I don’t know that I could be called a naturally generous person.  Maybe kind, but not always generous.  However, over the years, there have been many people who have been extremely generous toward me.  One family heard that my wife and I had moved to a new city to plant a church and sent a $2500 check in the mail.  They hardly knew us.  They had no idea that we desperately needed help paying some major bills that at that time.

I think God has placed generous people in my path to wake me up to His generosity.  Over time, I’ve realized that God is the first, and most generous, giver.  Luke 6:35 even goes so far as to say that when we are generous toward even the “ungrateful and evil,” we will be known as children of the Most High.  In other words, radical generosity is the way of God.  He’s even generous toward His enemies (thankfully)!

A couple of years ago, our small church plant was desperately praying that God would show us how to best live sent among our neighbors.  We asked, “What can we do so that people will see You when they interact with us?”  Much to our surprise, we sensed that the answer from God was, “Become generous as I am generous.”  And as we prayed further, we realized that He wasn’t kidding.  He was prompting us to give away all of our tithes and offerings for an entire year.

From April, 2010 through April 2011, all of the tithes and offerings that were given to Traceway went to help the abused, neglected, sick, poor and unstable of our city.  These gifts from God went to keep a few families out of foreclosure after job losses.  Other gifts went to provide housing for abused mothers who escaped literally with their children and the clothes on their backs.  Some gifts went to pay medical bills and build handicap access ramps.  Others went toward providing a vehicle for a family and aiding in disaster relief after a devastating local tornado. 

Regardless of where the funds went, each gift was an investment in our neighbors.  Each donation provided an open door for missional discipling and a built-in community that would love them.

To be completely honest, not all of the giving turned out the way we hoped.  Some of the recipients wanted a handout and nothing more.  One lady even got mad at us after the 1997 Toyota Camry that we donated to her was not everything she expected.  So, we learned first-hand that missional giving can be a mess.

But we also learned that God values our willingness to walk into the mess with Him.  After all, that’s what He does… day after day after day.  He joins each of us in our mess.  He loves us and generously gives us gifts that nudge us closer to Him. 

So, maybe we – as the Body of Christ (His physical representatives today) – should learn to be better imitators of His generosity.  I can promise you that it won’t be easy; but, the Church (and our neighbors) desperately need this.

To read more of the stories of Traceway’s ReGifting Project and to dig in to the lessons they learned, check out Giving Away the Collection Plate from Tate Publishing.  To connect further with John, join him at https://twitter.com/#!/RichardsonJohnD.

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Comment by James Nored on April 9, 2012 at 9:01pm

Great idea on the ReGifting. And this giving away of everything on the 7th year reminds me of the Year of Jubilee in the Old Testament or the additional tithes that went to the poor. Great stuff.

Comment by John Richardson on April 9, 2012 at 8:47pm

Thanks, James!  The short answer to the first question is that we reduced our budget by 20% initially (trimming all excesses) and then we raised funds from outside sources to cover the remainder of the budget.  This is obviously not a sustainable model, so we have developed a new way to practice this (we call it ReGifting) on an ongoing basis.  After the first ReGifting year, we adopted a budget model that allows us to save 15% of the budget in a separate account each year for 6 years (while designating about 10% to the community through those years).  Then, each 7th year, we will use those savings to cover one fiscal year, allowing us to give everything away again.  

Comment by James Nored on April 9, 2012 at 6:56pm

John, this is an incredible story and inspiring act of giving. Most churches give very little to the community and community outreach efforts. Few give even 10% towards this, let alone their entire offerings for the year. Wow.

How did you get through this year financially with giving away your offering like this? How did this build your faith? How did it impact the community? I would love to hear these answers.

Thank you so much for sharing! I will send this story out to the network tomorrow.

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