- City Seminary: 2 stellar courses that will fit, inspire, and equip everyone in our church! Registration starts soon! First Micro
- PlantR: Microconferences & Missional Hubs start this Fall. Don’t miss this Thursday meeting if you’re a local church planter! RSVP for free BBQ lunch!
- GospelCenteredDiscipleship.com – our launch of this all things GCD site is just days away. The content is top-notch and will equip many to make, mature, and multiply gospel-centered disciples!
- The Gospel & Domestic Arts: Don’t miss this week-long series of posts on how people in Austin City Life are pushing the gospel through ordinary things
It’s been about a week of vacation, nestled in the Vail mountains, where Dodson families converged to share a condo, rest, recreate, and fellowship. I’ve learned, not so much from study, but from seeing generosity.
A Generous Spirit is Hard to Find
My parents generosity continues to amaze me. Their stated goal, even during a recession, is to give generously, not primarily to their kids, but to God’s kingdom. This generosity isn’t a mere act but an act of worship. Their generosity has affected Christians and non-Christians around the world. It extends well beyond finances into (or from) a generous spirit. A mundane example from our vacation…
As a family of five, my family is the largest by far among my two brother’s families. Yet, I’m never made to feel guilty when Dad a picks up the restaurant bill for everyone. There are no cutting remarks, snide comments, or jokes about how many mouths there are to feed. In fact, a number of years ago my father told all of us: “Whenever we all meet for a meal, I’ll pick up the tab. Don’t feel like you have to offer to pay. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Now, I realize that not everyone has this kind of financial liberty, but we all have the opportunity, every single day, to make others feel as though they are in our debt or as though they are in our blessing. We all have the power to make others feel judged or free, as an imposition or as part of the the family. We choose one or the other many times a day. We do it with time.
Generosity of Time
Are people made to feel as though they are robbing your precious time or do they walk away sensing they are free recipients of it?
My father is the CEO of a company, an elder in his local church, and is currently dealing with several emotionally taxing issues. Yet, he remains open, generous, interested in our lives. He listens and asks questions. He pauses to take great delight in is grandchildren. He pursues us in conversation. He plays tennis and enjoins topics of conversation unique to each person.
My mother is ever-present, serving in the background in silent generosity. Meals, dishes, shopping, and laundry, magically remain in order while everyone enjoys their vacation. She has plenty of vocational responsibilities. Yet, she anticipates the needs and preferences of nine to eleven people, and meets them. Blessing flows out from her.
Generosity also has an emotional expression. Do we listen intently to others as they share their joys and struggles or do we secretly lie in wait to express our preference, experience, or current emotion?
Do people feel emotionally drained or strengthened when they walk away from conversation with you?
My mother is one of the best listeners I know, not because she is silent, or because she nods her head continually, but because her eyes tell me she is listening. And when she does speak, it is with understanding. She speaks, not to hijack conversation but to climb deeper into it, into your life. This is how she has deeply and effectively counseled so many women through so many crises. Whether it is a friend in a small group or a confused, broken woman who walked through the door of a crisis pregnancy center, Kaye remains generously present.
Discipleship is about generosity. Take a mental stroll through the Gospels and you will find, again and again, Jesus giving generously of his time and emotions, even when he is exhausted or overwhelmed. As the multitudes press in, as the marginalized reach out to touch him, as his own followers puzzle over his identity, Jesus remains present, listening, giving, and speaking. With his eyes upon their hearts, he offers extended time and enriching presence.
Jesus is not distracted with “the kingdom”; he is present, building the kingdom. People are not an imposition; they are, very profoundly, his creation, his flesh and blood, his family. Jesus offers both presence and understanding as he climbs deeply into our lives. If Jesus was stingy, he would not have lived thirty-three years with us, three of which have spawned countless disciples and endless reflection.
Jesus’ life also teaches us that generosity requires sacrifice. Time, emotions, possessions, and energy must be subtracted from our lives if they are to be added to others. Jesus did not host events and call it discipleship; he hosted people and called them his own. Blessing poured out of him. From the backwoods of Galilee to wood of Golgotha, Jesus gave generously. This is grace.
Grace gives without demand, offers freedom not debt. Grace remakes men. It makes disciples of consumers, freeing us to spend our time and emotions on others. It reminds us that God has made so much of us in Christ, that we have much to give away to others. When Jesus died, he gave life. And to his disciples he says: Truly I say unto you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn 12:24) Generosity requires sacrifice, but the life it nurtures invigorates both giver and recipient, such that we would say: “You don’t have to offer. It’s something I want to do. You have no idea how much I have received, and how much I love to give.”
While financial gifts can help many, it is the generosity of our own lives that will leave the greatest impression. Disciples of Jesus give generously. They leave an impression of grace.
Guest post by Josh Reeves, who is planting Redeemer Church in Round Rock, Tx.
Recently I made a list of 100 ways to engage your neighborhood. I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me in order to be a better neighbor. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:
- In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people
- Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.
- Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed.
Below is a list of my top 25. The full list of 100 is available to download below the list. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors. Would love to hear stories of how you have lived some of these out or other ways you have engaged your neighbors.
1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard
2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood
3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard
4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)
5. Invite neighbors over for dinner
6. Attend and participate in HOA functions
7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors
8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved
9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)
10. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors
11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards
13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home
14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety
16. Host a sports game watching party
17. Host a coffee and dessert night
18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night
19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)\
20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents
23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas
24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team
25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer
Verge posted a video interview with me today. In this video I answer questions like:
- Who are you?
- Is the Gospel dangerous?
- What does risk look like in following Jesus?
- How are we called and equipped for the risk that comes with mission?
- How does entertainment prohibit mission?
- How does the gospel compel risky mission?
I wrote a follow up article to work out the idea of a “Dangerous Gospel.”