In addition to serving as pastors of San Francisco Lighthouse Church for almost 11 years, Julie and I also are financially contributing members. Over the course of our Lighthouse-Life we have given at least 10% of our income, a couple properties, and a vehicle to the church-family where God has called us, and we wanted to share some of the reasons why.
First, we believe in the mission of making-disciples of Jesus. We are delighted to be a part of a church family that loves Jesus and joyously lives out his Kingdom Promise. We take courage in belonging to a family where the mission is inclusive, and where diversity can be seen whenever we gather. Over the past 11 years we have had the joy of watching over 600 people get baptized--former Muslims and Buddhists, meth addicts and sex addicts, cross-dressers and trans-genders, Pac Heights Natives and TL Homeless Transients, members of the church of Satan and drug runners, students and teachers, Samoan and Irish, Polish and Thai, Native American and Filipino, French and Ukrainian, and most recently our beautiful Kenyan, Mexican and Chinese sisters. Every time someone's story gets washed in the Story of God every penny and dollar that we have given gets redeemed and revalued as of infinite worth. Jesus said that our treasure would follow our heart, so because our heart is with this church, we want to financially support it.
Secondly, we want to be an example to our children. The Jesus' Way of teaching selflessness is living selflessly. We know our children will learn how to be servants and selfless disciples if they see it in our lives. The generous nature at work in my life was modeled for me by my mom (who has never missed a month of giving to Lighthouse in the past 10 years) and my dad and his wife (who have given and given and given to Lighthouse). There has been much in the media about my kid's generation and their fixation on materialism--iPods, clothes, cars, and gadgets. I am raising my kids to care about other people by being an example of Jesus. That’s not gonna happen by accident…I have to be intentional about modeling that. Julie and I realized that we had to be responsible for teaching our kids to be generous, and we embraced that as a way of life and not merely a manner of speaking.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we give because God has given so much to us. In the New Testament, Paul writes about money and the proper motivation for giving. In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul wants the people to give an offering to the poor. He says, “I don’t want to order you. I don’t want this offering to simply be the response to my demand.” He doesn’t manipulate them with his authority (saying ‘I’m an apostle and this is your duty to me!’) nor guilt them with sob-stories (telling them tales about how much the poor are suffering and how much more they have than the sufferers). Instead, Paul proclaims the Good News, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). When he says ‘you know the grace’—he brings Jesus’ salvation into the realm of money and wealth and poverty. We give because He Gave. Everything we have is God's--air, abilities, time, family, salvation, eternal life, truth.
Every month, we automatically give to SF Lighthouse because that honors God. We want to honor God, even when it’s difficult, even when things are tight, yes, even when its been a sacrifice. There have been times that we’ve gone without something (when we have made sacrifices), but we never cancel the contribution to the church. In fact, we are more blessed when we give from sacrifice than when we give from convenience.
Addendum. After posting this article I met Pastor Abraham and Sarah Gaor from the Philippines who was here in the City. He is the bishop of the church that Rosario's sister in Israel pastors. He oversees several churches in Paris, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar et.al. Our conversation went almost immediately to talking about generosity and giving. He shared how when he first began pastoring a church in the slums of Manilla that God told him that the way for the people to overcome their poverty mentality was to start giving. He shared how he and his wife didn't have enough money at the time to feed their baby, and were part of a "taking" culture, but they began giving and teaching their church to live generously. Since that time God continues to bless and the Gospel has spread all over the world from their little church in the slums of Manilla.
After sharing that with me he reached into his bag and pulled out an envelope with money in it. And said, "A couple weeks ago in a conference with many low-income pastors from the Philippines a prophetic word went forth that said we needed to receive an offering of thanks for the American missionaries that brought the Gospel to the Philippines in 1898. We received an offering of sacrifice and these pastors then asked me to bring the offering with me to the U.S. and give it to an American pastor and tell him "Thank You" and then ask for forgiveness for not being thankful for all the gifts missionaries have brought to us through the years."
Pastor Gaor then handed me the envelope and asked me to forgive the churches in the Philippines and to receive my gift as an offering of love for the Gospel being brought to the Philippines so many years ago.
I am still trying to process this. But in that moment I received the gift and forgave the ingratitude. The Spirit telling me it was right and pleasing to him.
- Humbled. It was very humbling to receive a gift for someone else (i.e. missionaries who went to the Philippines over 100 years ago). I did nothing to deserve this gift of gratitude.
- Awkward. It was awkward forgiving someone for something that was not wronged to me. They never wronged me.
- But I sensed their is a BIG lesson in all of this for us. What is the lesson to you?