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What If I Don’t Think I Can Give To Beyond?

June 18, 2015 | By | No Comments

This is a common question that I have been getting over the last few weeks from committed people in our church related to their involvement in our Beyond Campaign. It takes a few different forms, but it’s essentially the same question. I thought it might be helpful to discuss it here.

At the outset, I think it’s important to note that this question often comes from people who are committed to Resonate Church, who love our church, who give their time and energy to our ministry, and who invite their unbelieving friends to join us. I would guess that many of them also are regular givers, though I don’t know or track who gives. These are often owners, not just consumers. This is why this is such a point of tension and concern in these folks’ lives — they own the ministry now and they want to own the Beyond Campaign as well. But, for various financial reasons, they don’t feel like they can.

It’s also extremely difficult (impossible) to communicate publicly, whether written or in a Sunday sermon, in a way that addresses everyone’s specific situation. It’s a scenario primed for confusion. I hope that this post will minimize the confusion rather than intensify it…but we’ll see.

Here are a few thoughts on this question:

Some who think they don’t have enough money actually do. Some people ask this question because they have been devastated by the economy. They really don’t have money. Others ask it because they are committing resources to things that they could give up for the sake of the mission if they wanted to. This is why each person needs to evaluate his or her life individually and make their financial and giving decisions with intentionality (2 Cor 9:7).

Not all people who are in financial hardship are irresponsible stewards. While there are many people in our culture and church who are experiencing financial hardship because of greed and/or poor choices, there are plenty of others who have been good stewards, given generously, and tried to be responsible who have simply had difficult circumstances come into their lives. We must guard against assuming that financial difficulty equals poor stewardship.

There is a tension here that needs to be felt and wrestled with. We struggle with tension. We don’t like tough questions. We don’t like things that aren’t easily resolved. But the Scriptures are filled with tension, especially in this area of money. Consider the tension in the following truths:

Scripture says that we should provide for our families: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). This is serious.

Jesus commends a woman who gave all she had: “And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:43-44).

Paul commends the Macedonians for giving beyond their means: “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:3-4).

Do you feel the tension?

Should we provide for our families or give generously? Both.

How does that work if, like the widow, the money I have to give is the same money I need to live on? I don’t know.

It’s a tension to be managed not resolved. That’s why I keep encouraging people to prayerfully seek godly counsel, follow the leading of the Spirit, and then do what God calls them to do.

One of the places this comes up is related to paying off debt vs. giving. I don’t think there’s a simple answer. Some say–motivated by faith–you should give and God will provide money to pay back debt. Some say–motivated by faithfulness–you should pay back debt first. Who is right? I don’t know. I’m not smart enough to issue a blanket statement that applies to everyone. But I love the questions, because they cause us to wrestle with this stuff and be intentional with our lives.

The gospel mandates that we give out of love and faith rather than guilt. Many in this situation are paralyzed by guilt. They feel like being in this place must mean that they are unfaithful or not committed. Others are overcome with the guilt of their past bad decisions. Here’s the good news: Jesus can deal with the guilt of past mistakes, and Jesus is not pleased with guilt-motivated giving. If you are feeling guilty over past mistakes, go to Jesus. If you are tempted to give motivated by guilt, either let Jesus change your motivation or don’t give. Throughout this series we’ve tried to be positive, talk about the vision, and celebrate God’s glorious grace rather than try to guilt people into giving. I feel confident that this is the right approach.

Most people can give something sacrificial. There should be very few people who give nothing. Most of us should be able to make some kind of sacrifice–no matter how small. My challenge to those who say they can’t give is that they should consider giving something. If $50 is sacrificial, give it–not because the $50 will make a huge difference in the campaign, but because it will make a difference in your treasure-following heart.

A lot can change in 12 months. We’ve been asking for a 12-month commitment to Beyond, with the hopes that we can have the project funded by the end of 2011. In the meantime, some will lose jobs and be unable to fulfill their commitment. Others will find work and be able to give more than they expected. Many will get unexpected money and will have the opportunity to give it (for example, I don’t know what speaking opportunities, weddings, funerals, etc. I will get — but those will be opportunities to give more to Beyond). If a person can’t give now, he or she should pray that God provides in a way that would allow them to give more later. This would be a way of trusting God to provide.

Don’t let not being able to give keep you away from the church or from these moments together. Some might be tempted to skip church the next few weeks (September 19 is Commitment Sunday) or months out of shame or embarrassment that they can’t participate. If that’s you, DON’T! We are a family. We flourish together. We struggle together. And we share these moments together.

What would you add? Other thoughts on how we should approach this?

Why We Won’t Have Small Groups (pt 2)

September 12, 2011 | By | No Comments

Hopefully you got the chance to read Part 1 of this series.

After much discussion with others about what community can and should look like within the context of going and making disciples of all nations, we are aiming towards a four level way of looking at relationships and community at Resonate. This is largely based upon Jesus’ model of relationships, from a 2-4 person model of intimate relationship (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; John 21:20; John 21:15; Matthew 26:37), the 12 person model as with the Disciples, the 12 plus witnesses larger context (Luke 20:45; Mark 3:7; Matthew 5:1; John 13:35; Acts 2:47) as well as larger church-wide gathering (Acts 19:39; Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2)

It will be HIGHLY important to remind you of two things before you read through all this:

1. Relationship and Community is HIGHLY organic. That is to say that its not easy to program relationships, growth, dynamics, and people’s spiritual journey. Sometimes relationships form very naturally, sometimes they need to be developed very intentionally. Some people have a knack for community, some people are more closed off and it requires more work to learn to trust. Either way, the constant preaching of the Gospel addresses all our deficiencies as broken, relational beings, and helps remind us of our sin and need for God to be center in relationship. All that being said, we can provide a trellis for which the relationship vine can grow, allowing structure for something that will grow organically.

2. This requires intense leadership and discipleship of a few key individuals. Community that continually grows and focuses on discipleship does not form just by putting people in a room together. At Resonate, we train, admonish, teach, develop, grow, disciple, encourage, and equip a few leaders to provide structure, vision, and leadership to our larger communities. This HAS to happen, otherwise you end up with small groups that gather, sometimes talk about Jesus, and really do not show any signs of disciple making disciples.

Four Levels of Community at Resonate 

Relational – LifeTogether

As I have found in my experience, even within the traditional ‘small group’ model, there are often just 2-4 people that I may TRULY do life with. They were the people that I spent any considerable time outside of ‘small group’ with, who knew me well, consistently had dinners with, etc. They are almost always same sex relationships, often groups of about 2-4 men or 2-4 women who develop a framework for confession, accountability, encouragement, prayer, and support. An even small community that allows very high levels of vulnerability. LifeTogether RARELY has to be “programmed,” because most people often develop or connect with 2-3 close friends. It is simply looking at these relationship with the lens of discipleship and the Gospel.

Communal – LifeGroups

The traditional small group model was birthed out of a good place, that is… Jesus’ model of intimate relationships. Jesus chose twelve men to follow him around, to go deep in spiritual development, and to be His disciples. In relationships of about twelve we develop dynamics including conflict, refinement, and bearing with one another in love that may not happen among the the smaller LifeTogether relationships. In these groups, there is an ability to walk together through spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, study of Scripture, fasting, and accountability. This also provides a context to plan, develop, and implement the larger LifeGatherings below, as well as pray, equip, and remind each other of the mission to make disciples. Most LifeGroups will meet 3-4 times a month.

Missional – LifeGatherings

Taking the definition from the previous post, this is truly the “Missional Community.” This is often groups of 30-50 and provides the ideal environment for building new relationships. Often these groups are formed geographically, but can also be focused on specific segments of society. Say a LifeGroup starts as a group of artists who really have a heart for the artist community within Atlanta. That same LifeGroup may start having LifeGatherings with other artists in the area with the intention of making disciples and proclaiming the Gospel to an artist community. Often these will occur over meals, just as the early church did (1 Corinthians 11: 20; Acts 20: 7) and Jesus did, so much so, he was even called a glutton (Luke 7: 34). Within these larger groups is where we socialize, serve, and celebrate, alongside nonbelievers or young Christians, as well as allowing them to see our joy, celebration, and love for each other. Most LifeGatherings will occur 1-2 times a month.

Incarnational – Resonate Gatherings

Eventually, as the pattern of meetings gets established, Resonate will begin to meet every week for the purpose of gathering all the LifeTogether groups which are part of LifeGroups which are part of LifeGatherings together to celebrate together. We will be ‘incarnational,’ representing the very body of Christ as we worship together. At these larger meetings, we will tell stories of how God is working in each missional context, pray for the larger needs of the city, mobilize and leverage the larger influence for larger mercy projects, celebrate the diversity of God’s people, and to continue to rally around the message of the Gospel of Jesus through teaching, songs, liturgy, and more. As people who have ‘Good News,’ this will often be a celebratory environment, but also recognizing the awe and wonder of the God who created all things.

Going Forward

We are novices at this, and don’t have all the answers, and some of this could change, but at this point, this is where our biblical convictions, cultural discernment, and vision has lead us. We look forward to seeing how best this plays out in our communities. If you are interested in getting involved in one of our LifeGroups, drop me a line at chriscase@resonateatlanta.org.

Awesomeness in Church

October 19, 2010 | By | No Comments

In my current role at Cumberland Community Church, a large part of my efforts go into programming and creating our Sunday worship services. We seek to be EPIC: that is, Experiential, Participatory, Image rich, and Community based. Within all the programming and ideas that we do, one thing that we have moved completely away from is the thought of “entertaining.” The church had at one time had that model, but we have moved from spectating to participating.

With that said, its been amazing to hear constantly from people who felt like a worship service just wowed them, or moved them. Without intentionally programming in things to inspire awe and wonder… God shows up, and people respond with awe and wonder. There’s a great article over at the Gospel Driven Church that talks about this. The second half of the article, where he compares the ‘wow’ church to the valley of dry bones without breath is a powerful analogy. Here’s the second half of the article:

In Ezekiel 37 we find that well-known prophetic vision of the valley of dry bones. I find verse 8 curious:
And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.

Looks alive. Still: it isn’t.

Is this what we’ve crafted with many of our ecclesiastic enterprises? Have we only set loose an army of shiny, platitude-dispensing golems?

Is this also true of even churches with “sound doctrine,” where human ingenuity and personality and tradition reign?

What’s the prescription for the awesomeness-driven church?

Ezekiel 37:9-10: Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

The prescription is life-giving proclamation that pleads for the Holy Spirit and his reviving wind. And the result is a church alive, fired with gospel militancy and mobilized for kingdom mission.

Holy Spirit, come.

Targets on their Backs

October 8, 2010 | By | No Comments

I have gotten the question a few times, “What’s going to be your demographic?”

Here’s the demographic… “all nations.” It never sounded like Jesus was seeking to target one people group over another. That is not to say we won’t have strategy and an identity. Our neighbors within 3 square miles are 1/4 married, 1/4 previously married, 1/2 single. The largest percentage of average incomes are neck and neck between households that take in about $50k-$75k and those that take in under $15k. Age ranges are mostly 24-44, with still plenty 45+. Its over 1/3 black, a little over a half white, and the rest of various racial backgrounds.

Resonate is for everyone because the Gospel is for everyone.

When I look at the church in Acts, I see the Gospel bringing together a fashionista, a demon possessed girl, and a soldier. I see churches being founded by Alexandrians, Jews, women, men. It is the Gospel that bridges these divides, and I think we do the Gospel a great disservice by shooting for demographics.

And that is why Resonate is for everyone… because we ALL need the Gospel.

Three Directions & the Commission

October 5, 2010 | By | One Comment

Sounds like some kind of weird band name.

So, if you’ve toured this site, you’ve hopefully seen our threefold emphasis in ministry. We want to grow upward, build inward and move outward.

Jesus’ great commission to ALL of His disciples was stated as:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

As I was thinking about our threefold emphasis, it really started working with the great commission… and the overall purpose for us as a people.

Upward directly parallels “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Upward is directly focused on teaching and growing more mature in our relationship and walk with Christ.

Inward directly parallels “baptizing them…”. Baptism ultimately is for the community, since its a practice that we cannot do in isolation. Inward is all about the community, and growing through connections.

Outward directly parallels the “make disciples.” Jesus statement certainly implies that its about people who aren’t disciples already. Outward is totally focused on sharing the love of Christ outside our walls, through both word and deed.

We are passionate about all three areas, and look forward to transforming the city through growing upward, building inward, and moving outward.

Seven Days a Week

September 28, 2010 | By | No Comments

Its always a strange thing for me that a Church’s activity in the community is mostly relegated to Sundays. Sometimes a church will offer a way for people to serve or study in a Wednesday night activity. But what if the church found a way to be in the community seven days a week. If the teaching is that faith is a seven day a week activity, why would the church itself not be active in the community the same way. So, that’s where we headed.

The long term goal with this would be for Resonate to be an umbrella for multiple targeted community shaping ministries. Examples of this would be a tutoring facility, that offers low income households a way to tutor their children (which I believe is crucial for economic transformation), or a counseling center that would draw a secular crowd, but ultimately offer Gospel based counseling. We want to create the city on a hill, where our light is bright and cannot be hidden no matter what day it is… and it is this light that people are drawn to. Our desire is to be known as the place to go for help… the place known for compassion.

With that vital to our vision, we want to start as a seven day a week place. The most direct way to do this is with a coffee shop. In the US, coffee shops have become the Third Place for people (1. home, 2. work, 3. third place). Even currently at the church I work at, people come in weekly that met by rubbing shoulders with other people in the congregation at a local coffeeshop. Why would we not want to harvest and create that kind of atmosphere as the church? Why not sell coffee and have a place that tells the story that is beyond consumerism and individualism? A place that celebrates diversity and creativity? Help us make this happen by joining us.

So It All Begins…

January 8, 2010 | By | No Comments

… and we couldn’t be more excited. Over the next year we will be praying hard, working hard, teaching hard, and living a Gospel-centered, glorifying life as we prepare to launch a new movement of God’s in the city.

As I, Chris, work through the experience as a church planter, the details and transitions of behind the scenes, as well as working out the vision of exactly what we will be doing, I’ll be blogging, sharing, doing whatever I can to help document, shape, and share all that is going on in my head.

I invite you into this conversation, through supporting us, through refining us, through being at least a part of the online community of this blog and the discussions that it generates. In the meantime, be sure to connect to our twitter and facebook pages in order to keep up to date on the latest from resonate::atlanta.

I look forward to this journey, and look forward to your role in making it all happen!