Podcast Transcript

Reset

Part 9: Generosity | March 4, 2018

 

Jonathan

Hello, and thanks for joining us. I’m Jonathan Deatherage. I’m here with Pete Briscoe after he preached his ninth sermon in the Reset series on “Generosity” from Acts 4:32-5:11.

I’ve got Pete here with me, and we’re going to go in a little bit further right now.

Pete, good to have you.

PETE

Thank you, Jonathan. Great to be here.

JONATHAN

First question: You mentioned that the modern church has lost an attitude and a mindset. The attitude is “what I have is not my own,” and the mindset is that “all of us (that is, the community of believers) live this way.” Why are these two things hard for us to grasp? Is it our cultural bias? Is it sin? What’s going on there?

PETE

I think there’s a lot going on there. I think the attitude that “what I have is not my own” is a stewardship attitude that Jesus introduced in his parables, and the church grabbed onto immediately, as we see in the early church. But then over the years - really more recently, I think, after the Industrial Revolution - all of a sudden people were able to start to amass some substantial wealth. Consumerism crept in, materialism crept in, and we’ve all been swept away by that.

So our mindset, or our attitude, really is, “Man, I worked hard for this. I went to school, I got my school debt, I paid off my school debt, I got my job, I worked my way up, I had to work a lot of weekends, I had to work a lot of early mornings, and I’ve really worked hard for this!” And the next corollary thought is, “Thus, it’s mine. I earned it.”

I was taught as a young man by my dad that [I] got to go to college, but not everyone gets to do that. That’s a privilege. [I] had a brain that was minimally smart enough to be able to get through college. Well, God didn’t have to give [me[ a brain like that. All of us, no matter what we’ve achieved, can trace that back to God’s grace in our lives and his provision in our lives.

A clear, biblical understanding of stewardship is quite simple: Everything that we have really is his, and he entrusts it to us as his stewards to invest for his kingdom purposes. For a large part, we’ve gotten sucked up into materialism, and we’ve lost that. So that’s one piece of it.

The other piece of it is [that] all of us are going to live this way. That’s this idea that, “Well, if everyone’s doing it, then I don’t have to. Where’s the loophole so I can get out of this?”

JONATHAN

Right, somebody else has it covered.

PETE

Somebody else has it covered. Everyone else is doing it. We got it covered, right?

And obviously, that’s a selfish mindset. It’s not a selfless one. But it’s also missing the other side of the coin, which is that there’s blessing for us in giving, too. Obviously, the person who’s receiving gets blessed, but there’s a special blessing in giving as well.

It was amazing, Jonathan, when I was preaching this message on Sunday, I got to the end and I said, “Hey, let’s take an offering right now.” I saw men all around the room just reaching for their back pockets. I mean, people couldn’t wait to get their wallets out because the Spirit was prompting them to give. If we hadn’t taken an offering, I think we would’ve gotten emails. [he laughs] “Why didn’t we do something?” You know? When we’re available, the Spirit will move us to give. Then we give, and there’s a rare joy that is really like nothing else.

So the idea of, “Well, someone else will cover it,” robs us of all of that. We also don’t grow spiritually in the way that we would when we give sacrificially. There’s a dozen reasons why it’s important that we do. So the mindset of “someone else will do it,” we’ve gotta eradicate, because we miss out on so much if we do that.

JONATHAN

I think of what Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” It’s that blessing of joy that you’re talking about.

PETE

Yeah.

JONATHAN

I was sitting in the congregation for the 9 o’clock service, and the first time the basket passed was very different from the second time the basket passed.

PETE

Yup! Uh huh.

JONATHAN

The second time was definitely a clear, strong response.

PETE

Yes!

JONATHAN

It was very exciting.

So, if I’m hearing you correctly, in this sermon you’re addressing two separate groups. One is the group that they can and should give, for those reasons you just mentioned. And the other group is folks who are in need. There are lots of needs in our congregation, and I know the sermon was so moving because you brought out several families in need that we didn’t know about before.

PETE

Right.

JONATHAN

So these two groups: I’d like us to talk to each group in it’s turn. Let’s first talk to the group of folks who can and should be giving. My question for you, to that end, is, “How do we get this attitude or mindset that you’re talking about?” If I’m a person who struggles with giving, or I struggle with wanting to give (“Other people cover it.” Maybe I’m saying that to myself.), what do I do to see a shift in my life? Are there practical steps I can take?

PETE

Yeah! The first one, I don’t know if it’s a practical step or a spiritual step, but it’s really going to the Lord and saying, “I would rather be the kind of person that’s available to give than the one I am. So you’ve gotta change something in me, because whatever’s not there in me, you can fix. I make myself available.”

And then it comes around. It’s a muscle. David Dobat, my friend, says giving is a muscle. If you exercise it, it gets stronger, and if you don’t, it atrophies. So realize that giving is a muscle, and just start exercising as the Spirit leads.

One of the beautiful things that will come out of [last] Sunday [is that], I’m absolutely positive, a lot of people gave for the first time. They exercised that muscle for the first time, and they realized, “I can do this! This isn’t that hard!” They’re probably not going to go without this week because they gave on Sunday. And they realized this is possible, and there’s a joy to it. “Wow! God used me to really change someone’s life!” There’s beauty in that. “I was a part of this! I was a part of the family today in a way that I haven’t been before.”

JONATHAN

Because this is a thing that we do.

PETE

It’s what we do. And it’s what we do when we come together. And you know what? One day I might need to go to the church and get some help, and then my brothers and sisters will be there for me. That’s part of being in the family.

So pray that the Lord would change our hearts, change our mindset, ask the Holy Spirit to do that work in us. Then start exercising that giving muscle as he gives us opportunities.

Jesus said, “Don’t store up for yourself treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up for yourself treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Pete is quoting Matthew 6:19-21]

The end of that is really interesting. We expect it to say “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be.” But it doesn’t say that. That would mean [that] what you love, you’ll give towards. What it says is, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will follow.” So what Jesus seems to be saying is if you want your heart to be a heart of giving, start putting your treasure there. Start giving, and your heart will follow. Because where your treasure goes, your heart follows it.

JONATHAN

I like that.

PETE

[There’s] a couple of metaphors there. Exercise the muscle so that it gets stronger, it doesn’t atrophy. And put your treasure where you want your heart to go, and your heart will follow your treasure.

JONATHAN

That’s great. I love that.

So again, if I’m a person who I can and should be giving, what was so good about the sermon is just knowing the needs.

PETE

Yes!

JONATHAN

If I want to know the needs, what might I do to find [them]? If you want to give, you can give to the Benevolence Fund, which is fantastic. But [what] if somebody needs to see some needs to have their heart stirred? Or says, “Hey, I can help with this specific need. You got dental care? I’m a dentist; I can help.” Is there a way we can find that out?

PETE

Yes, and no. I got express permission from all five of those families on Sunday to share their stories, because that is obviously very private and very personal. Anyone who enters into our Benevolence system is completely confidential. We’re not going to be telling anyone their stories. So if I, as a member of the church, come to the Benevolence Team and say, “Hey, tell me who’s struggling, ‘cause I want to help,” we’re not going to tell you who it is because that would be a betrayal of confidence. What we can tell you is, “Yeah, we have three families who need x, and if you want to go ahead and give to Benevolence Fund, we’ll make sure that those needs get met.”

The beauty of the Benevolence system is that we have incredibly wise, gifted people making really hard decisions. These are hard decisions. Because sometimes we have to say “no” for the sake of the person who’s asking. It would not be healthy to say “yes.” And for people with the gift of mercy, that is hard! The people we have doing this really do have a mix of discernment, and wisdom, and mercy. So they are compassionate towards people, but they really are wise, too.

At the end of the day, what our church family can do is periodically give to the Benevolence Fund. We hardly ever mention [the fund] because it stays self-funded. What we’ve discovered over the years is those people that benefit from the Benevolence Fund become very faithful givers to the Benevolence Fund once they get back on their feet, because they’ve experienced how meaningful it is.

JONATHAN

That’s cool! Yeah, I bet!

PETE

So that’s our mechanism for helping people. It’s a remarkable ministry. I love the people that do that for us.

JONATHAN

I want to introduce Michelle Harrell’s name into the equation, if you will.

PETE

Yes!

JONATHAN

She’s our point person. We kind of have an interesting set-up here at Bent Tree where we have Central Services and then we have campus-specific services. Michelle, classically, is on the Carrollton campus staff, but she’s also available, as we saw this past Sunday, for the needs of our other campuses as well.

Her email address is

PETE

If you are in need, you need some help, and you’re a Bent Tree member (‘cause this Benevolence is for folks who call Bent Tree home), then you would email Michelle and say, “Please, can you connect me to the Benevolence Team?” She’s the one that would connect you there.

If you want to serve on the Benevolence Team—if you have a background in the financial world, if you have the gift of mercy, the gift of administration, or wisdom, and that sounds like something the Lord might be calling you to—we’re always looking for people to help. My understanding is that we had a lot of folks come forward this last weekend saying, “Hey, I need help, too.” I know we’re always looking to grow that team. So if that’s your gifting and your passion, connect with Michelle. She can put you in touch with them.

JONATHAN

So let’s flip the conversation now.

PETE

All right.

JONATHAN

Let’s talk about the folks who are in need. I’ve been in a place where we’ve received Benevolence from a church we were at before this. Man, it is such a ministry. It really is one of those things where it’s humbling. You’re so grateful for it. You really do feel the body of believers coming around you. I gotta say, as a recipient, it is a unique experience to see the gospel of Christ in fresh eyes.

PETE

Yeah.

JONATHAN

“Hey, I did nothing to deserve this. I didn’t work for this. You guys just freely gave this to me.”

PETE

Yeah. And [they] don’t expect it to be paid back.

JONATHAN

Right!

PETE

It’s freely given.

JONATHAN

That is grace right there! And I love it. It’s so tangible.

For those who are in need, what’s a way that I can make my need known?

PETE

Well, if you’re in a small group, our encouragement is to share it with your small group. We recognize that ([to Jonathan] You just used the word “humbling”) it’s a humbling thing to do this. I’m not sure why, because I don’t know anyone on the planet that hasn’t been through really tough financial times at some point [he laughs]. There’s really no shame in it. But we feel ashamed to ask for help. We feel like we’ve failed in some way.

If you can get past that (Which of course you have to or else people aren’t going to know. They’re not going to be able to help if you don’t say something.), and if you’re in a small group, at some point talk to the small group leader and say, “We’ve got some needs. We’re struggling. Do you think the group can help us?” And then the leader can help you process how to go about doing that. Then obviously the Benevolence Ministry is there, too, for Bent Tree members who are in need of help. We’ve already given Michelle Harrell’s email address.

Just to be clear, when you get into the Benevolence process, you don’t show up and we write you a check. It doesn’t work that way. You show up, we sit down, and we’re like, “All right, tell us what’s going on.” We’ll ask questions about [things like] how is this impacting your marriage? Are the kids doing okay? I mean, we care about you as people. We care about your family. And financial stress is usually really hard on marriages, so we’re kind of assuming there’s marriage stuff going on, too.

We want to talk to you; we want to help. So we’re going to ask you very specific questions about your financial world, because we need to figure out if there’s places where you can save so that you’re not falling behind every month. And we’re going to have financial counselors walk through that with you.

So it’s a holistic approach to getting you back on your feet so that you don’t fall back into this place again. It’s a beautiful ministry. It’s the mechanism we have that follows the Acts 4 model. Those that could, bring their offerings and lay them at the benevolence team’s feet, and then they distributed it as those had need. That’s the model we have. It works beautifully.

JONATHAN

Well, this is a really important topic. I love how we’re going through the book of Acts, and this is such a valuable topic for the heart of our church. For those who can and should give, for those who are in need, this is a very personal issue. But it’s so healing for the church to care for itself in this way.

I’m really glad that you were able to address this. I’m glad we were able to have this time here to talk a little bit further. Would you mind praying for us?

PETE

Yes, I’d love to.

Lord, thank you for what you did on Sunday. Preliminary reports are that our church was extraordinarily generous. Thank you for this beautiful body of believers who really do get grace. It really does present as generosity on so many different levels. I’m grateful for that.

Lord, let it be said of us that there are no needy people among us. Please continue to enable us to care for those who are struggling, and give them the courage to come forward and ask for help, so that we can.

I just look forward to seeing how this changes as a church going forward. I recognize now that there’s a lot more folks that are aware of this and will probably give consistently towards it so that we can help more and more people. So thank you. It’s just beautiful to see the modern church functioning like the infant church did. We’re grateful. We pray it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.

JONATHAN

Amen. [to the audience] Well, thank you so much for listening today. As always, Bent Tree is a place that encourages everyone to experience the freedom and fullness of Jesus in everyday life. We hope you have a greater sense of his life in you and through you this week. Thanks for listening.