Tuesday, February 20, 2007

family business

"My goal was to grow as big as a shovel..."

This weekend I told a story about my dad and his commute: walk to the riverbank, unchain his boat, row across to the Ohio side, ride 1½ hours to General Electric, work eight hours on the second shift, ride 1½ hours back, row across the river, walk home with your oars. I can’t even imagine that in a cold rain at 2 A.M.

It’s amazing what someone would do for their family, what they would sacrifice. It made me think about my church family. What would I be willing to do? Even writing the words church family sounds cheesy…but it’s true. There is, of course, the cosmic family, those who are children born from God’s Spirit. But that plays out practically in the local gathering, whether it’s a megachurch, a house church, or a small group.

As my wife and I processed what we’re doing financially regarding the Luke 4 Challenge, it made us think about sacrifice. It’s still hard for me to seriously connect it with inconvenience, or discomfort, or loss. Even when I think about sacrifice as it related to Israel, I tend to feel badly for the bull or the goat or the turtledove. But I forget the profound effect it could have for a family: the loss of income. Our team in Nigeria was profoundly touched and humbled by the offer of a chicken from one very poor family as a gift just for coming. It was overwhelming generosity. No...let me rephrase that: it went from overwhelming generosity to a family-jeopardizing sacrifice. That makes me uneasy, but a good uneasy. It almost feels like a challenge. Paul used that same dynamic to rally churches when he was taking up a special collection for the poor in Jerusalem, telling the Corinthian church what the churches in Macedonia did:

Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. . . . I am not saying you must do it, even though the other churches are eager to do it. This is one way to prove your love is real. 2 Corinthians 8:2, 8 (New Living Translation)

The story of Jesus watching the widow drop her last two coins in the temple offering does the same thing for me personally. I could argue that she could have done better things with her big sacrifice: that the temple money wasn’t being used wisely, that the ruling Sanhedrin was not really very spiritual, that the people dropping their noticeably big offerings were hypocrites in that assembly, etcetera etcetera. But Jesus seems unconcerned about all that. He saw her offering as a major sacrifice...to God. And get this: the God of the universe—God in the flesh—was impressed. And I assume it takes a lot to impress God. I'm pretty sure He's seen everything.

I guess it takes personal sacrifice.

Nevertheless, I'm taking it as a challenge. What would I be willing to do for my church family, whether here or in Nigeria?

What would you?


  1. i'll buy you a shovel if you post daily. great stuff.

  2. Dave,

    I have heard you tell that story about your dad before. It has always resonated with me. What is amazing about that generation is that they really didn't see those commutes as "sacrifice." It was just how they approached life. We are talking about the generation that Stephen E. Ambrose called the citizen soldiers. The crowd that stormed Normandy, only to spend their winter break at the Battle of the Bulge. My late stepdad was middle-aged during World War II and he told all of us stories about what it took to get by as if he was calmly describing a rainy day. He often took a row boat to work as well--during the great Ohio River Floods before we had damns--you still had to be on time, you just entered the building you worked in on the third floor instead of the lower lobby on Elm street. To think I get bummed when we don't get a snow day to close the school for three inches of powder!

    What your message made me think about is how we better get in touch with that idea of humble sacrifice. That we better become matter-of-fact about the endurance we might have to face, both as a church and as individuals.

    I think our Luke 4 Challenge is just the groundbreaking event for the next 10 to 15 years for our church. I know some folks are in a tizzy, and I don't want to scare anybody, but really this three year challenge is about getting us all to a place where we are solvent enough to respond to grace events. As a corporate church and as individuals, our lives and finances will have to get in order so that we can be first responders with God's grace whether it be small misfortunes we can soothe, or unthinkable disasters we can shoulder.

    Luke 4 is nothing but a a crash course in boot camp. Our Battle of the Bulge is several months and miles away. If you need a biblical reference think about Joseph having the forsight to put a little something away each year while managing the economy of Egypt. The endeavors of this challenge really add up to just being the first few store rooms in a warehouse of grace.

    Hand me another board and some nails.

  3. I won't play can you top this like Ken, but a good post anyway Dave.

  4. kids: don't make me pull this car over!

    in regards to sacrifice, my husband and i are trying to give up more and more, we truly want to live a sermon on the mount lifestyle. and we're finding, it's not really a sacrifice- unexpectedly we find that the more we downsize, the more absolutely dependent upon God we have to be...it is no longer a choice, a quaint luxury, or a passing escapism-it has to be real. and He makes Himself more real to us daily...even without a thing, we must ask ourselves two questions continually:
    1. Is what Jesus did enough?
    and 2.Does His sacrifice motivate me to emulate Him and listen to His commands?
    because if it doesn't, what would be the point?

    "even the weak glance moves my heart"

    ...and i guarantee you that the tiniest sacrifice is counted among the largest in the Heart of our gracious Father. do anything-sell your tv, stop eating out twice a week-anything. it will be noted and celebrated among the courts of heaven.

  5. I have been thinking about what my part is, what God wants me to do/give.

    For me the first step is putting myself out there to be used (for lack of a better term) by the folks at Vineyard. I've been sitting in a chair just blending in for over a year now, getting healed of some deep church wounds. And it's time to offer my time and talent for the benefit of the body at Vineyard. (Which by the way I did step out and get in contact with some folks and offer my assistance.)

    What's the next step? I'm not sure. I am still feeling my way around the first step. I believe at some point I will be heading to Nigeria and that excites me.

    I will say that it is nice to hear/read that you, Dave, and your family are processing what your part is. So often I have seen big visions casts with no sacrifice on the part of the leader. Thank you for being an example and not hiding from the sacrifice.