In our series this morning we move away from Jerusalem and Judea and move onto Samaria. Now, usually when we quote this scripture, we talk about how we even need to take the gospel to those we don’t like. I want us to go on a different slant this morning. Another new phrase that I’ve heard recently is church multiplication. In reality, church multiplication has always existed. Every church on the face of this earth was or is a church plant. Church planting is nothing new. Church multiplication is nothing new. Every church I’ve ever attended; every church you’ve every attended is a church plant. Pocono Lake Wesleyan Church, where I spent the early years of my church life was a church plant. Orefield Wesleyan Church was a church plant. Trinity Wesleyan Church in Allentown was a church plant. It has a great beginning too. College Wesleyan and Lakeview Wesleyan Churches were church plants. First Wesleyan Church in Flint, MI was a church plant. Fort Miller Wesleyan Church was a church plant and Preston Wesleyan Church was a church plant. Someone had the vision to plant a church in each of these locations. Have most of these churches been around a while? Yes, but at sometime they were a new church. Church planting or church multiplication is nothing new; it has always been around.
However, there is a new emphasis on church multiplication because the statistics show one of the best forms of evangelism is in planting churches. In the ten years between 1993 and 2003, 312 new Wesleyan churches were planted accounting for 2,729 salvations in 2003, 12,000 people in attendance, 6,394 members in these new churches and over $10 million in contributions. Why all this talk of planting churches. In the scripture we read this morning, Paul is making an appeal to the Corinthians to give generously to the new churches that are part of his “circuit.”
We want to take a look at how generosity and church planting go together. Let’s take a look at one more scripture from 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:
10 For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.[i]
Generosity is the willingness to invest available resources beyond ourselves in order to increase ministry effectiveness. Generosity is foundational for any church desiring to multiply. We are going to take a look at why this is true.
First of all we want to discover that generosity flows out of our perspective of God. Let’s take a look at a familiar verse, John 3:16:
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [ii]
This is generosity in action. God is a giver. God gave his Son to that we might have life and not death. That is the ultimate sacrifice. If God gave to us so generously, shouldn’t we at least try to respond accordingly? Warren Wiersbe writes, “Generosity means that we really believe God is the great giver, and we use our material and spiritual resources accordingly.” Let’s see what else the scriptures tell us about generosity.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.” So, generosity is a mark of distinction. Those who are godly should be generous.
A similar thought is shared in Psalm 112:5, “Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.” Generosity is an investment. One of the reasons that got the children of Israel in trouble was not only their idolatry, but also their stinginess. God had blessed Israel, but they were not willing to pass their blessings along.
Generosity is a sharing of resources. Let’s look again at 2 Corinthians 8:10-12: “10 I suggest that you finish what you started a year ago, for you were the first to propose this idea, and you were the first to begin doing something about it. 11 Now you should carry this project through to completion just as enthusiastically as you began it. Give whatever you can according to what you have. 12 If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.” [iii]
The church at Corinth was encouraged to give out of what they had. It appears that at the time they were a wealthy church compared to some of the other churches. Paul encourages them to give out of that wealth. Generosity can come in many different forms as it relates to church multiplication. It can be a participation in an unexpected planting opportunity. My friend Mark Wilson had one of these unexpected opportunities. This past Christmas a church in Minong, WI celebrated its one year anniversary. Hayward Wesleyan Church was not looking for the opportunity to plant a church, but the opportunity came and the acted on it. There is now a thriving church in Minong, WI with its own pastor.
Generosity can be allowing a church planter to come into your church and challenge people to consider joining them or generosity can be finding monies to give to church planting.
The Bible has given us this perspective on generosity, but what is God centered generosity. Let’s take a look at our key verses 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. 10 For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.11 Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.[iv]
What are the marks of God-centered generosity
- God supplies the resources. “…God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat.”
- God increases and enlarges the resources. “In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”
- God promises abundance. “…You will be enriched in every way.” Now I know that your thinking that overnight I have caught the health, wealth and prosperity bug, but I assure you that I have not. The next point is where those who are of the prosperity camp stop.
- God supplies so we can generously share. “…so that you can always be generous.” John Wesley lived his life with this philosophy, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
- God receives the credit when we live generously. “And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.” We can’t take the credit for what God has done. We can’t even take the credit for what God has given us.
So, what are some things that we can learn about generosity? First it is an attitude not an amount. God does not ask us to think about what we might have, but He is concerned with what we do with what we already have.
Second, generosity can be cultivated…we are not naturally inclined to help start new churches. New churches take additional funds and new churches can take personnel away from our church. My friend Mark didn’t see the importance of multiplication at first. He stated, our church had a lot going for it, what could a church plant offer that we couldn’t. But a year later his heart has been changed and they are looking at daughtering at least two more churches. Part of my job is to help create that giving spirit. One of the areas I would like you to pray toward is a short-term missions trip to Wisconsin and its purpose would be to assist Hayward Wesleyan Church with one of these two new plants.
Third, generosity begins where we are and with what we have. The best place to start is here and now. Generosity also involves going beyond the four walls of our church. My prayer among others is that we can be a great, giving missions (both local, national, and global) minded church. I want to be careful here, but I also want to express a concern I see in our church. My concern as your pastor is that we seem to be generous when it comes to our own church body but not as generous when we go beyond.
So how can we, Preston Wesleyan Church be involved in church planting?
- Public Affirmation – the leadership of our church embracing the vision to multiply our church.
- Prayer Emphasis – praying for church multiplication
- Promotion – What we are doing today, actively and intentionally promoting church planting.
- Permission – Visible and vocal about giving permission for church members to give and go…
- Provision – Investment through financial giving or “gifts in kind.” – When we give to God and his mission, we need to give our best, not our leftovers.
[i]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[ii]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[iii]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[iv]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.