More than a decade ago I sat on the edge of my seat as I listened to an aged pastor tell the remarkable story of his experience leading a church in Washington, D.C. In vivid detail he described each phase of the church's fifty-year journey, remembering like it was yesterday each daring, faith-filled step of this small, yet courageous congregation.
Throughout his hour-long presentation there was one concept that emerged over and over again, one virtue that seemed to mark every movement of their half-century of urban ministry. It was sacrifice. For five decades, people consistently and spontaneously gave of themselves and their resources to make the dream come alive. I found myself wondering, almost aloud, “Shouldn't that be the norm for every follower of Jesus, me included? Shouldn't radical generosity be more common among those of us who have experienced the radical generosity of Christ?”
Following Pentecost, the church was supernaturally generous. Luke, the author of Acts, tells us that, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as they had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). Imagine stepping into a church like that. What would it look like to stumble upon a group of Christ followers who practiced radical generosity, who sought to imitate the One they followed in every thought, word, and deed?Later that evening, at the conclusion of the 90-year-old pastor's presentation, the moderator opened up the floor for questions. Someone commented on the church's extraordinary faith. The humble pastor deflected the praise and said that they didn't know any better; they were just following the biblical pattern. Then after a long silence in which he seemed to replay each chapter of the church's story in his head, he said something I'll never forget. He said, “With every ministry that was started, every property that was purchased, every 'risk' that was taken, if we didn't do it when we did it, we wouldn't have done it.” In other words, if they waited, the moment would have passed, and they would have squandered an opportunity to experience God's faithfulness and provision. It made me wonder what we miss out on every time we fail to live generously, to respond sacrificially, to take a step of faith.