Our church is incredibly blessed in many ways. One of those ways is through our staff. We have incredible people who give their work hours into serving and leading at Covenant Grove. I love reading the blogs of my fellow pastors and ministers as they share thoughts and give insights. This week, I will be continuing my series on the Key Values of Covenant Grove. Values are different than Vision. Our church Vision is about seeing people transformed into Fully Devoted Followers, who live out roots of love: Discipleship, Fellowship, and Mission. That love (heart) is deepened by habits, and we have seven habits we emphasize. This is our Vision; it is why our church exists and the goal of our ministries. The Key Values are less about “what” we are doing and more about how it feels to be in our church family—including mission, character, prayer, authenticity, family, equip, excellence, next-gen, and hope.
To read a few other blogs on Key Values, click a link below:
This week, I will be looking at the Key Value of SACRIFICE.
Jesus is our ultimate model for giving. He sacrificed His time, finances, comfort, and very life for the sake of the world. He said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He showed this greatest love in His serving and sacrifice (John 13:1), and He calls all His followers to join Him in sacrifice. He praised a poor widow who gave away her last two pennies because she showed her faith with her sacrificial giving (Luke 21:1-4). Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24). That last line is powerful—Jesus wants us to have life abundant (see John 10:10), and the only way to experience this is following Jesus in sacrifice. Living sacrificially is the way to freedom and joy.
We give sacrificially to the work of God. The early church did this and was blessed (Acts 2:42-47). In the New Testament, there is no command to give 10%. The command is to give our finances sacrificially, following the example of Christ. For some this will mean less than 10%, and for others it will be more. Ten percent is a good marker to aim for because most American Christians give only 3% of their income to God’s work. But we can’t out-give God, and as we live into sacrificial generosity, the Lord shows us how to live lives of true significance and contribution.
All giving to God is giving BACK. Everything we have is from the Lord. David expressed this wonderfully in 1 Chronicles 29:14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” The people had given abundantly to build the Temple of the Lord. A similar thing happened in Exodus 35: without any compulsion, the people gave abundantly to God’s work. There was so much that the leaders had to tell the people to STOP giving (36:6). God’s people in these stories understood that it is an honor to give back to God’s work. He is the One who has given it all, and we joyfully give to further His mission.
The vessel for the mission of God is the Church. This is more than an organization or institution; the Church is God’s people, filled with God’s Spirit, sharing Jesus as the Word of God. The Church is imperfect but chosen by God to share forgiveness, starting with our own lives. The Lord calls and directs His people to connect in a local church, including the giving of time, serving, and finances. Local churches are mission outposts of God’s light. The local church is the hope of the world, and the world desperately needs God’s hope. Giving fuels the mission of God.
This statement is just a general truth for all of life. A selfish young man learns to sacrifice for the woman he loves. Parents sacrifice for their kids. We all sacrifice to see our dreams become reality. We give up things we care about for the sake of the most important things. The question is: What is most important to you? Our giving reveals our hearts.
Our giving can also move our hearts. Rather than waiting to “feel it,” Jesus told His followers to give first, and see their hearts move second. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be” (Matt 6:21). Paul asked the Corinthian Christians to give generously to the poor in Jerusalem. His teaching in 2 Corinthians 8-9 has great guidelines on giving that those churches still follow to this day, including our church. He told Christians to focus on Christ’s sacrifice (8:9), give in proportion to what they have (8:11), and give cheerfully not from pressure (9:7). God loves a cheerful giver!
We have found it helpful to explain levels of generous giving for people. First, START giving. Consistently give something to God’s work, even if it is $1 a week. A next step would be to SERVE God with your finances, growing the amount given. Third would be to SURRENDER our finances to the Lord, understanding we are stewards of what He has given. This includes having a budget and growing to 10% giving. The last step is living in the joy of SACRIFICE. This goes beyond ten percent and unlocks the joy of generosity as you realize you can’t out-give God, and your gifts are given to make a difference—so you live with Kingdom purpose. Each of us has a next step we can take on this journey of giving.
We love this statement, but we know it is hard. Our natural tendency is to play it safe and spend our money on ourselves (or our loved ones). The Lord wants us to take care of our families, of course, and He is inviting us to be faith-filled, prayer-led, big-thinking risk takers. This is a life that follows Jesus, Moses, David, Mary, Priscilla, Ruth, Elijah, Paul and many more. Giving sacrificially—in our time and money—is one of the most practical ways we trust the Lord and follow Him.
Nehemiah had a prestigious job in Persia, but he gave it up to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. He sacrificed his job, and as governor didn’t draw a salary, paid for banquets from his own savings, and lent money to those who were in need (Neh 5:8, 14-18). The church at Antioch gave sacrificially to plant new churches through Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). Our church was planted twelve years ago, in the middle of the Recession, because Modesto Covenant was willing to risk big. We are planting another church with them in the middle of the pandemic, sending people and $30,000. Seven years ago, the Lord challenged us to raise $150,000 in three months—which was half our total budget the time. Some doubted, but the Lord moved people’s hearts, and over $165,000 was raised in two months! We are now in a capital initiative called Building Hope, raising over $1 million dollars to expand facilities, plant churches, and give to mission projects. We are expanding our outdoor space in 2022, have given to church planting, and will soon be sending $20,000 to mission projects. What a joy to be with a group of givers!