Money is always a touchy subject. We all have some and we have decisions to make on what we do with the amount God has given us. It’s always easy to look at those who have more, and figure it’s their responsibility to carry the biggest load. Then we’re challenged with “the widow’s mite,” and wonder where that leaves us – often someplace in the middle.
We have family members with needs, we have mortgages and car payments, our churches have building programs, and many of us have a cause or two. They’re all good and worthy projects.
I met a man recently who is bothered about the giving of people living in the Western world. His research shows on average we give about one percent, sometimes two. He is challenging his friends to look back over their tax returns and set a goal of giving at least five percent. How would our world be different if we all gave five percent? Would all the ministry needs be met?
I would guess that percentage jumps a bit for us “church folks.” If you’ve spent time in the Church, then the ten percent figure gets tossed around. (Our “tithe” has been described as 1/10th in Leviticus 27:32).
So we give as we hear needs, and then some extra at the end of the year. And sometimes my giving is stretched when I hear about an urgent need and I want to respond.
Then I read something like this . . .
“God doesn’t need our cash. He doesn’t come to us, hat in hand, sheepishly asking for funding for His mission. We don’t give because God needs it, but because in giving we declare His value to us and our love for Him. Jesus told us that if we want to know what a person really loves, we should follow the trail of his [or her] money… The world, of course, finds it absurd to be this open-handed with our resources (I earned it, I deserve to benefit from it!)…When was the last time your generosity made someone question your sanity?”
J.D. Greear in “Three Ways the Gospel Changes our Generosity” blogpost on 19 November 2014
That last question has stuck with me. When was the last time my generosity made someone question my sanity?
VantagePoint3 is looking for financial partners. We have a few. But if we are to respond to the growing need for this work, then we’ll need more. If God has used this ministry to make a difference in your life, will you consider joining us? We’re especially looking for people I call “sustainers,” those who share with us monthly. Even a small monthly gift will make a difference.
But if you want us to “question your sanity,” well that would be fine, too.
To give on our secure web site, go to: http://vantagepoint3.org/donate
And if you’d like to set up a monthly recurring gift, please fill out this form and return it to our office…
And for considering joining us, thank you!
In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand.
Mark 8: 1-9 (NKJV)
A few weeks ago I read Mark 8. For some reason this story captured my as it never has before. I promptly turned to Matthew 15, Luke 9, and John 6 to read the other Gospel accounts. Since then, I have not really been able to read beyond this. It captured me and I’ve continued reading all 4 of the Apostles’ accounts…
One of my roles with VantagePoint3 is to support the more than 100 facilitators leading a VP3 adult process in their local church. It is a role I deeply enjoy.
Whether you are one of those facilitators or not, my hunch is that if you are reading this blog, you are leading a group of adults right now. That’s the kind of people we are. Perhaps my own experience of hitting the pause button and “really noticing each person” is well timed for you.
The small group I am investing in is participating in The Journey, the first step in the VP3 pathway for adult development. I have led groups like this many times. But this year I found myself a bit disappointed with how well we are all bonding. The depth of sharing isn’t what I desire. There is also one individual that just seems more removed from the others. Less invested. Cautious. This has been troubling to me. So I’ve wanted to “fix” that person. You know, show them the light of my leadership and get them moving along. I asked for an appointment so we could talk about what I was seeing.
19 years ago I followed a nudge to do what I could to help pastors and the leaders in local churches pay greater attention to the development of their adults. At the time I knew part of the concern was a leadership one, and so much of what I put my hand to was couched in the language of “leadership development.” And, in some respect, I was on to something.
From time to time we get emails or phone calls that remind us of the impact of the work we are up to at VantagePoint3. Yesterday we got one of these emails. So I thought I would share.
It is the story of two changed lives now changing others as a result of going through The Journey. Marcy Milburn at Newton Church of the Way in Newton, Iowa passed this story onto VP3’s Kay Hodges. Marcy writes,
This may seem kind of random but I wanted to email VantagePoint3 with an encouraging word about how lives are being changed in our community because of The Journey.
Below is an article that our local newspaper ran a few weeks ago called “From Dope to Hope.” It’s about two men in our church whose backgrounds couldn’t have been more different, one is a law enforcement officer and the other a former convict. They connected during The Journey class a few years ago, and gave testimonies recently about how God used The Journey to bring them together, which later led them in a joint effort to start this faith-based substance abuse support ministry called Discover Hope 517.
I know you probably hear stories all the time about lives that are being changed through The Journey and VantagePoint3 materials, but I felt led to share. I think the “ripple effect” of their story is what’s most inspiring to me: two very different men take The Journey and are skeptical of each other at first, not even sure if they can trust each other because of their backgrounds; they embrace the process, God changes their hearts, and they grow in Christ; God leads them in a joint effort to start a ministry called Discover Hope so that people who struggle with addiction can have a support group centered around Jesus. Lives are being changed and people are being set free because of the love of Jesus!
So I want to say thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because of the opportunity your leadership development curriculum provides, lives are being changed, not only in our church but in our community. Thank you!
Director of Children’s Ministries and Adult Discipleship
Newton Church of The Way
The Spirit is always up to something creative and good, and it is such a gift when we get to witness this faithful work in real time. We are grateful to be a small part of God’s kingdom work in Newton. May the Lord continue to bless the friendship and efforts of Aaron and Robbie and The Discover Hope Ministry in Newton. In Jesus name.
God provides resources and we have so many choices of how to distribute them. It’s the almost daily question, isn’t it?
After the basics – shelter, food and clothing – then what? Where do we spend our riches?
Our mailboxes (and email boxes) are stuffed almost daily with requests for help – all from good projects.
I was in a conversation with a friend who was in the process of deciding how much to commit to some major ministry projects, he said, “I never thought of considering VantagePoint3 in that equation.”
We’re asking you to consider VantagePoint3 into YOUR giving equation. God has inspired us to take this work to more churches and more people across the U.S. and Canada.
Many who have been impacted by the ministry have already made the decision to partner with us. Linda is one such friend of the ministry:
I am reminded this Thanksgiving week of Christine Pohl’s words on gratitude. She writes,
“Our capacity for gratitude is not connected with an abundance of resources but rather with a capacity to notice what it is that we do have.”[i]
Our capacity for gratitude is connected to our capacity to notice…
We can live such distracted lives. Sitcoms and baseball games, doctor’s appointments and beauty magazines, laptops and hurricane updates and piano recitals, beer ads, Bible studies—all of these clamor, crowd, and compete for our attention. “We are very distractible people in a very distracting world”, writes Leighton Ford.[ii] We so rarely exercise an undivided attention. Our distracted minds seem to have little space for the things that matter most to us, the things that actually need our undivided attention.
When we fail to regularly reflect upon what we are thankful for, we lose sight of both the gifts and the givers in our lives.
“The Journey has changed the way I think about my role as pastor.
I have a greater boldness about my mission and calling.”
In a recent coaching call with our Sioux Falls The Journey Facilitator Retreat crew, we heard great testimonies of the impact already being felt and seen within Journey groups across South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. At a point in the conversation when the facilitators were talking about how the process was impacting them, the above quote is how one of the pastors replied.
I took the opportunity to talk with that pastor and I asked him if he would be willing to answer a few questions and share about his experience implementing The Journey in his church for the first time…
About 30 followers of Jesus gathered together last weekend. We went to a beautiful place (Banff, Alberta) to discuss a difficult topic, “Walking with God and Others through Pain and Suffering.”
We quickly realized that most everyone in the room was experiencing pain of some kind – from the loss of a loved one to challenges with children to unexpected health issues We were encouraged to acknowledge our own suffering first, allowing us to better help others, a bit like putting on your own airplane oxygen mask first. “I am always first a sheep. The day I forget that, I’m a fool,” said Scott Shaum (our retreat facilitator from Barnabas International).
Scott set the foundation of the weekend with a challenge to always being “tethered to the Father” – relationally, biblically and theologically. I like the word “tethered,” because it gives me a picture of never being out there on my own. God’s love and strength are available to me, if I choose to stay connected.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians. 1:3-4)
Scott’s solid teaching connected with each one in the room. And as we thought about the many versions of pain we see in those around us, his words resonated:
One of the highlights of my fall so far has been leading an adult Sunday School class on Jeff Manion’s book The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions (Zondervan, 2010). The book is about those hard seasons of disorientation in our lives, those times that have a before-and-after character. Like, before mom had cancer, after mom had cancer; before I lost my job, after I lost my job; before we lost the house, after we lost the house; before the accident, after the accident. These moments are life altering and their effects often last for decades.
By walking with the Israelites and Moses through their wilderness wanderings, Jeff Manion invites us into an exploration of the soul shaping potential of these painful and confusing transitions in our lives. A lot of things can grow in the wilderness despite its bleak and barren appearances. We learn to turn toward God and speak honestly in our pain and confusion. We learn to trust God in the dark, when we can’t even see the road in front of us. The wilderness can provide fertile soil for encountering God’s provision and gracious discipline in our lives. However, growth is not inevitable in the wilderness. Like the Israelites in their land between Egypt and the promised land, we can turn away from God by trying to survive on our own instead of turning toward God in trust.
Manion points out over and again that our time in the land between can result in a deeper richer faith, but it can also lead to bitterness and resentment and spiritual stagnation. How we respond to these difficult times matters immensely. Are we turning toward God or away from God as we face these difficult circumstances? Will we learn to trust God even in the dark?
All said, I highly recommend this book for its capacity to invite a deeper exploration and honesty and prayerfulness about the things that matter most in our lives. For a number of us at Trinity Baptist Church in particular, reading and discussing this book together has cultivated a rich conversation with the Lord and with one another.