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The Importance of Vision

December 8, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine

Surprised by Joy: Some years ago I read C.S. Lewis’s autobiographical work Surprised by Joy, detailing his journey from atheism to Christian faith. I discovered the title was inspired by a poem by that name written by William Wordsworth, the master of Romanticism, lamenting the fact that he experienced a moment of joy but had lost in death his daughter, so the added joy of sharing the experience could not occur.

The phrase stood out to me recently with two events that captured the attention of the nation. The first was the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation. I must confess that despite coming from a family where my maternal grandfather and grandmother were avid race horse owners and racing fans and punters, any gene for being addicted to the Sport of Kings lies completely dormant in my genome. Yet I am not insensitive to the excitement and joie de vivre that the race engenders in many in our community. The newspapers always publish photographs showing the sheer joy on the faces of the owners and jockey of the successful steed.

Yet somehow all of this was transcended, and even made to seem hollow, by the sheer wave of joy that swept the entire continent of Australia when the news emerged that little four year old Cleo Smith had been found alive and well. It was the culmination of a massive search by police and volunteers that stretched over eighteen days, where the authorities threw everything at it, including a one million dollar reward and simply did not give up. Everyone from seasoned policemen, politicians, news reporters and the average man and woman in the street seemed captivated by a feeling of joy that seemed somehow purer and deeper than even the most significant sporting achievement could ever engender. I am not a particularly emotional person but I was surprised by the overwhelming sensation that this rescue engendered, the sheer joy that this dear little girl whom most had feared lost and perhaps never to be recovered, was found apparently unharmed. 

It made me reflect and empathize more deeply than I ever had before on the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus tells the short story of a man who has one hundred sheep but loses one. Rather than write this animal off as the cost of doing of doing business, the shepherd searches and searches till he triumphantly brings the stray home. Jesus concludes with the famous words,

‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’ Luke 15:7.

Jesus spells out very clearly his heart and his priorities. His followers over two millennia have adopted this mission and feel a real rejoicing when any person puts their faith in Christ. For me, it simply reinforced the thought that the real overwhelming joy that I felt when I heard about Cloe Smith is really just a pale reflection the emotion I surely feel about the saving ministry of rescuing lost people with the gospel.

I have written a book about raising resources for ministry in the local church. It is called Giving Generously. One of the points I stressed in the book is that when properly and appropriately done raising money for ministry produces great joy. The reason for this is obvious.  No one gets excited about giving to paint the parish hall or buy a better dishwasher for the church kitchen. But when the object of the ministry is real kingdom work that involves heaven rejoicing as lost sheep are found, then people will give freely and generously and will be surprised by the joy it gives them.

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The Importance of Vision

November 28, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
Thanksgiving bagsThanksgiving Day 2021 Sometimes ministers are cautious about asking the congregation for resources because they are worried the people will be irritated and the request will do more harm than good. I have always felt that if the request is made properly there will be excitement and joy rather than push-back. I reflected on this recently when I experienced a request for resources. A church that I know well held its annual Thanksgiving Day. This is the time of the year when the congregation is asked to fill red bags with items to be given to the homeless and the needy and to bring them to church on the day. The atmosphere was extremely positive. Why? I started to think about what it was that made me give and feel happy about doing it.

First, the service was celebratory; giving thanks to God for the many blessing we have received.
Second, it was linked to a gospel mandate and the sermon focused on the spread of the kingdom of God in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven that permeates the whole loaf.
Third, there was a very creative children’s ministry segment. At the front of the church, a life-size red bag was situated. It was a very large version of the smaller bags we were to fill at the supermarket. Some kids were invited forward and a brief message was given and out of the large replica bag, items such as soap, toilet paper etc, were catapulted through the air by an unseen hand in parabolic arcs with the kids scrambling to catch them in their small bags.
Fourth, there was a powerful video featuring a school principal and a chaplain of a disadvantaged school talking about the impact that the goods had in the lives of kids from fractured families.
Fifth, we also heard an interview with one of the volunteers who helped walk the streets of Brisbane CBD distributing items to the homeless and inviting them back to church for a meal. She also testified to how she joined the ministry and how much satisfaction it gave her. The whole service highlighted the vision of the church to reach out to the community spiritually, and practically. At the end of the service there was a monster morning tea with an assortment of tasty goodies.
Later I asked one woman for her impressions of the service. She felt it was a celebration of generosity to those who were not as well off as we are. There was real joy and delight in our being able to help. It made her reflect on how many blessings we have received from God. She noted that we don’t understand why some of the recipients are in the plight they are in but we have the opportunity to give mercy without judging. On the theme of Thanksgiving, she felt that this was not merely about being thankful, but the day gave her the opportunity to pay it forward, attributing the blessings to God and focusing on our ability to share those blessings.
I asked her if she felt in any way manipulated. She said she felt no manipulation at all and felt by contrast that people who think the churches are in the habit of manipulating people to give, are most likely being manipulated themselves by the modern zeitgeist.
The take-away is that raising resources involves sharing a gospel vision for the advancement of the kingdom of God and asking people to give generously toward it. That almost always produces funds for gospel ministry and a sense of delight in the congregation. For more on the theme of generosity see my book, Giving Generously. Buy the Book

The Importance of Vision

October 7, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
preachingIn my book Giving Generously I recommend holding a Commitment Day when the minister asks for pledges to fund the work of church ministry for the following year. The Commitment Day is not a standalone event but the culmination of a four to six week time when the vision and ministry of the church are highlighted to the congregation. A number of activities are held in this period but the most important is the preaching series which accompanies it. It is important to note that raising resources is only a secondary purpose of the series. The primary purpose of such a commitment series is to build up the spiritual lives of the congregation and engage them in the work and vision of the church. It is for this reason it is important to hold an annual Commitment Day even if there is no pressing financial need.

Yes, generally there was a message about money, or giving or generosity within the series. However, there was generally only one, possibly two at a stretch. I certainly do not advocate preaching multiple sermons on money unless the series is about ‘The Bible and Money Management’. That is a worthy subject but not one I would use in a Commitment series.

When I started to understand this process while I was the Senior Minister of Figtree Anglican Church, I wondered how it was possible to preach a new series every year. Wouldn’t I run out of things to say and just end up repeating myself? Initially I looked to famous ministers around the world to see how they approached such an exercise. After a while I got a feel for how to create my own series. And there was good news, very good news. Such series were everywhere in the bible, because the temptations of wealth or the encouragement to give, are themes in many of the books of both Old and New Testament.

I am now retired but in my general bible reading I keep finding groups of passages and verses that would make marvellous Commitment series. Consider the series of instructions found in Hebrews 13. They may be part of broader series on the whole book of Hebrews during the year. Some messages could be.
1. Loving our fellow Believers v 1
2. Practice Hospitality v 2
3. Support those persecuted for Christ v 4
4. Marriage in an age of Easy Virtue v 4
5. Trusting God with your Money v5
6. Honour your leaders v 7&8, 17
7. Offer a Sacrifice of Praise v9-16

This series with seven messages is a little longer than normal but the text naturally breaks into these parts. It also has the advantage of allowing a focus on areas of the Christian life such as hospitality that may get passed over. Further the series has a blend of themes to be explored and passages to be expanded. The message on money embedded in the series, can be particularly helpful as the text picks up the theological emphasis of our need to totally rely on God. Taken together they cover a range of basic issues that cannot help to build up the faith of even the most mature believer. Within the commitment period there could be a range of supplementary events based on the themes of the series. These could include marriage seminars, money seminars, hospitality events or a feature on the persecuted church or prison ministry.

I do not pretend that the titles I have given are the best or most desirable. I am sure they can be improved but are just proffered to give some sort of idea about how such series could be attempted. And if this series does not appeal, keep looking at the scriptures. They contain countless others. Buy the Book

The Importance of Vision

September 16, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
441797199.0.mThe Grace of Giving If you were asked who were the top three Christian leaders of the 20th century, who would you say? Of course the list is subjective and influenced by personal appeal and one’s own theological tradition. When I ponder that question the following names jump out to me.

First, Billy Graham the evangelist, who must surely go down as one of the giants of the faith in any age. Second, Martyn Lloyd Jones, the peerless preacher and the man who reintroduced the puritans to the evangelical world. Third there is John Stott, for the immense clarity of his biblical exposition and writing that made complex issues transparent. Jim Packer, for his profound scholarly insights, comes in a very close fourth for me.

When I was researching my book Giving Generously, I came across a small booklet called The Grace of Giving by John Stott. Even though it is a very slim volume, originally given as an exposition of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 in San Diego in 1998, I have found that anything that Stott has written on almost any subject is stimulating and informative. Thus I sat up and took notice. Stott enunciated ten principles of Christian giving. Here they are, all from 2 Corinthians.

1. Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God. (2 Corinthians 8:1-6)
2. Christian giving can be a charisma, that is a gift of the spirit. (8:7)
3. Christian giving is inspired by the cross of Christ (8:8&9)
4. Christian giving is proportionate giving. (8:10-12)
5. Christian giving contributes to equality. (8:13-15)
6. Christian giving must be carefully supervised. (8:16-24)
7. Christian giving can be stimulated by a little friendly competition. (9:1-5)
8. Christian giving resembles a harvest. (9:6-11a)
9. Christian giving has theological significance. (9:13)
10. Christian giving promotes thanksgiving to God. (9:11b-15)

I commend this booklet to you. It is easily available online. One point I might add that is not evident from this summary. It would be incredibly valuable to prepare a bible study for home groups based on this material. This will be very helpful but if you are a pastor looking to raise resources to fund gospel ministry, there is one more step to do. In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul does not shrink from actually asking people to contribute. This study would give people the knowledge and foundations of Christian giving. However Paul still actively asked for support and I suggest you must too. For more on how to ask, see Giving Generously.

The Importance of Vision

August 14, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
MoneyWhere should I give? Several years ago the sad case of a 92 year old UK woman made the news. She had come onto the radar of a range of charitable organisations, who would ring and mail requests for donations to potential donors. I am not suggesting that there is necessarily anything wrong with this, but in the case of this lady, she was receiving so many calls and requests for money from so many different organizations that she felt completely overwhelmed. The tragic consequence was that due to these and other pressures, the poor lady took her own life.

On the other hand, there was an influential layman at the church I pastored in Wollongong who in his youth, just after World War 2 in England, had courted and married one of the maids at an aristocratic household. He told me that they even had to get her lady’s permission to walk out together. The mistress of the house, another elderly lady, was very generous, but in a discerning way. She had certain charities that she supported and would steadfastly say ‘no’ to any other supplicants.

So where should you be generous, and how should a minister address a congregation on this subject? There are so many causes and so many are worthy causes: Life line, World Wildlife Fund, Lifesavers, Hospital and University support. My daughter-in-law used to work for the McGrath foundation. As a cricket lover, I felt that saw that as an excellent cause: cricket sponsoring breast cancer nurses!

For followers of Jesus, the bible gives excellent general pointers about where to give.
    1. Christian ministry: There were women in the New Testament that gave their money to support the ministry of Jesus. (Luke 8:1-3)
    2. Gospel Projects: King David raised resources for the temple to the glory of God. (1Chronicles 29)
    3. Alleviation of poverty: Paul raised money so the Christians in Jerusalem would not starve. 2 Corinthians (8 and 9) The collection forms a thread that runs through other epistles and Acts.
    4. Mission projects help ensure people in other places may come under the transforming word of Jesus.

As the senior minister of Figtree Anglican church, I knew that I could not dictate where people should give. That would not only be wrong, but certainly counterproductive. Australians don’t like being dictated to, especially with regards to money. So my approach was to give a lead. People looked to me to give guidance from the scriptures on a wide range of topics and money was no exception. My wife Helen and I always made sure we were on the same page with our giving and the general handling of money. Thus after speaking about general biblical principles when preaching I would say something like this.
First, we give to the local church. That is number one on our agenda. The local church gets a very bad press today. That is mainly because the media highlights the relatively few rotten apples and remains totally silent on all the love and care and fellowship and support that you find in the local church. It is the engine room of the Christian faith. I am asking you to give to support the ministry here. But at the same time I am doing all I can to make this ministry one you will be very happy to support.
Second, we give to other causes that proclaim the name of Jesus and are motivated by his love. These will include para-church ministry, missions and mercy ministry that aids the poor and underprivileged, and Christian projects over and above our local church support. Evangelistic work and church planting have a special urgency today.
Third, we give to secular projects as they touch our heart. This is third on our list because we believe our major support should go to Christian ministry, because if Christians don’t support the church and Christian ministry and missions no one else will. Yet there are some very worthy community projects and it is good to consider them. I hope you will find these points helpful as you consider your own giving or the way you might lead others. For more on giving and generosity see my book Giving Generously.

The Importance of Vision

July 15, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine

Almost everything you want to know about tithing

On Boxing Day 1891 The Age newspaper of Melbourne contained a report entitled A Ride to Little Tibet, about the exotic travels of Henry Lansdell D.D. In the story he was just leaving Kashgar, an ancient town on the old Silk Road, in the very west of China, to roam further on his journey. So who was Henry Lansdell and why would he feature in a massage on a generosity website?

Landsell was born in Kent in 1841, son of a school master. He was a student at the London College of Divinity and was ordained priest in the Church of England in 1868. A teetotaller, he gained a reputation as a dynamic preacher, which he combined with a passion for missions. Obviously he was bitten with the travel bug, and not having been tied down by the incumbency of a parish, began a roving existence visiting many countries and distributing bibles and Christian literature as he did so. Initially he visited France, Germany and other western European countries but soon embarked on multiple journeys. These included Northern and Eastern Europe, and through Asia to Japan and across the Pacific to San Francisco.

Further travel followed. He reported on the conditions in Russian prisons, visited Mt Ararat in Turkey, the traditional resting place of Noah’s Ark, and attempted, with the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to meet the Dalai Lama. It was this latter trip that drew the attention of The Age newspaper.  Lansdell saw sights and places that were completely off the beaten track to westerners of his time. He blended in with the locals and photographs show him in highly unusual local costumes, hardly the image of a prim Anglican clergyman that gets aired on historical television shows. His energetic labours were recognised as he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, a life member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and was member of the Royal Asiatic Society. Lansdell died in London in 1921, survived by his wife Mary.

During his journeys he made an exhaustive study of the practice of tithing throughout the regions he travelled, delving  into local practices and history. His findings are recorded in his book The Sacred Tenth or Studies in Tithe Giving, Ancient and Modern. It is a monumental work with detailed discussion of tithing in the Old Testament, Apocrypha, New Testament, Jewish Rabbinical practice, Early Church Fathers, and subsequent church history. Equally interesting is his survey of the subject in non-Christian nations from the Middle East to China.

I will give two examples among so many that attracted my attention. First, I was surprised at how wide spread the practice of tithing was in the ancient world with almost every society paying tithes in some shape of form.  I had always been somewhat puzzled that some of the early biblical references,-Abraham paying a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20),-Jacob vowing to tithe (Gen 28:20-22) or the command in Leviticus 27:30-33- are discussed  out of the blue as it were, without any introduction. This becomes understandable when you consider that the scripture is probably referencing a practice that was widespread common knowledge.

Second, I had not realized that when Henry  8th dissolved the monasteries,  around 1540 in England and parcelled out their lands to his aristocratic supporters, in many cases he also parcelled out the tithes to the new secular masters. I rather shared Lansdell’s indignation when I found that even at the end of the 19th century, 350 years later, around one third of those tithes were still flowing into secular aristocratic pockets for their own personal use and not assisting Christian ministry.

Lansdell was a supporter of the practice of tithing. I recognize this is controversial but whether you believe that the tithe should be preached today or not, your knowledge and viewpoint will be greatly enhanced by reading this book which is still available online or in paperback. If you want to read more about raising money for ministry read my book Giving Generously: resourcing local church ministry. https://givinggenerously.com/

 

The Sacred Tenthjpg

The Importance of Vision

April 4, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
Easter CrossThe Easter season is with us again. When I was a boy I was excited by the prospect of extra holidays and chocolate eggs and other goodies. I was not raised in a church going home so was only vaguely aware of any deep spiritual significance of Good Friday or Easter Sunday. Nor did I think I should change my life in any way except to monitor my chocolate intake to avoid getting gorged. When I became a Christian the profound significance of Christ’s death for sins became much clearer to me and as a result I needed to change my life from serving myself to following Jesus.
Certainly there are many many applications of the death of Jesus in practical terms in the everyday life of believers especially in the way we love each other. Yet I found that one of the most surprizing applications was the exhortation to be generous, to give money to gospel causes and the poor. I simply wouldn’t have thought of it. Yet it is clearly spelt out by the apostle Paul.

He wrote to believers in ancient Corinth in Greece, encouraging them not to forget to contribute to the relief offering that was being collected for the church in Jerusalem. He held up before them the example of the generosity of the poverty stricken church in neighbouring Macedonia. Despite their extreme lack of money the Macedonians had pleaded for the opportunity to give and had given a breathtaking amount.

Yet St Paul has an even greater example. It is the Lord Jesus himself. In a scripture of astonishing richness the apostle shows how Jesus descended from the most lofty riches to the most degrading poverty as an act of grace; His supreme self-giving on behalf of humanity. This verse in a matter of a few words holds up Jesus’ incarnation, His birth as a human, with His atonement, His dying on the cross. And He did it for us.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’2 Cor 8:9
My friend and fellow Anglican minister, Ray Galea commented in one of his sermons: ‘There is no one richer than the owner of the universe. There is no one poorer than a man stripped naked upon a cross.”

I have often marveled at how such profound theology could be encapsulated in so few words for such a practical purpose. This scripture is a compact spiritual masterpiece. God’s people should give because the life and death of Jesus are a model of grace and generosity. So this Easter by all means eat some chocolate and hot cross buns, but also find a godly cause and be generous. For more on generous living see my book Giving Generously.

The Importance of Vision

January 28, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine

In my book Giving Generously, I have laid out what I believe is a clear, biblical, inspirational and ethical way to raise resources in a local church. This involves transparent communication of biblical principles, a compelling kingdom vison and a gracious direct request for support. In my former congregation I had many generous women who actively supported the ministry financially. So I read with some interest an article from the McKinsey Company written by four women and entitled: ‘Women as the new wave of wealth in US wealth management’. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/women-as-the-next-wave-of-growth-in-us-wealth-management. In it they commented that up to very recently, most financial advisors were men and the industry operated under the assumption that men were the primary decision makers with the family finances. This, of course, is changing with women increasingly occupying prominent, well paid positions in the work force. Divorce is also a factor, generally making both parties poorer, but again meaning financial decision making is in the woman’s hands.

The particular issue addressed in the article is the massive transfer of wealth that is occurring within the baby boomer generation. Men are generally older than their wives by about four years and women outlive men by a further seven or so years. This means many women will have around a decade of widowhood where they will control the couple’s share of their often considerable baby boomer assets. This figure is in the realm of trillions of dollars over the next decade. The McKinsey article is written in the context of professional wealth management. It is advocating a client centred approach that not merely takes this shift into account, but is sensitive to the requirements and outlook of elderly female clients who may never have shown much interest in finances before.

In terms of giving, the professional literature also confirms that women differ from men in their motivations for giving. They score higher in measures of empathy, altruism, religious commitment and their self-perceived identity as kind, giving and caring.  The take away from this is that women have increasing control over considerable assets, and seem to respond differently to requests for financial support.

None of this should be interpreted as advocating a minister should target women in some exploitative, manipulative way. However, it is not inappropriate to consider women’s special perspectives when it comes to requesting support for kingdom work. Women have been supporting Christian ministry since before the term ‘Christian’ was in use. The gospel writer Luke, who seems to have a particular interest in the place of women, is the evangelist who tells us of the women who supported Jesus in his ministry. He writes:

the twelve were with him and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out: Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household: Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means’. Luke 8: 1c-3

Naturally it would be wonderful to know more than this. How did these women come to give this support? Were they asked directly or did they volunteer? Were men also generous financial supporters? It is not difficult to imagine that they found the person and message of Jesus compelling and personally transforming, and were moved to assist the Master and his disciples. In other words, they saw a kingdom cause embodied in one who was eminently worth supporting.

So how might today’s preachers incorporate an appeal that includes women? Here are some strategies to consider.

  1. Rejoice in and affirm women’s long history of gospel generosity.
  2. Acknowledge that women are increasingly in control of their own financial destiny.
  3. Recognize that there is a growing cohort of women in the senior age groups who have financial control for the first time in their lives. Many will give generously from accumulated assets to a large exciting gospel project.
  4. Consult a group of generous female supporters about what would be an appropriate way to ask for financial support from the women in your congregation.
  5. In sermons on money and generosity, address specifically the women in the congregation who can be moved by altruistic and compassionate goals more than men.
  6. Interview women in the service or during a sermon on the particular issues that concern them when giving.
  7. Remember that while confidence in the benefit of the project and the authenticity of the leader is important to both sexes, it is especially important to women who particularly value personal connection.

Finally and above all, never resort to manipulation or anything remotely dubious, but present a clear vision of how this request will glorify God and advance Christ’s kingdom.

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The Importance of Vision

November 20, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine

KnightThe apostle Paul on one occasion urged his hearers to be generous, to share, and to remember those less fortunate. He quoted some famous words of Jesus:

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is a very famous saying. You will notice why Paul uses it: so you can bless others.

If you consult the serious bible scholars, they will tell you that what Jesus is saying is that ‘it is better to give than to amass’. It is better to give out than to store up for yourself. It is better to have a giving attitude than a getting attitude. It is better to have a gracious heart than a greedy heart. It is better to be generous than grasping.

This emphasis comes from the word itself. Consider the classic version of the bible, the King James Version, which was translated in 1611, over for hundred years ago and was the standard version in English for three hundred and fifty years. If you do a word search, you won’t find the word ‘generous’ in it. The concept is there but the term they used was ‘liberal’.

A famous generosity verse, Proverbs 11:25, is thus translated: ‘the liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.’

‘Liberal’ in this context doesn’t mean the name of a political party or a progressive movement. The meaning is the same as when we say, ‘he put a liberal amount of tomato sauce on his scrambled eggs’. I do that and my wife Helen hates it. She says,’ you shouldn’t drown the eggs in sauce. It is just not right’.

I hope you get the meaning of ‘liberal’. The reason they didn’t use ‘generous’ in the King James Version is because four to five hundred years ago ‘generous’ didn’t mean what it does today. Back then it meant ‘noble’ such as being a member of the aristocracy, having birth and breeding to the manor born. A ‘generous’ person wasn’t a peasant. So if I described you as generous I would mean you were probably a lord or a lady, and I would doff my cap or curtsey to you.

But as the centuries wore on, 1300 1400 1500 1600 etc., the meaning of ‘generous’ changed from describing your noble birth to describing your noble character. If I call you ‘generous’ today I mean that you’re open hearted, friendly giving of your time, helpful. You will be happy to give to your church and needy causes. That is a wonderful thing.

Despite having written my book Giving Generously I struggle in this area but I would love it if you said, ’Rod. He is just a generous person’. That is something I desire to be. Consider the opposite for a minute. The opposite is miser. I don’t want to be thought a miser. The miser hoards, grasps, doesn’t give, doesn’t share. Misers are not just careful with money but tight, skinflint, cheapskate. I would absolutely hate it if you thought that of me.

Further, the miser is not happy. Did you know our word ‘miserable’ and the ‘word’ miser come from the same basic root? They come from the Latin root that means ‘wretched’.

To add weight to this, social science research indicates that generous people are happier, healthier, have more friends, enjoy more benefits, are more prosperous, and thrive in life. The ungenerous miserly ones are poorer, have less purpose, live for themselves, are sicker, and lonelier.

Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’

So practice generosity. Your giving will be good for you. It will give you great joy. It will bless others but most importantly, it will give God glory.

 

The Importance of Vision

October 27, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine

Cult StatusMillenials at work

I recently read a review of a book called Cult Status: how to build a business that that people adore. Its author is Tim Duggan, a journalist and co-founder of a digital company called Junkee Media.  It is about modern millennial entrepreneurs and what drives and motivates them. The point is that these types of business personalities are not simply motivated by turning a profit. They want to make a difference. Such individuals and companies did exist in the past. But now the new breed of entrepreneur ‘bakes’ these ideals into their companies from the outset rather than grafting them in afterwards. For boomer companies it may have been a nice thing to do. For these millennials making a difference becomes an imperative. Such young entrepreneurs gather around them a community of people who are similarly motivated.


Such people are passionate. They are committed to a cause and there is an energy and a youthful vitality that drives them. Another descriptor is Impact. How is what they are doing going to change the world and make it a better place? The reason for this emphasis is that the millennials have grown up in a very different world to people a generation or two generations ago. Culture has shifted, seemingly overnight. Ideas and viewpoints that were incomprehensible only five or ten years ago are not merely mainstream, but are now  reinforced , disseminated and even enforced on social media. Such values not only shape the entrepreneurs but also the generation in which they are embedded.


I believe that this emphasis has great implications not merely for youth ministry, but also for appealing to young people to be generous and building a culture of generosity in that cohort. In a church however, these ideas should play out with a distinctly Christian focus. When I was growing up in my Methodist home church over 50 years ago, I didn’t hear too much about the gospel of Jesus. The evangelistic fervour of John Wesley and George Whitfield had largely abated.  I did, however, develop a very strong impression that being a Christian involved believing in God and avoiding promiscuity and alcohol and living a moral life. There was a distinct holiness flavour about this environment for which I am very grateful as I know it stopped me progressing down stupid and sinful pathways.


But I wasn’t challenged to make an impact or to be part of a dynamic movement to change the world. And it was only later, in my early twenties that someone challenged me to follow Christ.
This book, Cult Status, says to me that if you want to speak meaningfully to millennials, give them a massive and dynamic challenge. Challenge them to give their lives totally to Christ. Challenge them to a life of holy living, a life worthy of the gospel. And challenge them with a vision to help change the world by preaching and the spreading of the gospel which transforms lives binds up the broken hearted and sets the captive free, in their own homes, in their local town and in the world beyond. Show them how the gospel of Christ crucified and raised makes an impact personally and in society.


Wonderfully, the cause of the gospel has earthly significance. People’s lives can be transformed immeasurably here and now. But the gospel also has an eternal signifance as people are looking and longing for a heavenly inheritance. A gospel cause also ensures this millennial passion gets channelled in the right direction. Some of today’s causes are noble and worthwhile but I suspect others will be shown to be shallow and misguided with the passing of time. The plumb line of the gospel will allow us to discern the gold from the dross.


Finally, as the book suggests, many young millennials are setting up businesses, to make a profit and make an impact. Ministers need to challenge such young business identities to be generous and direct at least some of their resources to a cause that is truly out of this world. And as I reflect on these words, the former Methodist in me kicks in because it all seems very similar to the  way Wesley and  Whitefield inspired people two hundred and fifty years ago.