I don’t know about you, but I love to celebrate. I love to celebrate birthdays. I love to celebrate at weddings. I love to celebrate ministry successes. I love to celebrate spiritual growth – obvious evidence of God at work in the lives of His people to make them look more like Jesus.
Over 20+ years of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen and heard pastors celebrate all kinds of spiritual growth and discipleship development in the churches they lead. There have been celebrations at baptisms. I have seen celebrations of evangelistic efforts, new mission partnerships, or the birth of a new church plant. However, one of the celebrations that has been conspicuously missing seems to be the celebration of generosity in the church.
Maybe one of the primary reasons for a lack of celebrating generosity in the church is fear that it will lead to less generosity. The reasoning goes like this: “If we celebrate generosity in the church, people will think the church is doing well financially and may then decide they don’t need to give as much.” One problem with this kind of thinking is that it sees meeting the church’s financial needs as the primary motivator in the hearts of God’s people rather than obedience to God’s Word. Another problem with such thinking is it often assumes giving is merely an act driven by external pressure rather than seeing it as the overflow of an inward heart change God is working in His people.
Paul tells the Corinthian believers that generosity is a work of God’s grace in the hearts of His people. In 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul says, “Now as you excel in everything—in faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and your love for us —excel also in this act of grace.” What is “this act of grace?” It is the grace of generosity – the grace of God-given generosity that was evident in the hearts of the believers in Macedonia and that Paul wanted to see illustrated in the Corinthian believers as well.
So, again, if generosity is evidence of the work of God’s grace in the lives of His people, it should be celebrated when we see it. But how can we celebrate generosity in the life of the church?
1. Just do it.
At least a couple of times a year, on a Sunday morning, I call attention to the fact that the faithful giving of God’s people has allowed us to take in not only more than we spent but even more than we budgeted. We celebrate that not simply as the surpassing of a financial benchmark but as evidence of God’s work in the hearts of His people, cultivating a generosity that makes us look more like Him. I also try to name two or three tangible things such generosity has allowed us to accomplish. It might be a ministry-related goal or a practical need as simple as replacing an HVAC unit without creating financial hardship for the church. The key is to celebrate the church’s generosity as evidence of God’s gracious work, not simply the self-efforts of man.
2. Celebrate using seasonal emphases.
I will often use a time of year when we collect unique mission offerings (Annie Armstrong Easter Offering or Lottie Moon Christmas Offering) to highlight the general generosity of God’s people. I will stress that we are called to generous and sacrificial giving because it is what our Lord did in giving His life for us. I will note that giving over and above our regular tithes and offerings to these mission offerings requires God-given generosity if we give freely and sacrificially.
3. Utilize personal testimonies.
If God has been working to transform the hearts of His people to look more like His, including in the area of generosity, then when you see or hear a story of God doing that work in a person’s heart, let them share their story with the church. I once had a woman share her desire only to give what she saw on paper that she could afford. But she then shared how God worked in her heart, challenging her toward obedience in giving and growing in generosity. She shared how God had not only started that work but was continuing to develop her in that way even now.
If growth in generosity is a kind of spiritual growth to make us look more like Jesus, we should celebrate it when we see it. If the church is one of the critical places God does work in His people, we should celebrate growing generosity in the church. Let’s pray God gives us even more to celebrate!