Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
So I’m finally sitting down to write something of substance…or at least that’s my intention from the outset…we’ll see what kind of “substances” you think I’m on by the end of this post.
Hudgy (my co-blogger and former room mate, of which I have to fondest of memories) asked me to write about what the book “Radical: Taking Your Faith Back From the American Dream” has done to impact my church. So in an attempt to honor that request, I am taking a look back at how that book got introduced to me, and subsequently my church.
It all started way back when I was born…
…Skipping ahead 23 years to about 6 months ago, I found myself with a stack of books (60+ to give you a rough estimate) that I owned and had never even opened to read. Now, these weren’t all books I had just received for Christmas or something. These were books that I had actually spent good hard earned money on (or if I bought them in college they were the governments good hard earned money that I am now paying back with interest). So I had decided that I was putting the brakes on. No more buying books until I had read all 60 plus books that are currently stacked piles high in my room.
If you know me at all you know that this committment lasted about 1 month, and I successfully read 2 of the 60 books. It was not my intention to break my committment, but like any diet that asks you to stop eating pizza, the only thing you can think about is pizza. And so not long after I found myself in the pit of temptation…also called Barnes and Nobles. Now, Barnes and Nobles is like the Mark’s pizzeria of bookstores. In other words: they have the best Hawaiian pizza around…err, selection of books. Now I happened to be perusing around and found this book that really sparked my interest, it was called: “Be Ready When the S*** Goes Down: A Survival Guide to the Apocalypse.” So I grabbed it off the shelf and headed over to the reading area, and on the way over happened to glance at another table where they were featuring a book called…something…I forget. But it was orange and Christian and I thought, I should grab that one too so I don’t look like an idiot. So there I sat at my table reading about how to kill zombies with a sawed-off shotgun and taking quizzes on how manly I am based on questions like “what would you do if…” and really learning a lot about life. I got bored after about the second chapter, so picked up that other book and started reading. After the first chapter I was hooked, and I gave into temptation. I told Becky that I had to buy this book, even though I had said I wouldn’t and I told her I refused to feel guilty about it…I mean, a survival guide for the apocalypse might come in handy!
Oh wait, no, I bought the other one. Which I now recall as being the book Radical.
I read it with blinding speed. It was one of those books that just tugs at you from every direction and makes you think, “Have I given into an American version of the Gospel?” Even though what I was doing seemed like it was serving the Kingdom, so often when I looked back I would see that the things I did only served myself…especially with my money.
Around this time the leadership team at my church had begun meeting on a weekly basis to encourage one another and to discuss hurdles that were up and coming. I brought the book with me and just unloaded a weeks worth of conviction and reading onto them. They all were excited, and we committed as a group to reading this book. So we read it. Now, I could talk forever about the conversations that were had around this book, but instead of that I will spare us all and tell you what the outcome was.
Around Christmas time I had felt God pushing me to look beyond myself this holiday season and think of the world. Yes, the 6.2 Billion people who live in the world, and the overwhelming majority of them who live in poverty. I sent a tweet out one day, asking my twitterverse if anyone knew of a Christian org I could get involved in that is doing the work of the Church in an impoverished nation. An old college buddy shot my back a few websites to look at and I started doing some research. David Platt, author of Radical, had gotten me started in thinking about other countries and other peoples around the world. He, in his book and in his sermons (which I had started listening to), gives a lot of numbers for peoples in the world. Like the 6000 people groups in the world who have never even heard the gospel message. Or the 1 billion people living without access to clean water. So during my own research, I found an organization called the Advent Conspiracy. They said, in essence: “Hey, stop thinking about presents for yourself this Christmas and think about presents for people in the world who die without Christ.” I thought to myself: “I could get into that…you know, the whole ‘doing the work that Christ has called the Church to do’ thing.” So I got my youth group together and we found a cause (the way we got there is a whole other story in and of itself) to donate money too. I challenged my youth to empty their piggy banks…literally. We began collecting change. We call it,”Bring Change, Give Water.” So far since Christmas we have collected over $1400.00…IN CHANGE. Yep, God is doing something Radical.
The other major thing that has happened because of the challenges of that book is the reworking of our church budget. In 2010 my church had budgeted for $500.00 of outreach. Yep, 500 bucks. The sad thing was, we spent 0 dollars of it. ZERO DOLLARS on outreach. Now, thats not to say my church didn’t do some outreach in 2010, we actually did lots. But of all of the monies that went into the outreach in 2010, none of it came from our budget. As a leadership team, we saw that needed to change. So, we took a huge step of faith…we revamped our budget for 2011, and we started our budget from the Outreach line item. We thought and prayed and decided that we would devote $10,000 dollars to outreach in 2011. And no, that is not money that we don’t expect to come in… We based every other expense around what we believed God would have us give to outreach in the next year, so we took our actual income from 2010, and took off 15% of the top to put into Outreach. That means we are not hoping that the congregation of 30 people can come up with an extra 10k, it means we are committed to spending less on ourselves and more on others with the money we are already expecting to come in.
We committed $5000 dollars to overseas ministries. $2000 dollars to localized ministry. $2000 dollars to an Alliance missionary. And $1000 dollars for any immediate needs in the community. And we feel that we are now putting our money where our mouth is…exalting the Kingdom of God.
It was the challenges from Radical that sparked a movement in the hearts of the leadership to start asking God what His direction for our church would be. We started reading his word more, praying more, worshipping more, reading more books that would point us toward him, and overall – being faithful to his call on us as leaders.
I would say that God is still in the business of using people who are willing to be obedient to his Word.
If you think of it…pray for us.