This is week #6 of our 13-week series called This Is How We Roll. In this long series, we are listening to God as He reveals who He has called us to be and what He has called us to do in our lives, in our families, and in our church.
This is a big week in this series, so let’s pray for God to speak to us in an unmistakably clear way today.
I worked on this message at Starbucks this week. Honestly, I don’t go to Starbucks near as much as I used to. Because Starbucks can very easily turn into six bucks, and our budget just won’t allow for that too often.
But when fall comes around, my visits to Starbucks go up because that’s when they serve the elixir of heaven, otherwise known as the Pumpkin Spice latte.
Seriously, for all you weirdos who don’t like the Pumpkin Spice stuff from Starbucks, you’re going to be really surprised when you get to heaven and that’s what they’re serving year-round.
Anyway, I got to Starbucks this week. Unpacked my laptop. Got everything ready to start writing. And then I walked to the counter and ordered a grande Pumpkin Spice frappucino, cause I really like ‘em cold.
But then, all my hopes were crushed when the barista said, “We’re out of Pumpkin Spice.”
Now, I held it together. I didn’t go off on her. I didn’t lose my cool because I love Jesus. But that’s about the only reason.
But here’s the thing about this…they had signs for Pumpkin Spice all over the place. This is one of them. There were signs for Pumpkin Spice all over the store, and not one of those signs said, “Sorry, we’re out.”
I was thirsty. I followed the signs that told me where to quench my thirst. But when I got there, I found out that it was empty.
Starbucks had cast a vision for me. A vision of what they could do to quench my thirst. But the vision turned out to be empty.
Our culture casts a vision for us. It’s supposed to satisfy us. It’s supposed to quench our thirst. It’s supposed to fulfill us.
We talked about it last week. It’s the vision of “Get!” “Get” will satisfy you. “Get” will fulfill you. “Get” will quench your thirst.
But it never happens, because “get” is a moving target. You never hit it. Just when you think you’re there, “get” moves the goalposts.
Because “get” is never satisfied. “Get” always wants a little more, and a little more, and a little more. And in the end, “get” leaves us empty and unfulfilled. “Get” is a completely empty vision.
But the Apostle Paul gives us an alternative in his second letter to the church in the city of Corinth.
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV)
In this verse, the Apostle Paul gives us two very different visions for our lives. Paul casts contrasting visions of scarcity and of generosity.
If we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly. If we sow generously, we will reap generously. Those are two very different visions. Those are two very different ways to live our lives.
If we are selfish and we sow sparingly, we can expect to reap sparingly.
But we are promised that if we commit to sowing generously, to living a consistent lifestyle of generosity, we will reap a generous blessing. In other words, God rewards generosity.
That mirrors what Jesus said in Matthew 6. “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4, NIV)
Some people get uncomfortable with messages like this, but this theme is so consistent through the Bible, both Old and New Testament. Jesus Himself said it. God rewards generosity. When we give, when we live a life of generosity, we position ourselves to receive greater blessings. When we sow generously, we will reap generously.
That is true in our lives, and that is true in our church. God blesses generous churches. God does amazing things through generous churches.
And that’s why it’s my passion that Connect will always be a generous church. There are certain words that people generally use to describe our church. I hear words like “vibrant” and “passionate.” I hear words like “honest” and “real.” And yeah, I hear words like “loud,” too!
But I’ll tell you another word that I absolutely want people to use when they describe Connect: generous. God rewards generosity. God blesses generous churches. And God does amazing things through generous churches. I want the word “generous” to be one of the first things people think of when they think of Connect.
And like we’ve said for the last two weeks, the tithe has been the benchmark of generosity for God’s people for thousands of years. The tithe dates back to Abraham. And the tithe was affirmed by Jesus.
A tithe means a tenth. We tithe when we return 10% of our income back to God. And here at Connect, we have no problem challenging our partners to be tithers.
And I want to show you why. It’s not because we just want your money. It’s not because “all the church cares about is my money.” Baloney. That’s not why we preach about tithing. We preach about it because God commanded it. And we preach about it because God blesses it. He blesses our lives and our families when we tithe. He blesses our church when we tithe. And He blesses our mission and our vision when we tithe.
In a message that I preached last year, we explored the story of the time when Mary broke a jar of very expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. The story is in Mark 14 if you want to read it later.
She was criticized for this extravagant gift, but Jesus praised her. He said that she had done a beautiful thing to Him. We saw how Jesus brings blessing when we are generous. When we are willing to break our jar and bring a generous gift to Him.
Check out this video from last year.
You want to know why we preach about tithing and generosity? That’s why. Because it changes lives. It changes our lives when we become givers. And it changes other peoples’ lives because God works through our generosity.
And one of those lives is represented here on stage with me right now. This is Erin Naylor. A lot of you know Erin. A lot of your kids definitely know Erin. She’s one of our most popular volunteers in Connect Kids.
I asked Erin to join me on stage today because I want you to hear her story. As I said in that video, beautiful things happen when we break the jar and we bring the tithe. I want you to hear of some of the beautiful things that are happening in Erin’s life.
Erin Naylor Interview
- What is God doing in your life through Connect?
- Why do you choose to serve and give at Connect?
- What excites you most about our church?
Beautiful things happen when God’s people are generous. God blesses generous churches. And God does amazing things through generous churches.
That’s why we embrace this truth. Partners are visionary givers.
We are making a big shift here at Connect. We are doing away with traditional church membership and we are embracing the more Biblical idea of church partnership. At the end of this series, we’re blowing out our membership roll and starting completely from scratch. We will be a church with zero members! You’re out! I’m out! We’re all out!
But then, we have a chance to affirm, or reaffirm, our commitment to Connect by saying, “I want to be a partner! I want to partner with Connect in our vision and our mission!”
This isn’t just semantics. It’s not just changing our wording. This is a really big deal, because like we’ve been saying: members have rights, but partners have responsibilities.
Partnership is a whole different deal than membership, and generosity is a huge part of the equation. Partners are givers. Partners are visionary givers. Partners give generously to their church because they believe in the vision and mission of their church. They believe it in enough to fund it. They believe in it enough to support it. Partners give generously because they want to see God do amazing things in their church and through their church.
Think about some of the amazing things that could happen if we all committed to living generously, if we all committed to bringing the tithe or beyond. I’m just going to dream out loud for a few minutes. So feel free to dream a little dream with me.
If we all brought a tithe to God through His church here at Connect, think about what God could do.
We could go and lease a space for 500 people in a heartbeat. Our church could literally grow by 3x, 4x, 5X. Think of reaching 500 people a week instead of 150. Think of reaching 1,000 people per week.
Think of how many more lives we could impact. Think of how many more people would meet Jesus and have their eternities changed.
We could take Sports Camp to the next level. Maybe go for two weeks or the whole summer
Our Jr. & Sr. High students would have their own space where kids could meet up and hangout through the week.
We could have our own dedicated space to allow for more community & no more setup & teardown.
We could hire more staff. We could hire a full-time Kids Pastor and Student Pastor who could pour into the lives of our kids and students. We could hire an executive pastor to help coordinate all the details of our church, which would free me up to focus like a laser on reaching more people with the gospel.
We could go into the community and make a huge impact in the lives of those who are addicted, those who are in need, and those who are ready to just give up. We could be even more generous in our support of the Christian Help Center. We could provide food, clothes, shelter, and transportation for people who desperately need it, all in the Name of Jesus.
We could send more people out on mission, in our backyard and to the other side of the globe.
We could rescue kids who are enslaved in the sex trade. This is a scourge on our time, and our church could play a huge role in rescuing these children and giving them what they have only dreamed of: freedom.
Some of you think I’m out of my mind right now. But I’m telling you that ALL of this is possible if we would all commit to bring the tithe. There is not one thing that I just said that is impossible. It could all happen if we all committed to a life of generosity, if we all committed to the tithe.
Because God rewards generosity. God blesses generous churches. And God blesses generous people.
That’s why I don’t have the slightest hesitation to preach about money. Some pastors hate talking about money. Not me. I love preaching about money! This is the third week in a row that I’ve preached about generosity and giving. In fact, money is getting more time in this series than anything else. You want to know why? Because money is usually the biggest hindrance to the work God wants to do in our lives.
Remember what Jesus said? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
Money is the #1 competitor for our heart. Money is often the #1 obstacle that keeps Jesus from being first in our lives. Money is often the biggest thing that stands in the way of what God really wants to do in us and through us. That means that the church can NEVER be afraid to preach and teach about it.
I realize the risks. I realize when a pastor preaches about money, there is a risk that someone will leave the church and never come back. But I told you earlier in this series, that’s a risk I’m willing to take, because I want you to live in the freedom that comes when Jesus really is first.
But, as with everything else in our lives, it’s our decision. You can choose to obey what you’ve heard Jesus say over the last few weeks. You can choose to be generous. You can choose to bring the tithe. Or you can choose not to. It’s your choice.
That’s what Paul tells us. Go back to 2 Corinthians 9. Paul said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV)
Those are the two contrasting visions for our lives. We can live sparingly or we can live generously. We can live in the prison selfishness or we can live in the freedom of generosity. We can position ourselves to receive little or to receive much from God. Those are the two visions that Paul lays out for us. Now, look at the next verse.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)
Paul laid out two different visions for our lives. A vision of scarcity and a vision of generosity. And then the very next thing he says is, “Now decide.” “Each of you should give what you have DECIDED in your heart to give.”
It’s not about a religious compulsion or duty. It’s a free choice that we all have to make. We all get to decide which vision we want to live in.
Some people are simply going to ignore it. You’re going to just let everything you’ve heard over the last few weeks just fly out the window. It’s not going to make any lasting difference in your life. That is a choice you have.
Or you can choose to start living differently. You can choose to trust God and start bringing the tithe. You can choose to live generously.
And if that’s the choice you make, look at this promise. It’s the very next verse that Paul writes here in 2 Corinthians 9.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)
Some of us don’t live generously because we don’t believe these words: “God is able.”
If your God is not able, you will not live generously. If your God is not able, you will not trust Him with things like your finances. If your God is not able, you will live a life that is completely centered around you, because if your God is not able, then you are your only hope.
But I want to tell you something today…my God IS able. My God is able to meet my needs. My God is able bless me abundantly. My God is able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or even imagine. When I tithe, my God is able to do more with 90% than I can do with 100%.
If my God is able to save me for all eternity, then my God is able to handle my checkbook. If my God is able to die for my sins and then rise to life again, then my God is able to handle whatever is happening in my life.
Everybody say, “My God is able.” “My God is able!”
Now, let’s look at this entire verse again. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)
Paul tells us that God is able to bless us, and then he tells us why God will bless us. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing. We are blessed so that we can do more good. We are blessed so that we can serve more people. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing.
I love what Mark Batterson wrote on Twitter this week. “God doesn’t spoil His children. Translation: He won’t BLESS YOU beyond your ability to FLIP THE BLESSING and bless others.”
We don’t give so that we can get. We don’t give to scam or manipulate God into blessing us. God sees right through that smokescreen. God only blesses us when our gifts come from a generous heart. If you don’t intend to use your blessings to bless others, the blessings probably won’t come.
In fact, skip on down a few verses to verse 11. Paul said, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11, NIV)
We are enriched so we can be generous. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing.
That’s true in our lives. That’s true in our church. Here at Connect, we believe this with all our hearts…God rewards generosity.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We moved the offering to the end of our service today because we want to set this time aside to be a celebration. God loves cheerful givers. Giving is a privilege. Giving is a joy. And today, we’re going to make it a special celebration.
So I’m going to pray and then our band will lead us in a song as we prepare our hearts to celebrate by giving generously.
I’ve told you over the last few weeks that I don’t want something FROM you. I want something FOR you. I want you to live a life where Jesus is first. I want you to be set free from the prison of the self-centered, self-absorbed life that is the norm today. I want something better than that for you. And the better comes when we surrender everything, including our money, to Jesus. That’s when the better comes.
So let’s get our minds and hearts prepared for the better. Let’s get ready to give. Let’s get ready to surrender our all to Jesus.
Generosity is how we roll here at Connect. Our partners are generous givers. Our partners are joyful givers. Our partners are visionary givers.
And it’s all because our God is a giver. We’ve been in 2 Corinthians 9 all morning. Check out the very last verse of that chapter.
Paul said, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV)
We give because God gave us an indescribable gift when He gave us His own Son. Jesus gave His life for ours on the cross. He died for messed up, train wrecked sinners like you and me. And because of His gift to us, we can be forgiven and free.
We give because Jesus has given us more than we could ever imagine. And if you haven’t yet crossed that line of faith, if you haven’t said that I want Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of my life, we’d love to talk with you and pray with you after church. We want you to know the very best gift that has ever been given. We want you to know Jesus.
He is our rock. He is steadfast and sure. That’s why we surrender to Him. That’s why we give back to Him. That’s why we trust Him.
So let’s stand and let’s worship Him now.