This semester I have been writing posts about the character and skills of missional community leaders. I’ve entitled the series “Missional Leaders are…”
Missional leaders are proactive.
Missional leaders are hospitable.
This week: Missional leaders are generous.
: freely giving or sharing money and other valuable things
: providing more than the amount that is needed or normal : abundant or ample
: showing kindness and concern for others
Generosity in the Early Church
I find it incredible that in the two best descriptions of the early church in the book of Acts, generosity is among the few ways the church is described. There is prayer, teaching, miracles, evangelism, fellowship, breaking bread, worship, and generosity.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:21-35
Generosity should be part of the DNA of the church. As the people of the day looked in on the church and described it, they saw its generosity. It’s part of the Christian apologetic, meant to make the church attractive to onlookers.
There are at least two reasons why Christians should be generous.
Stewardship vs. Ownership
Christians hold to a worldview that everything belongs to God and what we “own” is only given to us by God. We do not own anything. Rather, we are stewards of all God has given us and will be held accountable for the way we’ve used the time, talent, and treasure God has given us.
Consumption vs. Blessing
We believe we’ve been given time, talent, and treasure by God not to consume but to bless. As Christians, we have eternal purpose in life and can use everything God has given is to advance His eternal purposes. We’re to consider what God has given us and continually ask, “How can I use these things to bless others?”
Generosity Wins Friends
Jesus tells one of the strangest parables in Luke 16. He tells about an owner who entrusted his business to a manager. The manager was a bad steward of the business so the owner fires him. After being fired, the manager called some of their clients to cut deals with them, cutting their bills in half. When the owner finds out about this, he commends the manager for his shrewdness instead of punishing him for his dishonesty!
Thankfully, Jesus explains the point of this confusing parable.
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Jesus says we should use our wealth to make friends. Of course, we don’t use money to manipulate friends or to have power over them. We can, however, show generosity to others in order to win their friendship. Our time, talent, and treasure can be used for eternal purposes.
Bottom line: Christians do not use people to get things, we use things to win people. Missional leaders are generous.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.