HIGHER THINKING BLOG
Re-Focused Generosity By Patrick Johnson
Re-Focused Generosity: Mirroring Our Father’s Heart
Do you remember what generosity feels like to give a child an unexpected gift?
I love recalling when I’ve been sidelined by my love for my children…a meaningful “way-past-my-bedtime” phone call with one in college or a “dad’s-gone nuts-and-mom-may-kill-him” giant sticky ice cream cone before dinner are gifts that delight me.
Sometimes our giving wells up from a fountain of love. Out of the overflow, we can’t resist doing something to bring a light to the eyes or a lift to the burden of our loved one.
Ministry, Debt, and a Tribe
The story of Ashley and Branden Stathes is a story of delighted generosity. This starry-eyed couple met just after college. They were thrilled to be on mission with God through Branden’s job with YoungLife in Austin, Texas.
Before marriage, they did the adult thing and had a vulnerable financial conversation. When Branden learned that Ashley had $62,000 in student loan debt, he was floored and overwhelmed, and quickly became deeply committed to its eradication. The couple put all of Ashley’s income toward debt repayment, even though it meant living on an extremely limited income. They evidenced a Texas sized, no-holds-barred commitment to debt elimination.
The Statheses have a crowd of good friends. Having invested deeply in relationships, they enjoy the beauty and benefits of the “tribe” of peers, mentors, and mentees who love them.
When their closest friends saw their efforts, they banded together and decided to take up a collection to help Branden and Ashley pay the debt off more quickly. Word spread like wildfire. One friend said, “Before we even started even asking, people were wanting in on it.” Stunningly, their tribe of friends collected enough money to pay off the remaining debt.
One night, Branden and Ashley met Chris, a friend who wanted to “take them to dinner.” Chris actually drove them to a surprise party where a crowd waited…ready to hand them a check and lift their debt burden. Friends spent the evening speaking about what Branden and Ashley meant to them before breaking the news that,
“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been putting together a lump sum of money. We want you to know that Jesus has set you free in hundreds of ways. And we want to be that picture to you. We want you to know that, right now, you’re debt free.”
Generosity was the dialect of the evening, and everyone spoke it fluently.
Friends later reflected,
“Every single person in that audience walked away with a bigger understanding of how deep and how far Jesus loves us. God’s economy is of the heart. Branden and Ashley received the gift of the money, but we received the gift of joy and love because we gave.”
God as Father
The Statheses received rich, unexpected blessing from their family of friends, while each friend also experienced delighted generosity.
One reason may involve our key paradigm in communicating about money. We have a pattern in faith-based, nonprofit and church culture of talking about “God as Owner.” This management-oriented paradigm comes from the parable of the talents (so I’m not knocking it!), but would you agree that it can lead to a clinical view of generosity rather than a delighted, relational one?
What if we also cast a vision of God as Father and God as Provider in our fundraising communication and conversations? Jesus Himself taught us how primary these two views of God by praying, “Our Father…give us this day our daily bread…”
Generosity predicated on relationships (rather than outcomes) is the kind of generosity that Ashley and Branden Stathes experienced.
Relationship-oriented generosity creates a bigger, more beautiful, more fruitful generosity cycle.
Inset Whole Life Generosity Cycle
As nonprofit leaders or pastors, casting a vision of God as Father and God as Provider, draws people toward God’s generous heart. Seeing God as Father and Provider provides a powerful release from fear and a compelling confidence toward generosity. What well-loved child feels fear when the father invites them to go on an adventure? Likewise, knowing that we are deeply loved and fully cared for frees us to follow God on a generosity adventure.
A striking aspect of Branden and Ashley’s story is the variety of gift amounts. One woman sent a note saying she could only give $8. From her $8 gift all the way to those who gave hundreds, the celebration of delighted generosity was unanimous. In the same way, when people become grateful sowers of seed – no matter how small – God grows an orchard of Kingdom fruit. How beautiful!
As you seek to widen the view of God, showcasing God as Father and Provider, remember to focus on relationship instead of outcomes in your personal and ministry life. The soil of relationship is where generosity is born.
To learn more about whole life generosity and the generosity cycle, download the Generosity Reset eBook.
Patrick Johnson is the founder of GenerousChurch and has a passion to see a revolution of whole-life generosity flourish in churches. Over the last 15 years, he’s partnered with Leadership Network, the Wesleyan Denomination, Converge and other church networks to equip leaders to unleash generous disciples.
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