During the late summer of 2016, members of the church I pastor, Tulsa Hills Church, were watching the reports of the flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Amid the myriad of news reports of weather-related tragedies throughout the world, for some reason, this one sunk deep in the compassionate spirit of the people at Tulsa Hills Church.
Almost immediately, the church board was ready to organize a quick Work & Witness trip. Within days, our team of five men was in Baton Rouge, along with other Nazarene teams from across the region, ready to do what we could to be a part of the recovery effort.
Our first task was to unload a trailer full of crisis care kits that had just arrived from storage. Imagine our excitement when the boxes placed in our hands were marked “Tulsa Hills Church of the Nazarene” written in black sharpie! These were Crisis Care Kits we’d assembled months earlier for a time such as this.
In that moment, I was reminded that giving is in our DNA.
Genetic research has taught us that as much as 99 percent of the DNA in any person is common to the rest of humanity. We have much more in common than we often realize.
What a great reality to embrace as the church: As children of the King, our DNA includes being compassionate and generous people.
So, what might it look like for a local church to embrace the reality that giving is in your DNA? Perhaps your church can find the answer in discovering your unique contribution in that one percent of your “Giving DNA.” That’s where your generosity can explode with passion and purpose. What would it look like for our local church to combine the image-bearing DNA of Jesus Christ with the unique expression that the Father has wired within the people we serve?
Catching the Vision of Giving
I’ll never forget a board meeting that occurred a year ago. We started with prayer, asking God to make His unified purpose known in our meeting. We also prayed for a willing spirit to obey His voice as decisions were made. As the meeting progressed, we considered the opportunity to financially support a ministry beyond our local church. The amount suggested was slightly higher than I anticipated. Those around the table sensed that the Holy Spirit was confirming this amount. However, before we could vote, God laid it on our hearts to prayerfully consider two more ministries.
Before we knew it, we had approved supporting not one but three ministries—each more than the amount I had hoped they would consider for just one ministry. Over the past year, our church income has increased well beyond the amount approved at that board meeting. Not only is giving in our DNA, but God continues to bless His Church when we follow His voice.
Helping Others Catch the Vision
Beyond serving in the local church, I have been blessed to walk with other pastors as a Life and Leadership Coach. Nothing is quite like seeing fresh enthusiasm in a pastor’s heart as he or she discovers a unique opportunity for Kingdom partnership in the local church. This tends to unleash a spirit of generosity like nothing else. God calls us to focus on glorifying Him as we seek to impact others for Christ and understand His unique plan as we embrace this partnership opportunity.
The following three key questions may be used to ignite and nurture the Spirit-led “Giving DNA” in local churches:
“What Stirs You?”
The moment we combine dependence upon God with our willingness to make necessary sacrifice, an idea becomes a vision. God-ordained visions have staying power.
God gives these dreams and visions to the people of our church, too! Many times, God will stir the hearts of our people in ways that are uniquely Kingdom driven. Learning to embrace this vision will steadily but certainly release the Giving DNA in local churches. These Kingdom-oriented visions begin with an idea that stirs us and others toward greater prayer and action.
“What Grieves You?”
We don’t always know how to deal with the things that bring the greatest grief. Often we bury what grieves us or create a “quick fix,” which prevents us from discovering what God might be saying. However, slowing down and truly facing what grieves you just might be the way God opens the door to a fresh opportunity. God often camouflages His visions in the very things that frustrate us the most.
Perhaps the best example is found in the story of Nehemiah. Upon hearing of the broken walls and burned gates, he went to walk through the rubble himself. There, among all the destruction, God revealed a vision of restoration. What might happen if pastors and leadership teams sat around the altar crying out to God in the midst of what grieves them about their current circumstances? What miraculous provision might God be ready to supply as a result?
“What Invites You?”
Social media tools share local events and show us which friends plan to attend. As Nazarenes, we are a part of something much larger than the local church. We are a part of a district, national, and global church that invites us into ministry efforts greater than any single congregation could address alone. Embracing this global connectedness provides opportunities for God to invite our local congregations to engage in ministry projects outside of our immediate context. Embracing a special project, such as building a church on another region or child-sponsorship, reminds the local church that the members are participants in this great, global ministry called the Church of the Nazarene.
Actively Seeking Opportunities to Give
Over the past few years, our local church has joined a movement of God across our city called Unite My City. Churches of all Christian backgrounds are coming together to represent Jesus Christ on a scale that no single church could ever accomplish. We have accepted an invitation to be part of something bigger, which has again resulted in affirming that giving is in our DNA.
What is God doing in your community, your district, and around the world that your church can participate in? How might God bless your local church as you accept His invitation to be a part of something beyond your walls?
God, help us as Your people to embrace the truth that giving is in our DNA. Stir us with new dreams. Move us with what grieves You. Invite us into the bigger picture of Your Kingdom plan. And may You be glorified as we practice generosity that honors You.
JIM THORNTON has served as senior pastor of Tulsa Hills Church of the Nazarene for over 20 years. He also serves as district secretary of the Northeast Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene.