“Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:17).
The Joy of Giving Up will introduce one single idea to the people of your church. It is not my original idea. I have not heard it from anyone that I have ever met in my lifetime. But I did not make it up. This idea did not emerge from any seminary or church council or committee. It is not part of the tradition of any denomination.
Actually, the idea was written in a letter that the Apostle Paul addressed to one of his most beloved, talented yet tainted, churches. He founded the church in Corinth. He stayed with them for their first 18 months. The Corinthians were deeply connected to his heart. The story of how he found the people and the dramas that ensued are best left for another time. Somehow Paul rounded these people up and began meeting for worship, teaching, and ministry.
They were a mixed group of people, to say the least. Paul shaped their love, logic, and thinking about their life and culture. He accepted them, but then began to challenge and change their very trendy habits. Their personal habits needed attention. He tamped down some of the party habits. Some of their intimate relationships were scandalous and wrong. Paul addressed those things clearly.
Read in its context, the letters to the Corinthian church are a window into the impact of the Gospel message on a very Roman, very pagan community filled with sin and insincerity.
Go-Getters and Go-Givers
They were ‘go-getters’ at almost every level. Their new-found faith touched every area of their personal life except one: giving, generosity and charity. These words are all used in the same manner in Paul’s letter. Generosity was difficult. Fulfilling their well-intentioned pledge was hard for them. Giving was a secondary matter, if even that.
Then Paul wrote his Second Letter to them in the mid 50’s A.D. The overarching idea that he gives his beloved church is this: Go for it! Be generous. Just do it!
Here are his words:
But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. (2 Cor. 8:7).
This is the idea that The Joy of Giving Up will help introduce, develop, and deliberate within your congregation. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity. If your church takes this question up, it will be changed forever.
Just think about it. What if your church was not only striving for faith, but generosity as well? Can you imagine it?
What if “Excelling in Generosity” was the mission statement of your parish? What if your church was famous for being generous? Wouldn’t that bring you joy?
The Joy of Giving Up: Included Resources
The Joy of Giving Up is a stewardship program for a local church that is designed to help every member and attender discuss, develop, deepen and decide a biblical understanding of stewardship, generosity and gratitude as the basis for their financial support of the congregation. It is highly adaptable to any congregation of any size.
This manual will present the contents of the program as they are typically implemented in a regular program. Some of the contents will be explained in detail. Other aspects of the program assume some familiarity with standard church programming.
There are several accompanying books and booklets that are part of our program. I would recommend strongly that you over supply your church with extra copies of these materials. They should be given out to new members, new Vestry leaders, new parents and new converts to the faith.
1. Giving Up (Book)
This is the book I wrote after 31 years of ministry at Christ Church in Plano, Texas. I loved that church and still do. They were so very helpful, patient and open to the teaching of God’s word. I think we all learned together.
2. The Joy of Giving Up (Devotional)
A day-to-day meditation guide to drill down into the teaching of the Great Apostle Paul. I wrote this book with a colleague (The Rev. Kolby Kerr) explicitly for this parish program. I would strongly recommend that you order these supplies in sufficient quantity so that every family in your congregation can receive one in the mail. (Yes. Mail. Canadian Post and US Mail!)
3. The Joy of Giving Up (Bible Study / Small Group Curriculum)
A Bible Study curriculum for Small Groups and/or Adult Sunday School classes. It is self-guided and provides ample opportunities for sharing, discussion and learning.
4. The Generous Family (Children’s Curriculum)
We have included some very simple object lessons for family to use as they teach and train their children. The youngest members of your church are never too young to start to learn and grow in faith and generosity
Can You Cook?
Let me use a simple analogy. Did you know there is a difference between cooking and baking?
Cooking is all about combining things, roughly, in order. Baking is about chemistry. Cooking adds ingredients ‘to taste’, ‘to suit’. Baking has specific amounts of spices, soda, flour, salts, and seasoning. When you cook, you sip and taste and sample along the way. Seldom can you do real harm by cooking. (Although your dinner guests might disagree!) But, when you bake, all you do is smell and wait for the secret sauce to be revealed.
The Joy of Giving Up is all about cooking!
There are some wonderful ingredients to prepare. I have suggested that various proportions be added or combined according to taste. There are some seasonings and spices suggested that will bring out the best flavors. And some will want to turn the heat up or down. But the feast in one church will look different than the feast in another. The point is this: you can’t really mess up!
There is no magic recipe for secret sauce. You are not making a soufflé!
The meal you are preparing will all come together in the end. Enjoy the process. Taste things along the way. Make adjustments to the program as you wish. Taste and see!