We recently completed our 2017 Vision Series on the theme ‘Stand As One’. This being my first year at St G’s, I hadn’t really reckoned on how big a deal this annual season has become. Over the course of three weeks we used the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 to reaffirm our four point vision and look at how we ‘stand as one’ in Risk, Wholeness and Generosity.
All three themes go together in the Bible passage. Both Peter and Cornelius take a risk in meeting one another. Both have to step up into wholeness as a response to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and both exhibit generosity in their time, prayer and finances.
It’s the same for us at St George’s. Our vision is to Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders. That requires faith-filled risk, growth into wholeness and a marked generosity of time, money and talent. The only option is stand as one and give our best if we’re to see our vision achieved.
Sending Out Leaders is particularly exciting in this year’s vision series, as the Bishop has invited Mark and Kathryn Harlow to go with a team from St G’s and partner with a church in North Leeds. We had several independent prophetic pictures in a recent Prayer Gathering that line up with this and the church in question happens to be one that the Harlows have been praying about since they first drove past it two years ago. In many ways the timing seems bizarre as we are without a Rector, and yet it seems that God is in this. The PCC recently voted unanimously that in principle we want to go for this.
All this requires risk and generosity on many levels, but there’s no getting away from the fact that part of that is financial. In some ways it’s awkward to be writing about money, but it’s actually a great opportunity to move forwards in our discipleship. I firmly believe that when we get our heads around giving it often unlocks so much spiritually in our relationship with God. Many Christians struggle with this issue, and often what it comes down to is a ‘fear of lack’- the feeling that ‘if I give x% to God, I won’t be able to afford my overheads’. I empathise with that, but I do wonder, what does that say about who we think God is? When we flip that fear of lack on its head and commit to giving on principle, some ‘Kingdom Economics’ kick in and we are often left amazed at the ways our God is able to provide.
The biblical principles of Christian giving are twofold: sacrifice and joy. On the one hand we should give to the point that it actually changes our lifestyle, otherwise where is the sacrifice? On the other hand, it’s not supposed to be begrudgingly coerced; rather, our giving should be joyful and exciting. As Tim Keller puts it, though, that requires work not on our wallets but on our hearts.
Our hearts always follow our money*. What we spend on, save for or give to shows what we value, and over time will become what we care about. Personally, I’ve still got a lot to learn about giving, but I do know that it’s becoming more enjoyable as the years go by and I slowly grow in it. When I first started trying to tithe my earnings, I didn’t really want to- I just felt that I was supposed to... but over time our hearts soften and our capacity for generosity grows. We learn to do away with the tick-box mentality of getting away with as little as we ‘have to’ give, and instead we grow into a more true generosity.
As I say, I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s really helped to learn this:
Materialism can tether our hearts to the earth,** the temporary toys and joys the world might wish for. Giving to Kingdom vision is the alternative and the antidote. It breaks our hearts free from the shackles of worldliness and makes us more attuned to the things that last for eternity.
Practically, the way to do this is simple but profound: give first, save next, live off the rest. Many who have applied this actually find their overall finances grow rather than shrink resultantly... but the bottom line here is not about giving so that we can gain; it’s about the fact that we’re blessed in order to be a blessing. As we do that, as we stand as one in risk, wholeness and generosity; as we give to the vision to preach Jesus, make disciples, serve the city and send out leaders... I honestly think we’ll be amazed and inspired by what we see our great God do next.
If you missed our vision series talks, you can catch up on them below. If you would like to give to the vision of St George’s, please click here.
Vision Series Talks