Saturday, December 03, 2005

Psst! I've got a Secret

It is church budget time. And I want to share with you where I hope to be leading the church over the next coming year. But it's a secret. Don't tell anyone or they might worry our God isn't big enough!

Every year we have to raise our budget. This year we have to up it by about 10%. It is always a faith step and although we have always brought in enough to cover our budget – thank God for that – we still step out in faith each time. This year will really stretch our trust in God for two or three reasons.

One is that we desire to give away about 50% of all that comes in to support our outreach ministries (three areas). Right now we giving away about 40%. Learning to give is difficult because throughout all our lives, in and out of school, we’ve learned that if we have $100 and we give away $10 we have $90 left. Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He also says that if we give, it will be given unto us. I believe that and I preach sermons on that, but I have trouble integrating that into my life sometimes. I naturally tend toward the human side that says, if I give it away than I don’t have it any more. So we have this dichotomy between the kingdom world and our physical world.

This year has really been a year of working through this for me. I have always given. I have always tithed but I am learning to stretch myself beyond what I personally feel comfortable with. It is a difficult transition in my own life and we are also going through that in the church. That is part of the reason I wrote the book, The Secret to Happiness. It is my own personal journey into believing that what Jesus said (it is more blessed to give than to receive) really is true.

I met a lady in Davao whose father was a lawyer and her mom was a teacher. With four children to raise, her mom quit working. Even so, they were fairly well off until her dad left the family and went to Manila. He didn’t support them in any way so they became very poor. For several years they lived in extreme poverty.

When she was 16 she moved to live with her dad in Manila and all of a sudden she was brought into prosperity. Suddenly she had modern and stylish clothes, a car and friends that wanted things from her since her tuition was paid for and she had the funds to go to the mall and do things. She lived successfully. But she found, in her own personal life, that when she was successful she had pulled away from God. Success had moved her away from dependence on Him. It was around that time that she became an evangelical Christian becoming born again.

She married a pastor and they began pastoring a church in the mountains where they literally do not have enough money to live. They have a couple of children and they chose to live in poverty as pastors because she felt that poverty gave her the dependence on God that He wanted from her. She would get up at 4:00 in the morning and go down to the wet market where she would buy 5 kilos of fish, come back to the little town they lived in, sell the fish and make a few pesos in order to get enough food for the day. Every day, was a step of faith.

Ever since then, this woman has not only lived on the edge of poverty, never having any money, but she and her husband spend their time helping the poor. She is the one who took me to the orphanage I mentioned in an earlier blog about the two boys being brought in from the streets after sniffing glue. Another boy there, had his face hacked up by his father. She’s dedicated herself to helping those orphans.

She’s also dedicated herself to helping the poorest of the poor pastors; the pastors who literally have nothing. And they are building a pastoral centre totally by faith because they have no money. They have now put up about 8 of the concrete pillars and are just living by faith, day by day.

I have learned a lot from this woman and her husband, as well as from other pastors in the Philippines who give everything away. Whatever they have, they give away. We just have so much in America so I am really trying to sort this thing through about money and learning to be a giver as God says. And so that is kind of where we are right now as a church.

As I go down that pathway, I want to lead the church down that pathway as well so that we become known as a giving church. I want to be like the church in Philippi that Paul wrote about in II Cor. 8 and 9 that gave out of their poverty and they begged for the privilege of participating in the kingdom. That is the kind of church I want to pastor. And I am moving the church in that direction.

We are also being stretched due to our commitment to Pacific Life Bible College (between $250,000 and $500,000 over the next 3 years), the addition to our Coquitlam campus (approximately $1 million), upgrades to both campuses ($100,000) and the radio broadcasts which we hope to start next year ($300,000). We also need to start preparing for our new building which will cost about $6 million. So for us to give away money to the bible college and missions is really stretching our faith and that is a good thing for us. So this upcoming year will be a very difficult year, but a year we will be drawing very close to God.

And just so you don't think Northside will be the only church stepping out in faith, let me tell you about a meeting I attended recently.

All the lower mainland Foursquare pastors met at the Kingsway Foursquare church to discuss two major topics, one of which was the bible college. As the campaign chairperson I shared the vision and the goals and we asked the pastors to set the pace for their churches. We are asking every church to participate for a couple of reasons. One is, we really want to grow in Foursquare and we see growth as part of our mandate under God. So, if we really want to grow then we have got to prepare leaders. And if we want to prepare leaders, then we’ve got to invest in our bible college. This is the first time we, together, have been on a unified mission. Normally, we are building churches and doing our separate ministries but this time we are all working together to build the Bible College to prepare for 5 years down the road when we produce new leaders. We have a whole new crop of great leaders in our Bible College.

Secondly, besides doing that, we really believe that this giving, sacrificially to the Bible College when none of us has extra money, is going to release a flow of God’s grace in our own churches. So I have offered to give every church enough of my Secret to Happiness books to give free to everyone in their church and that is one of my contributions towards the Bible College. We are going to teach giving, not only in our own local churches, but all the Foursquare churches across Canada and pray that it releases God’s grace in the future. Our people will become a giving church. Not just Northside, but all the Foursquare churches will be known as giving churches.

Isn't that an exciting vision?

It is hard for me to share the extreme joy I feel when I visit the Philippines and I am able to give to these people who have so little. I wish everyone could experience that. For now, you will just have to trust what the Bible says. Truly, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

May you be blessed a dozen times, or more, this coming week.


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