The holiday season is upon us, and as church leaders, we need to remember the true meaning of ministry during this time. It can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of planning events and services to attract more people to attend our church, and we should. But in doing so, we may lose sight of what it truly means to be the church – being the hands and feet of Jesus.
As we plan our holiday ministries, remember that it's not just about increasing attendance numbers or putting on a show. Our ultimate goal should be to change lives and impact our communities, to live out the mission and vision God has given us as His church found in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. And in order to do so, we must remain focused on being outwardly pointed in our ministries.
Focusing solely on growing our attendance can inadvertently lead to a self-serving mindset, where the measure of success becomes about how many people we can draw within our church walls rather than how effectively we are reaching out to our communities. As important as church attendance is, we are called to be more than just a gathering of believers. We are called to be the church - to embody the teachings of Jesus, especially his acts of service, love, and generosity. These are the cornerstones of our Faith, the principles that should guide our actions during the holiday season and throughout the year.
This brings me to the topic of special Christmas offerings. It's become a tradition for many churches to take up a special offering during this time, and it can be tempting to use this as an opportunity to fundraise for our own church needs. However, as leaders, I want to challenge you to consider using this offering for something bigger than ourselves. Let's follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. Let's use this offering as a chance to meet a need within our community and be known as a generous church that reflects the love of Christ.
At our church, we do this every year, and every year, I get nervous. The truth is that I often think about how we could sincerely use the money for budget and staff, and yet every year, we have met our goal and given away almost an entire month's worth of regular tithes and offerings. And every year, God blesses us as we do so and strengthens our church and its impact on the community. It's a powerful reminder that God is more concerned with our hearts and actions than our bank accounts.
Generosity is a part of living as disciples.
This commitment to outward generosity, rooted in the example of Jesus, profoundly affects our church community. As our members witness this intentional choice to give away our Christmas offerings, it stirs their hearts and minds. It fosters a culture of generosity that permeates beyond the church walls and into their daily lives. They learn of Jesus's generosity in the scriptures and see it in action within their church community. This experience has a transformative effect. It inspires them to live out this generosity, to share love and kindness with others just as Jesus did. It opens up opportunities for personal growth and spiritual development as they embrace and embody the principle of giving. It's a powerful testament to the fact that being the church is not just about attending a service but embodying the selfless love and generosity of Jesus in our everyday lives. This is the accurate measure of growth - not just in numbers but in the strength of our Faith and the depth of our commitment to serving our community.
Generosity is a great witness.
The Christmas season often draws new faces and visitors to our church, and their reactions to our unique approach to Christmas offerings have been remarkable. Many express surprise and even relief to discover a church that is truly dedicated to embodying the principles they preach. This outward focus and generosity genuinely move them, often leading them to reconsider the church's role. Several newcomers have shared that witnessing our commitment to serve and uplift the community has inspired them to engage actively in their faith. As a result, many have chosen to become regular members, not simply to attend services but to participate actively in our mission of being the hands and feet of Jesus. This response is a testament to the power of the church's efforts to extend beyond our walls and truly serve our community.
A Tension managed by Faith
As pastors, we face a unique tension, especially during the holiday season. We are acutely aware of our church's needs - the necessity to meet budgets, manage staff, and fund our ministries. These are legitimate needs that require attention and resources. However, the answer to these needs isn't always intuitive. It's not about holding tighter to what we have but letting go. The principle is counterintuitive, but it's consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the nature of our Faith. Giving generously to our community meets immediate needs and plants seeds of faith, hope, and love. As we sow, we also reap; often, the harvest is far more than what we initially sowed, especially in the return of transformed lives. This balance and tension is a fundamental part of our calling as pastors. We are called to lead by action, to demonstrate Faith in action, and to trust that our needs will be met as we strive to meet the needs of others. Let's confront this tension head-on this holiday season, trusting in the counterintuitive wisdom of Jesus's teachings.
As we approach this holiday season, remember the example of Jesus, who unconditionally poured out love and generosity. In doing so, as Pastors and church leaders, let's step out in Faith, focusing outward on our community and extending hands of service and generosity. As leaders, we're guiding a congregation and inspiring a movement beyond our church walls to impact our communities, cities, and world. Let us embody the essence of being the church - a beacon of love, service, and generosity - and trust in God's provision as we strive to make a difference. In this spirit of outward focus and selfless giving, we truly honor the teachings of Jesus and the essence of the celebration of God the Father sending His son.