When Sebastian walked into my office with a great big Jim Carrey smile and a giant zip-lock bag of change, and announced that it was his birthday I thought we might become a generous church.
Sebastian said, “Pastor Palmer, today I’m eight years old and I’m bringing you $108 dollars for mosquito nets for kids in Africa.” His dad explained that Sebastian had been collecting change for months and wanted to make the delivery on his birthday. It was a great moment. As he handed me the bulging bag of change, he said with resolve, “Next year, on my ninth birthday, I’m bringing you $109.” I love it.
At The Grove we talk about living generously, living simply... so that others can simply live. I’ve always hoped this would become our culture, part of our DNA.
In September we challenged our people to leave their shoes at church and go home barefoot, so that their shoes could be given away to people in Liberia who had no shoes. We dubbed it Barefoot Sunday. My sons told me this was a bad idea, they said people will not come to church that Sunday.
On Barefoot Sunday The Grove was packed – my sons were wrong. On Barefoot Sunday more than 2,000 pairs of shoes were left at The Grove. On Barefoot Sunday I thought, maybe we’re become a generous church.
Three weeks before Thanksgiving we put 180 empty boxes in the lobby and asked people to take a box home, go shopping and fill it for a family’s Thanksgiving dinner... and include a turkey. All the boxes were gone before people arrived for the third service. The third service people grumbled that they had no boxes to fill.
We put a hundred more boxes out the next Sunday. Those all disappeared as well. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, as I stood and watched a refrigerated semi fill with 280 boxes of Thanksgiving dinners for families in need, I thought, we could be on our way to becoming a generous church.
A month before Christmas we told the people of The Grove that this Christmas we would take our church’s first ever Christmas Missions Offering. The project we chose was to rebuild the gymnasium at African Bible College in Yekepa, Liberia that was destroyed during the civil war. We needed $50,000 -- in one offering – on one Sunday! The amount was staggering. Frightening. Audacious. It would take a miracle, I told the people of The Grove.
On December 20th our people gave to help rebuild buildings and lives in Liberia, but instead of giving $50,000 they gave $110,000, and I thought, we just might be a generous church.
This Sunday, today, a couple stopped me after the second service and slipped a hundred dollar bill in my hand and said, “Please give this to someone who needs it.” I said, “I will, I have no idea who, but I promise I will do that.” After the third service a young man stopped to say hi, I knew his wife had just lost her job and life was tight, and it hit me, today they need this hundred dollars more than anyone I know. So I slipped the bill into his pocket and said, “A generous person at The Grove wants me to give this to you.”
Today I realized we are a generous church.
Generosity really is a part of The Grove culture.
I try to live that way.
I hope you will too.