Gordon MacDonald, best-selling author and pastor emeritus of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts, encouraged pastors that the church can impact the culture through its generosity. He shared his insights during a Church United meeting at First Baptist Church on August 25.
It is always a blessing to see the diversity of pastors who are finding common ground in these quarterly gatherings. While some may be skeptical about ecumenical gatherings, Doug Sauder, pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, is quick to clarify, “It’s not just unity for the sake of unity; it’s unity for the sake of mission.”
And the mission is gaining momentum and focus as pastors have been meeting behind the scenes, developing relationship and looking for ways to impact the community together. Efforts are currently focused on ending the foster care crisis and meeting needs through service.
For Sauder, It’s a clear reflection of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one… And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (NLT).
“It is so the world will know,” Sauder emphasized.
MacDonald, a pastor for more than 50 years, addressed them as a father in the faith, sharing his experience from the early 1970’s when he moved to New England to a region he described as, “exhausted spiritually.” After seven people began to meet together then to discuss what could be done, MacDonald said he witnessed an explosion spiritually over the past 40 years. “I applaud everything you’re doing, but realize it’s going to take time,” he said.
In reflecting on the Church’s impact over the years, MacDonald said, “The secret of the Church was not in its words, but in its generosity.” He points out that sometimes it doesn’t require an equation but an utterly simple idea. For example, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
“The gospel of Christ takes people from being takers to being givers,” said MacDonald, asserting the Scriptures encourage full-life generosity.
What does it mean to move from being takers to givers and to have full-life generosity? It must become personal. It must be intimate, pertaining to the small group closest to us, and it must impact the church. “Do we truly penetrate the culture and touch with such a power of generosity that the impact lasts years?” he asked.
Here are seven values from the gospel that MacDonald shared concerning full-life generosity.
When we become a well spring of cheer and kindess in our daily encounters, we call this being an encourager. Encouragement makes people feel valued and affirmed. In the Scriptures, Paul appreciated the encouragement of a friend when he said, “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me” (2 Timothy 1:16).
When we welcome people into our private worlds where they can experience the love of Jesus, we call this being hospitable. There were many examples of hospitality expressed in the Bible, especially in the lives of Aquila and Priscilla; Zacharias and Elizabeth, who brought the young mother Mary into their home; as well as Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
Being a servant
When we offer our time and skill to assist others in the “doing of things” they cannot do alone, we call this being a servant.
When we extend mercy and restorative grace to those whose lives are broken, we call this being redemptive. “Where is the redeeming reputation of the church?” asked MacDonald.
When we care for those who are suffering and advocate for those who have been denied justice in the world, we call this compassion. “When he saw the crowds, [Jesus] had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Humility, faithfulness, partnership
When we are loyal to a gathering of Christ-followers, brothers and sisters in the Lord, whom we love, serve and support, we call this a life of humility, faithfulness and partnership. “There should always be a small group of people who know your heart, intimately,” encouraged MacDonald.
A sacrificial life
When we give purposefully, joyfully and sacrificially from the resources God has provided, we call this the sacrificial life.
“This is how churches can touch their community through full-life generosity,” said MacDonald, by developing these values. If you would like more information on how to cultivate a generous lifestyle, read BeScrooged: Imagining a Full Life of Generosity, by Gordon and Mark MacDonald.
Church United is encouraging pastors to connect with one another regularly in smaller groups regionally. If you are a pastor and want to be a part of the Church United effort in Broward County, visit www.churchunited.city. Pastors in Palm Beach County are collaborating as well, visit www.churchunitedfl.com to get involved there.