Given the challenges that many individuals, families, and churches are now facing in the aftermath of the global economic crisis that began in late 2008, the topic of generosity is more timely than ever before. When our security is threatened due to a job loss or the possibility of scarcity, we are tempted to lock up what we have stored away. But we have seen God work in amazing ways as churches and individuals have chosen the opposite approach. Instead of locking away their resources in fear, they have chosen to share what they have with those in need—and their generous giving has drawn attention.
In some cases, these faith communities received local and national media coverage. Even though their own financial security was uncertain, some churches gave their surplus budget away to meet the desperate needs of their communities. This act of generosity, motivated by a love for God, earned the church credibility and made an impact on the community, changing the lives of those who gave and those who received. The financial crisis became a bridge for the church to communicate the message of a generous God to a struggling world. Churches, in ways they had never done before, began to talk about money, teaching their people how to gain freedom from debt and emphasizing new disciplines of sacrificial giving.
Generosity, when it flows naturally from the heart of a church community, will be contagious. It expresses, in practical and powerful ways, the message that is at the core of our faith: God gave his only Son to us, that we might have life. Generous churches believe that they have been given everything, and as an expression of their love for God, they share what they have with one another and with those in need.
Money is perhaps the most measurable aspect of our faith. How we spend our money directly reflects our commitment to our own faith—if we practice what we say we believe. But that same standard should also be applied to our churches, corporately. How churches use and spend the resources that God has entrusted to them serves as a witness to the culture of the church community. It is a clear reflection of what the church values and what it believes. A church that does not reflect a generous spirit will struggle to grow and disciple generous givers.
Excerpted from “Contagious Generosity” by Jim Sheppard & Chris Willard, Zondervan, 2012.