It has been suggested that until you find something worth dying for, there might be doubt that you are really alive. I don’t think I would go quite that far, but I could not agree more that our goal should never be to just ease into a coffin after a long, calm, and safe life, having never really gotten excited about anything and having never stepped out near the edge on something that matters to our hearts.
The key to engaging Millennials has been said to be finding their passion, a ministry they love in every way. That may be true, but it is also true of Gen X and of Boomers as well, although perhaps to a lesser degree. Finding anyone’s passion means finding where their heart really is. Jesus said it long before I did. Matthew 6:21.
Using the alliterated “time, treasure and talent” statement of all that God has given us, our goal is to find what ministry touches our hearts enough for us to make a meaningful investment. An investment of what? Of our time through service, our treasure through meaningful and impactful donations, and/or our talents through sharing some of the skills, knowledge, experience and wisdom God has given to each of us.
In the revealing book Gospel Patrons: People Whose Generosity Changed the World, which is available as a paperback, hardback or electronic book, author John Rinehart focuses on the role of “Angel Investors” who are so necessary to making ministry possible. He examines the role of patronage through Biblical examples as well as historical examples, reaching the not-surprising conclusion that God has worked throughout all time using people to change the world. If that were his only conclusion, his book would have little value. Then, Rinehart reaches far beyond that obvious conclusion to demonstrate through good research the invisible but essential role of those who support some of the most visible and effective ministries the world has ever seen. Late in the book, he directs the readers’ attention inward with one strong question, “Is your life marked by serious effort to advance Jesus’ kingdom?” You don’t have to be the “front person” or “face” of a great kingdom ministry to have an impact; you can often do it with quiet, behind-the-scenes support.
Just by way of Biblical illustration, ask “how did Jesus and his disciples survive after they left their occupations and went into public ministry?” It is unlikely that every meal was provided by a fishes and loaves miracle. In fact, we know for a certainty that Jesus had supporters and patrons, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Luke 10:38-42. We know that Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna provided for Jesus and His disciples out of what God had given to them (Luke 8:1-3).
1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,
2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;
3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Similarly, Paul urged support of the church through the generous donations of the churches he had founded. Acts 20:1-5, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9, and Romans 15:14-32 among other passages.
So, where does that leave us? Americans are the wealthiest people in the world, and the wealthiest people in all of history. Most Americans don’t think of themselves as “rich,” but they certainly are by the standards of most of the people of the world. Recognizing that is essential to understand what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy and said:
1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 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 treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
We are called to live our lives with open hands, “to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share”, which is the sixth measure of when we are successful at Idlewild Baptist Church. Living with open hands means being generous in every way, 2 Corinthians 9:11. That is the goal of our faith because that brings praise and glory to God.
So, examine your present life and your immediate future privately, critically and with prayer. As you do that, start answering these questions:
• When people see me share my time and attention at a store, do they see Christ in my appearance and words?
• Am I sharing my time, my talents, my treasures, in a way that brings praise to God?
• How much is enough? Am I holding onto my money and my stuff because I don’t trust God enough?
• Where around me do I see God working amazing feats? Where is there a place where God is already ahead of me and I can add my humble heart and efforts to His ongoing mission?
• This is all about His kingdom. How can I best and most effectively devote myself to His kingdom?
• Do I recognize and really accept that all I have was given by God (Deuteronomy 8:18), or do I think I have really earned and deserve what I have?
Start with your church, which is the bride of Christ, and is loved by Him. He loved His bride enough to die for her and her people. No, the church isn’t perfect! If it was, you would never be allowed in the door. But even if not perfect, you can make it better with your contributions and your participation in its ministries. Don’t just “be there.” Be a part of your church’s ministries and service – be a part of God’s mission.
Don’t stop there. Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that generosity is limited to the four walls of the church. Actually, the Bible says the opposite. We are called to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13.
If you are not sure where to start, open a Donor Advised Fund with the National Christian Foundation and then start learning where you can best focus your giving and your service. Call us at The Idlewild Foundation and we would be blessed to share and help. We are passionate about our mission. Let us help you find yours. Colossians 3:23-24. The options and the opportunities to serve Jesus are endless!
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.