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Monday, 6 October 2014

The Rich Fool // Talk on Giving // Sun 5th October

My talk from yesterday on The Rich Fool and relating to 'giving'. 

Luke 12: 13-21. The Rich Fool

You can listen to the talk here


So, The Rich Fool eh? The man who stores up his wealth and then has nothing to show for it as God arrives to demand his life.

Nice story isn’t it?! You might think, well that man probably worked hard for his money, for his savings, isn’t that a bit unfair? Why shouldn’t he save up? Invest in his future even?

I don’t know about you but I think for many of us our attitudes to money essentially are based on what we have been brought up with. My generation I think, were encouraged to earn and to save. Anyone remember those Natwest piggy banks – even at age 10 the more you saved, the better the piggy you got! That was an era of significant economic growth and the more you had in the bank (or in the barn perhaps) determined your status. People had a desire to be ‘financially secure’, and I guess we all do still to some extent, I think the reason so many people play the lottery is the thought that winning such a vast sum of money could mean they never have to worry about money ever again. Because these days jobs are becoming less and less secure, gone are the days when you took a profession and kept it for life. Gone are the days when a job could mean a level of security for you and your family. So isn’t it then sensible even to store things up for the future, save up for a rainy day, for retirement… well I’m not saying it isn’t but actually the key thing in this passage here is not actually the act of storing it all up, but the fact that this farmer, this ‘rich fool’ did it with no reference to God whatsoever.

Often when the bible uses the word ‘fool’ it really is a term used to refer to someone, anyone whose way of life, or practices deny God. So here we have a man who ‘thought to himself’ it says in v17. And I’ll say to myself in v19, who is focussed only on himself.

It’s not wrong to save or be sensible or even to be rich, but when we don’t even consider God in it all, then WE ARE fools. Then we deny God, we deny Christ. And that’s not just for the ‘rich’ by the way - whoever they are, I mean years ago I remember playing the Game of Life’ anyone remember that – you can still get it… the dream was to get to the Million £ house at the end. £million could give you financial security for life! These days that standard has changed dramatically. But anyway I digress, the point is, it doesn’t matter how much you have, there are parables about having no money as well, in Luke 21 for example, The Widow who gave less than a penny, but Jesus says of her ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others… she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on’

SO don’t sit there thinking well I’m not rich so this has nothing to do with me, this is for everyone, it’s about our heart attitude to God and allowing him into every area of our lives including our finances.
I don’t know if any of you listen to the Rooted podcast by Beth Redman and Pippa Gumbel. They were looking at Romans 12 this week and the first thing they started off with was that we need to hand over everything to God. Every part of our lives… (and if you don’t get it, do, its great and this week they featured Tim's story too!)




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So, money. Giving. Finances. Yes we’ve got a gift day coming up… And I’ve got to be honest when Will give me this passage and said I want you to include giving, it’s right before our gift day, I thought what? Thanks for that then...

Then I thought well hang on a minute ‘that’s not really the right attitude, is it! Firstly, I love my job and I just think it’s a complete privilege to stand up here and be speaking to you. Secondly giving is actually a massive part of who we are as Christians and that is certainly true for me and my family, we do believe that everything we have is a blessing from God and it is from that place that we give back to him.

So then if all that is true, why was I feeling anxious or worried? Well here’s the thing, I think most talks on giving in church make people feel guilty. You end up feeling that you need to empty your wallet into the offering basket, receipts, fluff and all. Or you go away feeling bad that you can’t give more and that as a result God is not happy with you Well, No! that’s not what Christian giving is about. If you are giving out of guilt, don’t!

Christian giving is not about giving from a place of guilt. We don’t serve a God who lives to make us feel guilty, or bad or that we’re not good enough or that we need to find more to give to him. No we don’t serve a God like that, we serve a God of love and compassion and grace and of course he would love us to be generous giving people but not from a place of ‘we have to’ but from a place of ‘I love Jesus and I want to honour him, be part of bringing in his kingdom’. Giving out of guilt is a lie! And I will not aim to make you feel guilty about giving!
But I think people expect that, they expect to be made to feel guilty, that they have to give and I think that’s why I was feeling a bit pants about giving this talk today. So if I’m feeling that then maybe some of you are too, so I thought it might be good to debunk a few church myths about giving.

1 1.  Guilt
Obviously the first one is that we give from a place of guilt. As I’ve said that’s a lie. But it does mean that so often on gift days people expect to be made to feel bad and so they stay away. It’s classic within churches that on gift days, attendance numbers are down. So I’m going to pray that numbers are up for us! Because hopefully you will know you will not be made to feel bad but that you can come and worship God with the family of The Point Church – that numbers will be up because people love this church and because they want to worship Jesus and feel part of something, part of this church, part of this family, we are all in this together! OK? So no bunking off!!

    2.  Talking about money is vulgar, isn’t it! We do fit the stereotype, too British! We can’t talk about money, we don’t like talking about it. And we certainly don’t like talking about how much we give. But we’re just going to have to get over that! because I am going to talk about the church spending money… even more vulgar!
So here’s the myth – that all the money given to the church goes on
Paying staff wages/ buying kit/renting the building.
Well of course, like any church we do have running costs. BUT We are not giving into a pot that funds salaries and kit, we are giving into a pot that is furthering the kingdom of God. I know that all of us on the staff team, trustees, OLT etc we take our positions and jobs seriously. We know we are put there in positions of trust because of God. None of us take that for granted, and don’t take it lightly, we are there because we really believe that we want to see Gods kingdom go further in Mid Sussex, we want to be a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. And we take that seriously.
So when we are giving to the church of course some of it will be spent on those things (and a lot of it isn’t there are our mission partners, the hardship fund? And others) but it is in order to see GODS kingdom coming.

PLUS On the back of that, we also take the way money is spent in this church very seriously. No one spends money wily nilly. A lot of thought and prayer and discussion goes into how money is spent, sure people would be happy to talk about that with any of you.

3. We live in a consumer society, don’t we? It’s the way the world is, we expect to pay money and receive a service or an item in return.  If it’s not exactly what we want we send it back, we ask for a discount, we don’t go back to that place again. We want instant, easy and perfect transactions, whether it’s amazon, google, tesco we know what we want and when we want it.

So, then isn’t church the same? Myth number 3!
there is a lot of debate about ‘consumer church’ at the moment. What is it – are we putting on a ‘service’ for people - not like the 9.45 service, but providing a service that people can come and receive from // or are we creating a space where the kingdom of God is experienced, where people draw closer to God, where his Kingdom can be experienced in our world. Where we can come and be in God’s presence, where we can be a church family together.

A lot of debate about that but my opinion is that we do not want to create an environment where we are providing a service in which you need to give something to partake of that. You are not receiving something from us. This (indicate the stage area) is not a transaction, it’s not buying a ticket, not a service where you are required to pay or give in return. When we give, of our time or our money we are doing out of here, from the heart. We are doing it because we want to see the kingdom of God come, we want to see this church being a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. It’s all about from here.

Now don’t get me wrong, our church would not run if people didn’t give time or money I’m not saying don’t do it, (will, will be pleased to hear!) what I’m saying is it is not a requirement of coming to this church or any  church that you have to give in return. That is not how a relationship with God works is it?  Actually we get something in return from God for doing nothing, just for being here, we get to be friends of God we get to receive salvation, from that all powerful, loving God for nothing. If you heard David Cooke’s talk last weekend – he gave an example of a guy who had just become a Christian and he was all enthusiastic –  said to him ‘what do I need to do, David’ – and he said, you just need to relax, you don’t have to do anything , it is done for you.  What Jesus did on the cross was done for each and every one of us, now that’s the only transaction that needs to happen. We have to accept it, receive it of course but we don’t have to do anything to earn it.

So we don’t want to be a church that models ourselves on a system of transactions.

oooooo

So there’s the myths debunked, can we all rest a bit easier now? Now of all these things I’ve just mentioned, we can get past them all in one easy way, by spending time with God. By surrendering to Him. As I said earlier -  every part of our lives.  If we allow him to be part of our lives, and in all parts then we can feel free and at peace with our lives – and with our giving. We won’t feel guilty, because if we’ve listened to God we will know we are doing what he wants us to do. We will trust in how money is spent here and we won’t be feeling that we are paying for a service and that’s all we need to do.
Be rich towards God, v 21 of our passage.

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So, here we are. The Point Church, ten years old. If you were here for any part of last weekend, you’ll know it was an amazing celebration of all that has happened here in the last 10 years. We showed the highlights of the last ten years video, and I watched that for the first time on Saturday evening. And I’ve got to say I was so moved. Just to see all the things God has done here, all the ways in which he has impacted people in our communities, the ways in which we have seen people meet with Jesus for the first time. It was just amazing. Praise God!!
So now we stand on the threshold of the next ten years, or 20 or 30… and it is so exciting to start thinking about where God is taking us next isn’t it? We have our vision ‘to be a transforming presence in Mid Sussex’ (slide) and the strategy team is meeting to think about exactly what that looks like but we do know that this church feels like such an exciting place to be right now! I mean just look at all that is going on already.

Church in a Pub (just a year old!) is going from strength to strength, at the last one it was so packed out, we really needed more space! People are coming along to that regularly who would never come to church, we are out there, meeting people where they are at. And that actually started with the Landlord asking us in! to do church in his pub!

Willow Way
The Melting Pot Café in Hurst launched just a few weeks ago and already there is so much excitement about what else can be done there, there are all kind of talks going on about our involvement there and where next. Someone said to me last week at the café, there are people here who I never thought would come out to somewhere like this. There are locals offering to get on board.
On top of that there is the Youth Drop In Sessions which have also just launched and are reaching a whole group of young people, most of whom haven’t yet experienced Jesus for themselves.
And in that area organisations are approaching us (so many!), wanting to work with us. And we are being asked to get involved in other things to take responsibility for things. I think that’s because they can sense or even see the work that God is doing in that place.

So, we are already ‘pioneering authentic communities’ in Mid Sussex and there is more of that to come, even though we haven’t got a final strategy yet - there are all kinds of informal conversations going on,  about other areas, there are people who are really keen to see things happening in their communities too, who want to start new inititiatives or get us involved in theirs. I mean it’s not a case of what should we do next but which one do we choose?! God is moving so fast right now, it’s such a great time.

We are also already ‘engaging with and serving the people’
We are already ‘demonstrating God’s love and compassion’
In these communities, in these projects.

I guess the next step for some of these is to openly ‘Share the good news of Jesus’ and at WW there are plans a foot for a carol service and potentially out of that, some sort of small group for people who want to know more about Jesus. So our Visions Statement is becoming a reality faster than any of us could ever have dreamed!


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Now, as a church we could so easily think, we haven’t got the money to do this, we need to hold on to it and just keep the church going as it is. But then wouldn’t we be just like the Rich Fool, hoarding anything we have for the future? Verse 15 of our passage says ‘a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’ well it’s just the same for us as a church, this, this stuff (Stu won’t like me referring to it as ‘just stuff!) but this and what we do here, in this place, is enabling us, us here to meet with Jesus, to become more like him (another of our statements) but that’s just one of our aims isn’t it. Yes we need to meet him, know him more, we need good teaching and time and space to worship him, but what about them out there, those who don’t know him. If we just keep what we have within these four walls, we will be the ones to whom God says ‘who will get what you have prepared for YOURSELF…’

What we receive in here, we need to take out there….



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Everything we do here at The Point is founded on a relationship with God.  It’s founded in prayer. Jesus’s criticism of the rich man in our passage is not so much the hoarding of his crops but the fact that it was a decision made by himself, by himself with no thought of God.
We are not a church with one or two people making decisions. With our leadership and staff teams, we seek God, we pray, we consult together. Our heart, our desire is to see God breaking out in new ways and new places across Mid Sussex. You know when we started the vision process 2 years ago we started thinking about the fact that our ‘patch’ if you like is Mid Sussex. There were comments like, how can we reach all of Mid Sussex, we cannot aim to reach it all, but we knew we just had to start somewhere. And yet now, just 2 years later we have several new projects established and lots of ideas coming through for new ones. All of a sudden God is opening doors right across Mid Sussex. Our vision was way too small!! I once saw a guy called Angus Buchan preach, he’s a very firey south African farmer, really animated and he said and it has stuck with me, if your vision doesn’t scare you, its not big enough! Any vision we can come up with ourselves is never going ton be big enough for God and he’s showing us that already!

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So really what we are asking of you right now, and at this gift day is do you want to be part of it? Do you want to be a part of what God is doing through this church in Mid Sussex? Because that’s what this is all about – us The Point Church, together, a family, reaching out across our communities to see more of God’s kingdom.  The Chichester Diocese held their clergy conference a few weeks ago for all the Anglican ministers across Sussex. Their theme was ‘your Kingdom Come’. And that’s it isn’t it. Perhaps the oldest prayer and possibly simplest prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name – YOUR KINGDOM COME!
That’s what we want to see! Come on!!!


Our church has never been dull let’s face it, but the truth is a journey with Jesus is probably the most exciting journey you can ever be on! A year ago as a church we were in a very different place and yet we sought God, we humbled ourselves before him and we looked to him to guide us forward. In less than a year he has turned this church around. I’m not sure that any of us could have forseen what has happened in this year. Opportunities opening up, old relationships rebuilt, new ones formed, new projects, new ideas, new teams. It is quite amazing, staggering even, and of course, only possible through him.

As a church a year ago we stepped out and humbled ourselves before God, we admitted the mistakes we had made and in that pain and fear, as a church we trusted God with everything. And now look where he has taken us. If he’s done all that in a year, well I don’t know about you but I just cant wait to see where next!

2 years ago this church was growing smaller, now it’s growing so fast we need to make a plan to work out what to do next!
TBH our volunteer teams were pretty much at crisis point, now we’ve got some fantastic new team leaders and have welcomed, new members of the point onto our teams.
2 years ago some key staff members and trustees move on and we weren’t really sure how that would be managed. Now we have a flourishing, thriving staff team and a great new band of trustees and just a fantastic sense of God’s love following through them all.

2 years ago as a church we had some really sad times, losing 3 special people in this congregation. Nothing will ever replace the pain of that of course, but this year, we have seen healings, prophetic words spoken and we’ve just seen the most amazing miracle in Tim’s life, haven’t we – finding his mum after 50 years of not knowing.

Will has other ministers asking him for help, 2 secular places have asked us to ‘come and do church here’, We have made great new relationships across this diocese and have a greater presence here, we’ve been involved in a national Church of England Project – the OurCofE campaign and been asked to take part in another one, and more locally we’ve got churches working together in ways they have never done before.

And it’s all God. We are a church that has fully surrendered to him, all parts, all pieces, and here we are.
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So here’s the question - are you part of it? Do you want to see more of God’s kingdom here? Do you want to experience more of Gods transforming power in your life? Do you want to be used by God for his kingdom? If you do then get on board!

Actually that’s really what this gift day is about, saying to you, do you want to partner with us? Do you want to be part of The Point family vision?

So what we are asking you today is to go home and seek God. If we are a prayerful church that wants to be led by him, fully surrendered to him, then let’s model that in all we do. It would be very easy to turn up next week and think oh no I haven’t had time to think about gift day, well I’ll just chuck in a tenner. Or maybe you give monthly – you might just think, well I can just add on a few pounds that will do. That is not what we are asking you to do! That would be giving from guilt!

So what we’d love you all to do is go home and seek God, pray, ask him where you fit into all of this, this new season, this new vision, and of course it could mean lots of things, he might have a very specific role for you, he might ask you to get on a team or get involved and that is amazing and part of it all but specifically this week we are asking you to pray about your giving. What is God asking of you and of your finances right now. What is he saying to your heart? In here?


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I’ve got to be honest, the bottom line is that there is a shortfall in our finances right now. But if as a church we just put on a gift day to fill that hole then we are missing that mark completely. We are putting on a gift day because we have every faith that the vision God has given us, is exactly right for this church in this season. And if we have faith in God, the God of the impossible, the God of miracles, if we believe that God can do that, we have to trust him with everything, including our finances!


And if you don’t want to feel guilty, or anxious about what the money is spent on, or not feel that you are making a transaction, then seek God, its simple. Because if you make decisions about your finances based on God’s guidance then you can do so in peace cant you, knowing that you are trusting in God.


So

Here are the things I want to leave you with, the questions I want you to think about:

-       : Are you fully surrendered to God? Do you have an attitude of ‘being rich’ towards God?
-      :  are you going to seek God and trust him with your giving? Go home and seek him for next weeks gift day

-       And :
-       : do you want to get on board with what God is doing through this church? Do you want to see more of Gods kingdom coming in this area? Do you want to experience more of God for yourself? Because that is what its all about. Your kingdom come.
-       
     Amen

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