There will always be a reason for someone to be afraid of something. It could be financial market volatility, political unrest, health scares, or social complexities. Sometimes all of those combined at once. These circumstances and realities come and go, and they affect us in different ways based on age, stage of life, or perspectives. It is a very human thing to search for safety and security in the things that we believe we can control.
- If we work hard, we can get the promotion.
- If we save enough, we can weather any financial storm.
- If we invest enough, we can eventually retire.
- If we elect the right person, all our problems will be solved.
It would be great if our desires and intent always created the anticipated reality. But what about when it doesn't?
- What happens when we work hard but get passed over for the promotion?
- What happens when an unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance drains our resources?
- What happens when our investments aren't able to provide the lifestyle in retirement we desired?
- What happens when the person we hoped would solve our problems doesn't?
The truth is the longer you live, the less black and white life becomes. It's nowhere near as simple as a 10-step plan to anything. But there is one discipline that just about everyone agrees on—in and out of faith circles—and that is generosity matters.
- Generosity keeps us from placing ourselves at the center of our universe.
- Generosity invites us to shift our security from what we can keep to what we can give.
- Generosity compels those who have a little and those who have a lot to share.
- Generosity shapes our sense of community by causing us to come to grips with the persistent needs of others all around us.
- Generosity teaches us that what we have is a gift and is to be freely, openly, and liberally shared with others.
Generosity in Times of Uncertainty and Fear.
Humanity has an unhealthy obsession with control, power, and money. While the pursuit of these things isn't inherently evil, they can quickly replace our focus, purpose, and intent from God’s Kingdom to the things of this world. The great paradox is that when we need to be the most generous is also the time when most are least likely to, in fact, be generous. Generosity is a spiritual discipline, and spiritual disciplines are commitments made to implement and practice behaviors that align our actions with our faith commitments. If we are truly made in the image of God, then generosity is God's watermark. So, in times of uncertainty and fear:
- Generosity teaches us that our security comes from God.
- Generosity connects us with the needs of others and our capacity to resolve those needs.
- Generosity squelches the knee jerk reaction to hold back and hold on.
- Generosity challenges us to place our security in eternal things.
Everyone Can be Generous.
- It can be as simple as a smile, a phone call, or a note of thanks.
- It can be sharing what we have to eat, to wear, or a place to stay.
- It can be shifting our time to be available to invest in others.
- It can be releasing financial resources to accelerate ministry impact.
During times of uncertainty, we need to be generous more than ever.
- It's when we must recognize we need to be shaped much more than we need to give. Yet it is in the act of being generous that we will be shaped and changed forever.
- It's when we must let go of any sense that our security is something we can manufacture. Instead, security must come from grounding ourselves in faith.
- It's when we must decide that action will override our initial sense to hoard. That's when our thinking and our living is changed forever.
So, What Can Church Leaders Do to Champion Generosity in Times of Uncertainty and Fear?
It is the most powerful vehicle we have to constantly re-align ourselves around the principles of eternity. Equip and empower your people to do this together and individually. Consider sending out a ready-made daily devotional for individuals and families during this season of uncertainty. A Generous Life, by Horizons Stewardship and Practicing Extravagant Generosity Devotional, by Robert Schnase, are two excellent choices.
Communicate the mission of the local church and then do it again.
You can never say this enough. There is no substitute for the local church, but it's easy to get distracted by so many other things in the process. Don't neglect to employ visual assets such as photos and videos as part of your communication strategy. Consider providing regular messages from the pastor via audio, email, or video. (BombBomb.com is a great option for impromptu, ad hoc email videos that anyone can do.)
Quantify the impact.
When people see what they can accomplish through generosity, they will understand why they need to act now and in a way that makes a material difference. Consider ramping up your efforts via email and social media to visualize the impact your church is having even when you’re not meeting.
Keep the focus on life change.
When you focus on people, the desire to act is exponentially higher. Consider highlighting a new story of impact every week. Consider highlighting the needs of your church and your community and inviting people in your church to meet those needs.
Challenge disciples to grow.
We don't grow when it's convenient. Rather, we grow when we are forced to. Uncertainty brings with it the energy required to make a change in our daily thinking, routines, and lives. Create space in your ministry planning to invite people to stretch beyond what they presently believe is possible. Encourage your small groups and Sunday School classes to continue to meet via Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime, or other video meeting options.
Provide transformational experiences for those who are ready to practice extreme generosity.
Bring the ministry needs and opportunities to them by taking them to the front lines and describing how they can be a solution to a problem. Consider communicating with your financial leaders daily through a regular update on needs and impact. These people are deeply invested in your church and community. They want to help.
Live out authentic generosity in your own life.
It's hard to be compelling to others if it's not part of your life as a leader. You may never be able to give at the level others are, but it's not about the size of the gift anyway. If you are genuinely changed through the practice of generosity, they will be, too. Consider setting a goal for yourself to practice an act of generosity every day. You can share what you learn with others.
No Better Response.
There is no better response for the people of God in times of uncertainty and fear than to be generous. Make generosity part of your discipleship pathway. The Church is at its best when it is a force for good in the world. That begins with the leader and, as a result, will drip into every person in the pew. When generosity is a spiritual experience rather than a financial reality, it becomes a catalyst for repositioning our lives around the things that really matter—people, life change, and impact. It will change you, your church, and your community forever.