BftF – How much can we give?

On Sunday 26 November Richard updated the Dundonald Church Family with exciting new phase of the Building for the Future Project.  Read on to catch up on first his presentation and then his sermon.


HOW MUCH CAN WE GIVE?

When we look back on the story of this church, indeed the story of our short lives on this earth, I think we’ll thank God for the spiritual benefit of the campaign we’re launching today! Because over the next two months, God will ask us to trust him and treasure him above material things! Today has the feel of one of those famous Amish barn-building collective efforts, where extraordinary things are achieved because everyone does their bit; or perhaps more appropriately, the building of the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days by the people of God under Nehemiah despite cynical opposition; “Nehemiah urged the people, “Remember the LORD who is great and awesome”. And as we face the challenge of Building for the Future, that is what we want to remind each other, “Remember the LORD who is great and awesome – because if we ALL play our part, God can do extraordinary things even with us!

When God led us into this factory in 2008, we knew it was temporary: it is aging, insufficient for our growing congregations, children’s ministry and staff teams, unattractive from the outside and unpleasantly hot or cold at times. Early in 2015 God united us behind our Building for the Future project, resolved to pursue a building fit for proclaiming the saving message of Jesus Christ, our living and loving Lord, to our community in the next generation. We don’t want a new building to boast: our strap-line declares, “We WITNESS to grow disciples” because we are all about calling people to follow Jesus and we need a building for this purpose! And we don’t want a new building for personal comfort: we often say we’re not a cruise ship for passengers dedicated to our own comfort but a life boat for crew devoted to reaching all who are drowning in sin – and we don’t want to abdicate from our responsibility to provide facilities for gospel work for the next generation. God has led us to the point where we have to commit: but we can’t do that without knowing the answer to one simple question: how much can we give?

Today we are launching a two month period of prayerful reflection to consider together whether or not we can build…if we are to engage developers we can’t make guesses or assumptions. We now need to know: How much can we give?

 

WE HAVE PLANNING APPROVAL FOR A FINE NEW BUILDING

We have received enthusiastic planning approval for this great new building with two floors for our church (nearly twice the space we currently have) paid for in part by 15 flats above to be sold by the developer (clearly it would be wonderful if church families or Christian ministries could buy some to let to the church for staff accommodation);

 

HOW A NEW BUILDING WILL SERVE GOSPEL MINISTRY

Buildings don’t save anyone but they can serve the gospel ministry that does:

  • Better reach our community – our current frontage is uninspiring and forbidding, but a new frontage, exciting hospitality space and greater variety of  rooms with space to grow should be a huge help in bringing our local community in, not least like last time with multiple openings that draw the curious;
  • Teach more kids – reaching children for Christ is obviously investing not only in the future of our own church but in leaders for God’s work far and wide; at a time when children’s ministry is declining across the nation, we are blessed with 300 kids crammed in each week, surrounded by young families for whom bringing children remains an acceptable reason for coming to church, and with outstanding children’s teams; we can provide improved facilities for reaching the next generation on a larger scale;
  • Serve growing congregations – since we started in 1990 with 35 adults and a few kids, without a pound or a brick from the C. of E., God has been growing our church through careful bible-teaching; we plateaued predictably when our venue felt 80% full, grew again with the launch of our 9am congregation, and it’s reasonable to expect further growth with increased capacity in a modern auditorium;
  • Resource Co-Mission and other ministries – by God’s grace we’ve planted out ten congregations and in 2005 launched the Co-Mission church-planting network based here, which is now 30 churches and aims to be 60 by 2025; we want to continue hosting the growing Co-Mission resources team and to become a bigger church able to resource smaller congregations with people, money and prayer;
  • Provide for gospel ministry in the next generation – we can’t know what God has planned for our lives and we don’t want to be distracted from gospel work, but we all want our lives to count, to make a lasting difference for Christ and to build on the remarkable momentum God has given our church by facing this challenge together rather than hiding from it, to build something great for God for the next generation;

 

WHERE WE ARE NOW ON OUR BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE TIME-LINE

Building for the Future Timeline

What’s past is in grey – after much prayer and deliberation our Council of Elders authorised our BFTF Committee to progress the initial stages; with a wonderful church response of money pledged including tax back of £1.52m; so far we have only spent Elders money on professional fees; we have submitted and now received planning approval and support from our Trustees for the detailed proposals for this project;

Now we begin the period in green – from now until the end of January 2018 we need to know how much we are able to give before we appoint developers because we mustn’t begin unless we know we can finish;

IF we get what we need we begin the period in orange: when we finish detailed designs, tender the building work and engage a development partner, leave the factory for local venues for 16 months of mission to our community in October 2018 when building begins, and by God’s grace, return to a wonderful new facility in Easter 2020 to continue gospel ministry here for the salvation of many and the glory of God!

 

WE PROBABLY NEED £0.5-1M TO BE RAISED

It’s hard to be precise and there are sensible contingencies built into the costs and once appointed the Developer carries the risks; in addition to sale of property we don’t need, bank borrowing and the £1.55m already pledged, when we last raised pledges we thought we might need a further £300k – as we get closer we think it’s more like £500K – what’s clear is that if we can only find £100K then we cannot begin this project; and if we can raise £1m then we can substantially reduce our costs going forward; since we have previously pledged £1.55m we dare to pray that God might have given us enough to reach higher: but we don’t know unless we ask: what is the most we can give to ensure that we get a new building, and if we can’t get there we will return everyone’s gifts;

 

WE COULD REACH £1M IF:

Let’s think creatively – because if we all give as much as we can, we can probably find lots more than we think e.g. here’s how we could find £1m (last time we raised £1.5m):

  • 3 people find £40k e.g. by realising assets or capital investments
  • 7 people find £20k e.g. by extending mortgage or sharing a legacy
  • 12 people find £10k e.g. from a bonus or from savings
  • 80 people find £5k e.g. by delaying home improvements or a foreign holiday
  • 110 people find £2k e.g. by tightening our budget or missing a luxury
  • This would be 222 of our giving units finding £1m e.g. by giving 2/3 of what we gave before and new givers replacing spent givers

Let’s all think creatively e.g. this week I’ve traded in our car for a cheaper one to release some cash for this; what could you do?

 

PRAISE GOD FOR: Church backing, Planning approval, Supportive Trustees

 

PLEASE PRAY FOR: Sacrificial generosity in our hearts, Sufficient funding to proceed safely and sensible appointments so that by God’s wonderful grace we will have A building for gospel ministry in the future

 

If you have questions or would like some important information, please do contact the office on-line at these addresses; you can also grab one of the church booklets and we will offer an evening in the new year for a Q & A to answer any questions you may have;

 

What we need to know by end of Jan is: HOW MUCH CAN YOU GIVE?


 

WHY WE WANT TO BE GENEROUS!

Someone said the last part of us to be converted is our wallet for Christian faith is personal, “purse-n-all”! Jesus said, “31 so do not worry saying, “what shall we eat? or “what shall we drink?” or “what shall we wear?32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mat. 6). Here are three reasons why we want to be generous.

 

Because God has been sacrificially generous to us!

1 we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches…2 their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity…7 see that you also excel in this grace of giving …9 for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he become poor, so that you through his poverty became rich2 I know your eagerness to help…6…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver…11…you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 8-9).

The cosmopolitan Corinthian Christians had claimed to contribute generously to Paul’s gospel ministry fund so the Apostle spends two chapters of his letter persuading them to actually make some sacrificial contributions –  in v.1 he reminds them of the generosity of the Macedonian churches who were glad to give extravagantly even though they were poor – just as it remains true today that Christians in much poorer cultures and poorer churches than our own generally give proportionally more than believers in middle class churches, e.g. in  most Christian cultures around the world, one would not be considered a real Christian if we weren’t giving 10% of our income each year, sell a property for the sake of the gospel or  leave a bequest in their will;  in v.6 he encourages them to give cheerfully because they want to in their heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, which is why although we will want to encourage each other to contribute something, only our treasurer and God will know how much; In  v.7 he challenges this gifted but proud church to excel in God’s costly grace-gift of giving – perhaps gifted churches tend to be proud and unwilling to give if it’s costly (and giving isn’t sacrificial unless it costs us – Jesus observed that a widow who gave two coins which was all she had was giving more than the large amounts given by wealthy people which cost them little); in 9:2  he assumes they’re eager to help, as I hope we all are; and in 9:6 he reassures them that like farmers sowing seed expecting a harvest, that if they give generously they can expect God to bring a generous harvest of spiritual growth – and I’ve seen that in some of our patrons generously backing the work of Co-Mission – just as we can expect spiritual blessing when we cheerfully let go of material security and trust God to always provide what we need, indeed, 9:11, enough to always be generous, which will stir up so much thanksgiving to God – indeed, imagine how believers far and wide will be encouraged to boldly attempt their gospel challenges if we can actually build this building!

But the most compelling reason Paul offers for sacrificial generosity with money in these chapters comes in the famous v.9, “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he become poor, so that you through his poverty became rich” i.e. we’re to motivated by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial generosity towards us… Paul calls us to recall the amazing grace, the generosity of Christ, who was rich in glory in heaven, but left it behind to become poor to save us – born into a primitive working class home in C1st Nazareth, homeless as he travelled around preaching, then humiliated, tortured and crucified for hours on a Roman cross, soaking up in our place all the hellish punishment we deserve, and completing a perfect Christian life that qualifies us for heaven, where will be rich in blessings forever! And all to obey his father and out of love for us: Paul calls us to recognise financial sacrifice for gospel ministry as a chance to show our love and gratitude to Jesus! Most of us will never have the opportunity to be sacrificial with our lives as martyrs like Ian squire (57), the Optician and missionary featured in yesterday’s Telegraph who, kidnapped with other missionaries by a gang in the Nigerian delta, was shot dead after he sang Amazing Grace; most of us will not have an opportunity to sacrificially give our time to writing a best-selling book or making a brilliant Christian film like the wonderful Wrapping Paper film just produced by our Co-Mission media team (52K views in 36 hrs) calling people to freedom in Christ this Christmas; but money is something we can all contribute sacrificially! God is giving us this opportunity to do something extravagant – something costly, not from spare funds we won’t miss but something crazily devoted, not to show anyone at church but to show our Saviour that we love him! The first massive reason to give generously and sacrificially is God’s sacrificial generosity towards us!

 

Because the love of money is dangerous!

6…godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs…command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 in this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” (1 Tim. 6 cf. James 5; Mat.6; Mk.4;10; Heb.13:5)

According to Jesus, London is a very dangerous place for us to live. Not because of crime, terrorism or stress. But because of the wealth. For even in these times of austerity, though many in Merton can only just put food on the table and young people are struggling to get on the property ladder, London is still one of the most prosperous cities on the planet. And Jesus, not given to lie or exaggerate, told a privileged young man, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”. He wasn’t speaking literally about a camel squeezing through a small gate in Jerusalem – he was speaking figuratively, explaining that it’s as difficult for rich people to enter eternal life with God as it is to squeeze enormous brown camel through the tiny eye of a needle i.e. impossible – impossible without the miraculous power of God to loosen our grip on money. Which is extremely worrying when we think about the culture of London, largely devoted to materialism, hedonism and consumerism. ‘Materialism’ is the view that material things are what really matter. Materialists doubt there’s any God to whom we’re accountable or life beyond the grave to invest in. Materialism leads to ‘Hedonism”, delighting in material pleasures rather than in God. In Jesus’ famous parable about a rich fool, a successful fund manager sits in the hot tub on the balcony of his mansion overlooking Wimbledon common sipping champagne and saying to himself, “Take life easy – eat, drink and be merry”. Sadly, the words have hardly passed his lips when he has a massive heart attack and is dead before they can get him to intensive care. Hedonism leads in turn to ‘Consumerism’. Tempted by torrents of advertising on-line we’re called to worship in glamorous virtual shopping Cathedrals, convinced that if we buy that bag or this shirt or those shoes we’ll be popular and successful. So we spend, spend, spend until we’re addicted to shopping or the lottery. And our day-dreams are filled with fashionable labels, country houses, Caribbean holidays and the best schools for the kids. Mark Twain once observed “Some worship rank, some worship homes, some worship power, some worship God and over all these ideals they dispute. But they all worship money.” He could have been describing London.

Of course, none of us think we’re rich – and none of us thinks we’re greedy – we just long for a little more money! Jesus warned about “the deceitfulness of wealth” being something that strangles spiritual growth – money promises happiness and delivers stress.  Here in 1 Tim.5, Paul warns the wealthy Ephesians, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. Money is not evil – money is a neutral power for good or ill – but the love of money, coveting more, leads to all kinds of evil – jealousy, self-pity, resentment, discontent, worry, sleeplessness, competitiveness, overwork, neglect of partners, neglect of children, neglect of parents, neglect of our church, neglect of ourselves, condemnation to hell on judgement day, to name a few!

– time and again, when the real reason that people leave a good church like this is for a job or house or climate that’s more comfortable, I’ve realised that they’re choosing to strangle their own spiritual growth and that of their children! Hebrews 13:5 urges us, “keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you;” a fund-raising campaign is an opportunity from God to actively put our faith in God rather than money! For Jesus warned, “you cannot serve both God and money” – we have to choose one or the other, and while it may feel uncomfortable, and if we are married to an unbeliever we will have to agree things with our partners, a fund-raising campaign is an opportunity to clearly make that choice: James has very strong warnings for those who, “hoard wealth in the last days” and, “live in luxury and self-indulgence” while under-paying employees or ignoring the needs of the poor in church. You cannot follow the mighty pound and the way of the cross. So what is the Apostle’s cure for loving money? “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant [because wealth often makes people arrogant] nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment [because wealthy people often do trust in money to sort everything out] 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 in this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age [a fund-raising campaign is the opportunity to invest in serving the gospel, which is treasure in heaven. Let’s hear God’s warnings to stop envying the rich and to cultivate gratitude instead of greed, contentment instead of covetousness and generosity instead of accumulation in ourselves and our families.

 

Because it is more blessed to give than receive!

33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20)

As Paul concluded his epic gospel ministry training seminar for the Ephesian Elders in Acts 20, he echoes the words of the prophet Samuel in reminding them that he had been a go-giver, not a go-getter; He says he has not coveted other people’s possessions; and while elsewhere he says that those set apart for gospel work should be supported by those who benefit from them, he refers to his back-breaking tannery work, his tent-making ministry, to earn money for himself and his companions, his Ministry Trainees; it is striking that he says “by this kind of hard work we must help the weak” i.e. the weak are his gospel team, because they don’t have much money and can’t earn much and don’t know other people who can i.e. supporting gospel ministry, such as providing a church building is an example of helping the weak, and should be driven by recalling Jesus words, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” – how true this has been for patrons of Co-Mission and for those who have given so generously when buying this factory, and in giving in our first round of fund-raising: giving generously and sacrificially is not blessed with more money, as if giving to a church is a financial investment; rather the joy of watching what God can do with our money, growing and multiplying churches across London – is a huge privilege e.g. one man came up to me after we bought the factory and said “I’m afraid I couldn’t give…is there anything left for me to cover” – I suggested the heating system for £24k and he thanked me earnestly – and I thought what a fantastic church that people are thanking me for the opportunity to give – but you see giving generously makes sense of our crazy working hours and the stress of commuting – giving is an opportunity to contribute and experience the blessings of watching people be saved and grow up in Christ! Give generously because it is more blessed to give than to receive!

 

In summary

…many passages reveal that our fund-raising campaign is a chance to ensure that…

i.e. Christ is now our treasure – Jesus said, “44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 when he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt13 cf. Mat.6:19-33). Both these parables describe someone who rejoiced to sell everything he had to obtain something more precious, like treasure or an exquisite pearl; Jesus also said, “19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat.6) i.e. don’t hoard the material wealth of this world that can depreciate or be stolen and which you can’t take with you and is of no value in eternity anyway; instead value God – treasure him above material things; in the end, all the reasons for giving sacrificially and generously add up to making God your treasure – the one you live to serve… So then – how much can we give?

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