If you haven't heard of Francis Chan, the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA, it's time you did. He's a fireball of passion for what matters most in life. He's also a great communicator of God's word. Check out his podcasts on iTunes.
I heard him speak live at Catalyst '07. In his session, he challenged me up to my eyeballs as a pastor and a leader. I felt convicted and encouraged all in the same message.
He hit on one thing that has bothered me as a church-goer. How come what the early church giving looked like seems so different from how we give and handle giving in the church today?
The church in Acts and the Epistles gave to the poor and to support the work of evangelists, apostles, preachers and teachers. The only buildings they used were their own homes and other local buildings (synagogues, temple). They were primarily (in some cases, exclusively) lay-led, if I can use that lingo for a moment. As a result, a high percentage of their giving could go directly towards meeting tangible needs.
Chan talks about taking a 3-month hiatus from his church because he was beginning to be more a pastor and less a follower of Christ. This scared him and so he responded well. (You can find this 6 min. video clip as part of the Catalyst podcast on iTunes)
He came out of this time fired up about simply doing "Whatever" God told him to do through His word.
When he came to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39) and he seriously considered that command (part of the "Greatest" commandment according to Jesus), he found himself wondering to his elders, "Why not give half of all we receive away?" And their remarkable response was, "Sure let's do it. That's right."
So I asked my Home Group last night what they thought. They said they were pumped about being a part of that kind of a church. I admitted to them I was a little scared. (not as much as you might think but way more than I should be) I left encouraged and excited about the possibilities.
I have no idea what God is up to or what, if anything, will come of this. But I left that time feeling like my vision was just that--MY vision. And it was puny.
We prayed that night for God's vision to become evident--one so big we couldn't ever imagine being able to make happen or afford. We prayed that God would show us His vision for our church. And for the courage and faith to embrace it. Not just "Love God. Love People." but more specific than that.
What do you think? Am I misinterpreting this verse? Am I smokin' something? Am I on the right track?