Monday, November 23, 2009

Do Less, Give More

If you're wondering what the point of that title is, it comes from a phrase I kept on hearing in my head over and over again last night. I was sitting at a Todd Agnew concert and during the mandatory presentation of a WorldVision promotion, I was broken over the child that Carrie and I sponsor through Compassion, Martin. I began to pray for him and weep over the fact that compared to our children when we have them, he has so little hope or future outside of our giving. Praying hard through it and asking the Lord to continue to bless us financially so that his line item in our family spending never has to be cut, I started being more and more convicted about how selfish and wicked my heart is when it comes to spending. I want more for me, and I put it under the guise of "investing wisely" or "building up savings in case something happens" or "well we might want to do some renovations/redecorating later." The $32 that we write in our check ledger every month seems like nothing to us, but God has given the dollar such strength that it has great power in Third World countries. How arrogant and selfish of us to keep so much to ourselves when what is so little for us can do such great things around the world.

That's only part of the story though. Another thing I have been broken over is the spending and structuring of church budgets and church efforts. Many of you are well aware that I am not a fan at all of how the SBC is spending its Cooperative Program dollars, that we keep far too much in the US and do not do enough to spread the Gospel so that the nations may be glad. There is nothing I can do to change those practices on my own, only through my vote at the Convention next year for the Great Commission Resurgence can I have a say in it. I hope and pray that restructuring happens, that less money is kept in the US for redundant programming and efforts that conflict with one another, and less money is spent on building grandiose buildings that serve to the glory of man rather than the glory of God. Conversely, I hope and pray that more money is spent in planting churches, developing living communities that are missional in nature and less concerned with programming and buildings and more concerned with living incarnationally in their communities, that we invest more in developing the next generation of pastors through intentional discipleship in the local church and innovations at the seminaries, that more money is sent overseas to help end hunger and bring clean water in Jesus' name, that more missionaries are sent to the ends of the earth, and that more time and effort is spent to translate the Bible into native tongues so that the tribesman in the bush of Africa can hear in his language the words of Christ.

So how can I, as a 27 year old youth pastor in rural Kentucky, do anything to bring about this vision that the Lord has given so many in my generation? Simple, I need to shut up and get to work living this out. I have never been a fan of the model of youth ministry I call the "Three Ring Circus" where the goal is to have more and bigger, throw in some elephants, maybe a lion tamer or two, and keep students entertained for a few years. I cannot accept that, and I would go so far as to say those who do that kind of ministry are making children of hell of their students. My primary aim as a youth pastor is to instill a Christian worldview in our students and prepare them over their 5 years in youth ministry to be mature adults (both in the church and outside), able to feed themselves spiritually and be active members in the local church.

To that end, I have decided to begin teaching the concept of "do less, give more" in some very practical ways. This does not mean I intend to abandon programming and never do anything fun. Secretly, going to Six Flags and Whitewater Rafting and such is the second best part of youth ministry (behind seeing a teenager have a 'get it' moment). What I do mean by this is no longer doing things simply for the sake of doing things. So much ministry is done just for the sake of doing ministry, making ministry the end goal. The end goal isn't to do, it's the glorify God. Our efforts and activities and such will be done for God's glory, not just to do things. So when we serve a soup kitchen, the end goal isn't to get students serving or keep them from getting pregnant, it's to work and strive for the glory of God to make Him known. When we lead worship in a couple weeks, it isn't for a photo op, it's for our students to glorify God in song and reading Scripture.

As far as giving goes, I have been convicted that churches are just as guilty of being selfish with their money as Scrooge was towards Bob Cratchit. We keep so much in house and give so little comparative to our receipts. Instead of spending money on light systems or the latest media platform, why not invest our money and time and energy in things that will last? We can still have things and do cool stuff, but let's make the priority of our spending being missional and out-focused instead of in-focused. I hope to be able to be more intentional in 2010 about encouraging our students to give towards missions endeavors, to spend their money not on candy or concessions but to help send resources, food, and volunteers to the mission field. I want to encourage and motivate our students to see the big picture of God's mission in the world, not just what we can do to have a more cool and hip youth ministry.

Our Christmas Card Mailboxes will be up by this Sunday, and the money raised is going to be used to do youth missions. We'll be giving 25% to Lottie Moon to help keep missionaries on the field and do our part to make up the shortfall. Another 25% will be earmarked for local projects, for donations and resources for volunteer work. The remaining 50% will be set aside for financial assistance for our students to do mission trips, individually and as a church. With a 2011 International Trip on my heart, we must begin the work now to provide ample ways for as many students as possible to go. This is a small way, but I feel led to do this. I would encourage any of you who read this to prayerfully consider what you can do as a ministry leader and individual to Do Less and Give More.

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