In his second letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul encourages this local church in their commitment to generosity. Here's what we know about the Corinthians: they were immature in their faith, they had a whole bunch of issues, but they were uniquely gifted and were incredibly generous. For their shortcomings (which were many), they seem to have understood the ownership issue earlier than some. That's why Paul says, "Last year, you were the first not only to give, but also to have the desire to do so. Now, finish the work so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means" (2 Cor. 8:10-11). In other words, you've started the initiative of giving; now, see it through to completion. Don't stop halfway, but allow your eagerness to be evidenced by your actions.
We had an incredible first Sunday at 25 Walnut Street. It's difficult to even articulate the overwhelming outpour of God's grace on June 1st. To see this facility filled with people – men, women, and children – was so profoundly encouraging to my own faith. The labor of the last 60+ days reached a beautiful apex on Sunday, and as I mentioned during our worship gatherings, God is the hero of this story. This isn't to the credit of any one individual or team of people, nor is it even solely to the credit of one local church. All credit, all glory, all praise must be singularly directed to God Himself. He made this happen. As we were reminded from Pastor Jerry's message on Sunday, it is God who provides. And we were all witnesses of that.
But we also know that God uses people to accomplish his purposes. He's the one who moves and initiates, but He elects to use us in His mission. This just brings God more glory, because He is able to weave all of our stories, our resources, and our energies into one beautiful purpose: to give every man, woman, and child repeated opportunities to hear and see the Gospel.
So here is my encouragement to you, now: finish the work. Complete the task. This goes way beyond financial contributions, but it must also include that if God is truly Lord over all. Beginning on May 4th of this year, we launched a financial giving campaign specifically designed to fuel and fund the work of renovating the facility at 25 Walnut Street. I challenged all of us at the Lockport Campus to own one-fourth of our renovating budget, amounting to $25,000 over the span of six full months. I believe that God wanted us to put some skin in the game and express our gratitude for His provision by being stretched in the direction of generosity. To date, we have seen over $5,000 come in through your generosity. I want to again encourage you: let's finish the work.
Why give, though? Now that we are in the facility (and things seem to be working just fine), what is our incentive to give? A few reasons come to mind:
1. We said we would. We committed to make this happen just a little more than a month ago. We have seen such an encouraging response, but there is still more to go. We have been blessed that through the resources of Kingdom Come we were able to do things swiftly that would take many other congregations months to do. This blessing should not be lost on us.
2. We must constantly fight the temptation to be consumers. There is a spirit of entitlement that runs rampant wherever we look, and in a world that says, "Me first," the people of God in Lockport must stand out as those who will not buy in to the Doctrine of Deserving. The only way to fight greed is to be generous.
3. We have been blessed to be a blessing. If you've been a part of the Lockport Campus for any length of time – especially if you've been here since the beginning – you know that it is because of the generosity of others that the work of the Gospel has continued in Lockport. The very existence of the Lockport Campus came about because a committed group of believers said, "Let's reach Lockport for Christ." In the early days, the costs of semi-portable church services were more than a congregation of 150 could sustain. But through the generosity of God's people (which certainly includes you), we have been sustained so that we could continue to reach people in our circle of influence. So we clearly have been blessed. Now, as we mature as a congregation, we need to have an eye towards being a blessing. By giving to the work at 25 Walnut, we can actually participate in blessing others. That includes the people within our local community, but it also extends beyond that. As our church (as a whole) seeks to continue reaching people with the Gospel, there will inevitably be more church plants and church campuses. We (the Lockport Campus) will eventually have more "siblings." There is an opportunity in front of us as the older sibling to set an example for those who would follow – and actually to have a hand in seeing them born. If we commit to owning that $25,000 as a local church, our generosity will extend far beyond the walls of 25 Walnut.
One other thing needs to be stated. The verses i referenced at the outset include one very important line: according to your means. Paul is aware that not every person can give the same amount. Again, the beauty and brilliance of God's plan is evident: even with different dollar amounts, we realize that all are needed and all are necessary. We are always better together, and that includes those who have much and those who have little. Once again, let me encourage all of us: let's finish the work. See you Sunday!
Together for the Mission,