When Ed Byers received the Medal of Honor in February, I was truly proud — because he’s my brother-in-law!
As part of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, Ed had carried out a dramatic rescue of an American doctor who was being held prisoner in Afghanistan. Our government was celebrating this heroic demonstration of valor. When Ed heard he’d be receiving this award, he immediately made arrangements for my whole family to be invited to the White House, with our travel arrangements paid in full, so we could be there in this time of celebration. I can hardly express what an amazing experience it was to be in the White House for such a special moment. There is nothing quite like hearing “Hail to the Chief” and seeing the president walk in.
That experience was only possible for my family because of the generous spirit of my brother-in-law. He first gave of his heart and soul on the battlefield, and then he used his platform and influence to give us a way to come to Washington, D.C., as a whole family. The fact that my brother-in-law would be so generous to me only raised my admiration for him further. Generosity has a way of reflecting something noble and beautiful, even while making something excellent possible.
Generosity at Its Best
Our church receives the offering in the middle of the service, after the singing and before the message. It is an act of worship and a demonstration of generosity. According to Paul in Acts 20:35, Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
In our time of worship, we give people an opportunity to live out the reality of this blessedness through giving tithes and offerings. It is a moment when we, as believers, get to demonstrate something noble and beautiful. What is noble is that we would take money — an instrument for conveying worth and value, and often a direct reflection of our hard work — and give that for the sake of the church’s work.
But the moment is also beautiful because it is voluntary. While some may give with a sense of obligation, most do so out of a true sense of affection for the Lord and a desire to see His purposes flourish. This is generosity at its best.
A Son’s Offering
Several years ago, I came into my office and found a note on my desk. It was scrawled in the newly familiar handwriting of my 6-year-old son. In red pen on a torn scrap of blue-lined notebook paper, it said, “From Noah, to Dad.” Next to the paper was a slightly crumpled $1 bill that probably had been in Noah’s pocket for hours. When I saw it, I just laughed — with joy. I am aware the dollar is a relatively small sum that I don’t need. At the same time, it warmed my heart that he had thought of me and had taken this huge sum of money (for a 6-year-old) and deliberately went out of his way to be sure I got it. What a beautiful moment!
For an instant, I felt I had a sense of how God might feel when we bring our offering to Him in worship. Even though the dollar ultimately came from me, I was still so delighted to receive Noah’s blessing. Even though it was little to me, I knew it was huge to him. When I talked to Noah about it, he smiled and was pleased. He felt good about giving that dollar.
An Excellent Result
It is “blessed to give” as Jesus said. The blessing of generosity continues in what it makes possible. In our local church, believers’ faithful generosity has allowed us to raise up the staff and pastors we need to shepherd well the people we are discipling, to take care of the poor in our community, to send out missionaries, to create opportunities for evangelism, and to cover the day-to-day operations of a local church with facilities.
Speaking of facilities, we didn’t just snap our fingers and materialize a church campus. Over the last 10 years, we have carried out three major capital campaigns in which God’s people in our church have sacrificially given more than $6 million (in addition to their regular tithes) for the building of space for gathering the 2,500 people who now come to Centerpoint Church each weekend. In our weekend services in the last year alone, we’ve had 550 people make first-time decisions to trust Jesus Christ. This is the most excellent result of all, brought about by the noble and beautiful generosity of God’s people.
Extending the Kingdom
When the generosity of God’s people helps the local church to flourish, it can engage in some wonderful generosity as a collective community, which will reflect something noble and beautiful while making something excellent possible. For example, we issued a challenge when International Child Care Ministries visited Centerpoint Church in fall 2015. We’d heard that ICCM had never seen more than 150 children sponsored at any one event, and we wanted to help ICCM beat that record. God’s people at Centerpoint embraced the call to be noble, to do something beautiful, to make something excellent happen. In one weekend, we sponsored 211 ICCM children from Ethiopia.
The power of the generosity of God’s people is unique in that the result will be an extension of God’s kingdom— the result we all long to see.
John Hansen is the lead pastor of Centerpoint Church in Murrieta, California. He previously served as a missionary in Asia for several years.