marathon series on each topic, so I’m just going to touch on it
The topic of how much Christians should give has become a heated debate over the years
Many Christians say you should tithe (meaning give 10%). Let’s see why they say that, and if that’s even Biblical
There are references in the Genesis of Abraham and Jacob giving a tenth of what they had to a priest and to God respectively
We see it in the Law of Moses
(Leviticus 27:30) - NIV
'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.
When King Hezekiah brought revival back to Israel, he reinstituted the tithe
( 2 Chronicles 31:5) - NIV
As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.
But it’s actually a lot more complex than this, and we don’t have the time to do a detailed study of just this aspect of it (for another day)
But the gist of it is this:
The Israelites in the OT, not only tithed 10% for religious worship, but also tithed once every three years to help the refugees, the widows, and orphans. They also tithed some other things to their annual festivals as well.
It’s a debated number, but the Israelites roughly gave around 23% of what they had away to the church and others
However, the principle of tithing is hardly even mentioned in the NT
Jesus only makes passing reference to it twice, and both times it is in the context of saying, “Don’t neglect that, but don’t think that’s more important than showing justice and love to your neighbor. You can’t just give and then not love or care about other people.”
And in reality, the whole 10% thing actually isn’t even that clear in the Bible.
And I think we make a mistake when we just tell people, God wants 10% of your income.
I like how John Piper puts it, he says this, “I think God took the focus OFF giving a tithe in the early church because he wants his people to ask themselves a new question. The question that Jesus drives us to ask again and again is not, "How much should I give?" but rather, "How much dare I keep?"
Because we live in a world where good and evil are battling for hearts and eternal resting places are at stake. And Jesus calls us to radical living.
He calls us to things like: “He who has 2 coats, let him share with those who have none.” Or to the rich young ruler, Jesus says, If you would be perfect, go and sell what you possess and give to the poor, then come follow me.” OR, in Acts, we see the believers having things in common and completely supporting one another, we see people selling all of their land to support the movement of the church
We see people really living a radical lifestyle for a radical God
And I think when we boil it down to, just give 10%, we forget that God wants 100% of your life
And God just simply isn’t even interested in your gifts unless He has your heart
It’s like in a marriage. Sometimes, you don’t care how much your spouse is making by working all those long hours. You just want their love.
The same with kids. Sometimes, they don’t care about all the presents you could get them, they just want to spend time w/ u
The same with God. He first wants your heart.
And then he wants to change yours, to renovate yours, so that He could use it to bless others
Honestly, I think 10% because it’s mentioned enough (despite it’s sometimes confusing context), is still a good benchmark for Christians to live by
My only encouragement is not to treat that number like a checklist. Oh, I give 10% now. I’m good. Cross that off my list of being a good Christian. That’s not a generous lifestyle. That’s a legalistic lifestyle.
And that’s why I think you don’t see an overfascination with percentages in the new testament
I think giving is not only a fundamental thing for Christians worldwide, but especially for our country
We live in a financially blessed country (even in the recession)
Avg. Minnesota income: $39,000 (SHOW SLIDE)
Even lower: $20,000 (SHOW SLIDE)
Now obviously poverty is relative to the contextual situation you are in.
But the reality is, what we have, even a little, can do SO much
And as the Bible says, “To he who has been give much, much is expected”
And I want to encourage you to trust in God. Trust Him to take care of HIS money as you give it away
No matter where you are. The Bible says, “Give and it will be given to you” and “the one who plants generously will get a generous crop”
This isn’t some sort of prosperity gospel, give to God, play the heavenly stock market sort of garbage
But you can trust that as you give, God will bless you
His Word is true on that.
He might not bless you with money, but He will bless you. Resource you with what you need. What you really need.
So I encourage you to follow the example of Christ and live a generous life
No matter where you are.
Maybe you’re unemployed. Maybe you don’t have any money to spare. Maybe I said shoot for 10%, and you thought in your mind, I’d be lucky if I could give 2%.
I encourage you to trust in God no matter where you are.
If you feel like you right now because of the financial situation you are in, you could only give 2-4%, well, then trust God that he will take care of you at 4%. And maybe in 6 months, it could 5%. And maybe next year 6%
And don’t get overly fascinated with numbers. Just let him move in your heart to help other people.
And I like I said with SERVING, it’s not all about just serving at church, church, church, and neither is it with giving, BUT I think it’s a place where a lot of great things happen…and a lot of good is done with what people give
And we’ll unroll more and more details of this as time goes on, but this is a church that not only gives to world missions, but gives a significant amount to help start even more churches, and is a church who is radically changing lives
Just last month in our church 6 new people gave their lives to Jesus Christ
This is a church that is already in just 4 months, making a radical difference in the lives of people in our area.
And it’s something that I think is worth giving to
But wherever you are, I just encourage to start really thinking and praying about this area.
Have a good talk with God about it. Have a good talk with your spouse about it. And start praying about what He might have you do and where He might have you do it.
And then start using what He gave you to change this world.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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