With so many debts to pay and so many things to buy, how do people become joyful and generous at the same time? In today's message, Pastor Mike Novotny tells us of something Jesus once said that reframes the way we think about money.
The episodes are the weekly sermons from 922 Ministries campus in Appleton, WI. St. Peter is in the north part of Appleton. The CORE is our downtown Appleton campus.
Week 3 - The CORE
Pastor Mike Novotny
Good morning, everyone, and welcome back to week number three of our sermon series called. “How to” .
Back in the year 1896 and Italian man named Wilfredo Pareto. Notice something kind of odd about his garden. He was picking off different peapods from this garden, that he was growing, and he quickly noticed that some of the pods contained more peas than other pods. A lot more. In fact he estimated that just 20% of the pods that he picked contained eighty percent of the overall piece. Something he thought was kind of odd and then he started looking around at other things in his life and other things in his country and he noticed that, that same kind of percentage breaking down that very often, 20% of the people would produce 80% of the results. 20% of his neighbor's owned 80% of the land. And he developed this theory into something, you may have heard of called “Pareto's Principle”. Maybe you've heard it called the 80/20 rule so familiar to you. That 80% of the things that happen in life are often connected to just 20% of the causes.
Some people call this the law of the vital few, and the trivial many. Mmm, for example agree, disagree, do you think that about 20% of your friends, send you about 80% of the total texts that you get, if you can picture yourself standing in front of your closet, with all those shirts, and all the pants and all the sweaters, do you find yourself 80% of the time? Picking just 20% of the clothes that you earn your business or in leadership to just 20% of the people cause 18 of the problems at your work. Yeah, that's “Pareto's Principle”. The 80/20 rule. Now, why am I bringing this up in church? I'm gonna ask you a question today. Do you think is it possible that “Pareto's Principle”, the 80/20 rule applies, not just to businesses and text threads and life out there? Do you think the 80/20 rule applies to churches too? Do you think 80% of the ministry? Eighty percent of the volunteer hours? Eighty percent of the dollars given are equally distributed among all the Christians who gather to worship Jesus, but are confined to just one out of five twenty percent of the overall number?
Interesting question. If you're watching at home and you attend a different church, think that's true of your church family, that it's the one out of five people who serves and serves and serves, or gives, and gives and gives well, the other four enjoy and receive, but really give back. Yeah I think of the other day about our church family, I've been here at the CORE for eight years now and I gotta say I'm not trying to flatter some of you. I've seen some of the most incredibly selfless, absurdly generous like you first faithful people of my entire life are sitting in this space right now. When I listened to our musicians lead us in worship and I'm just thinking about Jesus and I look up and think almost everyone up here is a volunteer.
Should I grab a hot cup of coffee from someone who got to the church way earlier than you did a familiar face? Who's an amazing volunteer? When I think of the ushers, when I think of the sound people, the lights people, those who are watching some of our children right now in the kids ministry. Yeah, I just have to meet some of the most incredibly selfless generous people are right here at this church. I thank God for them and if you're one of them, I think God for you. But the question wasn't. Are there any? Alfredo Pareto would ask. How many?
Well, I dug into some of the data for our church family at. I tried to look as best as we could track offerings and people who volunteer and serve. And here's what I learned: if you take out all of the guests, Many of you here today, who aren't Christians are not sure about church. And aren’t sure about this church. Let's just leave you out for a second. Thanks for being here and leave out all the kids. You know, who barely have enough allowance money to give anything and can't drive themselves to volunteer anywhere. Let's just talk about like, young adults. Adults people like me, people, like many of you people who made a commitment to say, “This is my church home. This is my church family. I want to be part of this.” If you just take those people,
In a given month. Week per month.
One out of every three of us. Will give at least one dollar.
In one out of every Seven of us. Will volunteer for at least one hour.
You catch my math. I'm not talking about just this Sunday in a given month, put four of them together, take all the people, not guests, not kids, just those who made a commitment. One out of three will give any money and one out of seven will volunteer for any amount of time.
And that is bad.
Grab your pain, let me tell you why. Because when 80/20 happens among a church family, 80/20 ends up being bad for all 100.
Like no matter what side of that / you're on if you're serving and giving, or if you're not, after so long, it ends up being bad for all 100 and here's why. The other day I was talking to one of our amazing volunteers in the lobby and she admitted, “I'm tired. I love this church. I love what's happening at the church. I love what I get to do at this church, but I've been serving week after week after week after week.” It's not her job. She’s just stepping up to volunteer and she said, “I just need some boundaries and I just need a break.” Because she was burning out.
Like one of the most generous people here at our church is about to take a step back from generosity. I saw a guy the other day who was ushering for the 7th week in a row. Not because he wanted to. But because no one else would. And you don't want the guests at our church to be left wondering what was going on. He wanted to welcome them with love. See when 80/20 happens at a church, the 20 people who give the most, they can't sustain that burden for very long.
And the other 80, it turns out miss out on something. Pretty big. Jesus once said in his teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Especially as a church grows inside people, who volunteer, they end up being blessed with great relationships, and connections, their known, and their loved. When you give money, you get to be part of something. Way better than cable or shoes or new clothes. You get to be part of the salvation of people's souls, the impact of changing a community. When 80/20 happens in a church family, all 100 of us miss out on something better, something that is so blessed.
Song. Is this kind of quiet right? Now can I tell you a secret?
It's about to get worse.
Look to your left and right for just 5 seconds.
Imagine if a family of five came into a church, five minutes late. Where would they sit? Many of you have seen this amazing thing that's happening right now at our church where so many people have been coming. So many guests have been joining so many people want to take a next step is one of the coolest things that's ever happened to me in my entire ministry. And guess what, that means? Unless, unless all of your willing to sit on each other's laps… probably not a great idea..what are we going to have to do? Start another service. And it's easy for me to get up here and give another sermon. But Sunday morning isn't just about me, it's about the ushers, the greeters, the sound, the lights, the music, the coffee, the parking, the everything, if we're not going to stunt the growth of people connecting with Jesus, then what's happening at our church right now in this moment is a serious problem. That could mess with our ministry.
And so there's this tension, right? So many of us, perhaps the majority of us have all these reasons why we're not living a life of generosity. Maybe we're broke, maybe there's a lot of bills, maybe you're super busy. Maybe you didn't know the situation was this bad, until this moment. Maybe just don't feel like you have much to offer to the church. You don't know where to serve or how to start, but there's this tension between a church family, just needs lots and lots of generous people.
And people who have reasons whether, really, really generous just yet.
And that's why it's really good that we're here.
Because guess what? You and I are not the first church family to wrestle with this tension. Way back, even in Bible times, there were churches that had amazing potential but we're struggling to follow through and become incredibly generous people. And so today we get to dive back into the Bible where God is going to give us a crash course on how to be generous and wide to be generous and how generosity works it comes actually right in the middle of one of my favorite sections on giving in the whole good book. 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9.
What the Apostle Paul is reaching out to this church family that he loves in the Greek city of Corinth and he's he's trying to inspire them and teach them how to be absurdly generous today we're going to dive into just a couple of those verses and we're going to see three big Ideas. I want you to take away before I say, Amen about how to be the most generous person you've been in your entire life. So following in the screen or grab your own Bible. We're in second Corinthians chapter 8. And I can't tell you how much I loved where the Apostle Paul starts. He says, in first time,
For, you know, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That though Jesus was rich yet for your sakes, he became poor so that you through his poverty, might become rich.
It's kind of interesting how Paul doesn't start with dollars and cents. Instead, he starts with Jesus and Grace. He doesn't begin his lecture even though his friends had some things to change, he doesn't tell them, you know, do do, do, give give give, instead, he starts with Jesus gave Jesus gave Jesus gave Right. The sound. I think it's the best place. To start a conversation on Christian generosity is not with you. It's actually with God. Write this down. Start with Grace.
What you think for a second if you've had any experience with a church in your past,
Back to like the pastor or the priest, giving the talk about volunteering or the talk about money. It's like the first thing that comes back to your memory is just how comforting and wonderful it was to hear about God's love for you. Maybe not, you know, maybe you can have a defensive posture to this topic because when you grew up, when you visited that church, what was it all about? Give give, give, give get out your wall like it out. Your purse, give kid, we're behind in the budget. You got to give you got to give but that is that it's not what Paul does.
Instead, Paul says he gave. Jesus gave. Jesus gave.
In fact, I love how Paul puts it, he says, for your sake Jesus became poor. So that you through his poverty, might become rich. I'll get to the picture in a second. Let's go back. One slide if you don't mind. Yeah, Paul is saying that Jesus was was filthy rich up in heaven. I can you imagine just how large Jesus was living for all of his eternal existence with the father. He was so, so so rich. He was so comfortable surrounded by the praise of angels and all the saints. And then two thousand years ago, he became poor
I think of it this way for the 33 years of Jesus life, he essentially spent all of them camping. There were camp before, like, when you used to this level of comfort, and now you're enduring this level of comfort. But Jesus essentially did that for 33 years for 12,000 straight nights. He camped.
And he did that for you. In so that you through His poverty, Might become rich. Jesus was willing to give up all the riches that he had in heaven so that you would be rich in blessing, so that there would be mercy and there would be grace and there would be salvation, so that you could sit here in this moment and no matter what you did last night, or last year, or when you were in your 20s, you would know that there is forgiveness for that. There's mercy for that but you could be one of those amazing Christians who just shakes off the shame leaves, the guilt in the past and when you feel bad and that regret you could say, but Jesus gave his life for me, that, that's what it means to be spiritually rich, through the name of Jesus Christ. It's when you know that, you know, I'm forgiven, I'm loved, I'm going to heaven, I'm good with God, he likes me, he is for me, Jesus became poor so that you through his poverty. Might become rich. That's where Paul starts this conversation about giving.
That's I want to show you these pictures ever noticed, the relative difference between the size of our churches offering boxes. And the size of our church’s cross.
Maybe this never struck me before. If you're watching at home, I did some unofficial measurements of both. I find out that the offering box is in our church Lobby. They are a forearm wide. Their hand deep. And they're a cubit from elbow, the fingertip tall, they're about the size of my little torso here. That's the offering box the cross in our church. It's much bigger than that, all right. It's not as big as my torso. Take me stack. Another me on top of me and put like an Abraham Lincoln hat on the top of the top one of me 13 feet tall, that's what that cross is and it's not forearm widest on an arm wide. It's not even two arms wide, it stretches from end to end 7 feet across. There is a reason when you gather here to worship we don't have a giant 13-foot offering box there. Imagine if we did, you could leave and say that church was all about money you know putting your like giant oversized checks like no no no and that's meant to preach to you is giving part of our ministry, for sure. Yeah, is generosity, you giving money to spread the name of Jeep? Does that matter to Jesus for sure. But is it the biggest thing?
Is it the primary thing? Is it the most important thing? Not let the size. Let the prominence of that cross be a reminder that when we talk about generosity, it starts with Grace. So it's the loving heart of God, who gave his son, who gave up his comfort so that you might be rich.
And if you get that, you're ready for what Paul says, next first time,
Here's my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year, you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now, finish the work. So that you're eager willingness to do. Its may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.
It's pretty clear, right? But Paul’s not saying, hey intended to give or as long as it's in your heart, Paul says, no, he's pretty blunt with his friends, he says, finish the work. I know that you wanted to, I know that you love Jesus. I know that you're part of this church family last year. You were actually the first people to check the box, and to put down your name. Now, match your eager willingness to do it with your completion of it for taking notes. I write it down this way. Start with Grace, and then, Just give. Finish the work. Complete the commitment that you made. And that might see him. So obvious that you're ready for part 3 already, but actually it's not
Did you know, historically probably the biggest challenge we've had as a church, is not getting Christians like you to check the box.
But to actually finish the work. So, maybe once a year, I'll give a message like this on generosity. And the grace of God, the word of God stirs. A lot of people's hearts. They check the box. I'm in, I'm ready to go.
And then our staff will follow up and say, hey thanks so much for being willing to volunteer. Let's get together. How can I plug in? What are you interested in serving in? And the response is Ghosting.
Like, literally no replies. It's super confusing to our volunteer staff by the way, like, hey, don't mean to pressure you, not trying to twist your arm or guilt trip you, but I think you check the box to can and they don't know what to do.
Church, can I be blunt with you?
Finish the work.
Like actually do it.
Because as the numbers continue to grow at our church, if you after a long amount of time just consume this ministry but don't contribute to it. You will kill it.
The more people who come here who just take but don't give, our church becomes like a Lego Tower. Skinny and tall. And you know what happens, the taller it gets. If the base doesn't get stronger.
Crashes, hard right?
And so Paul says, give. Consumer Christianity, kills great ministries. This ministry is going to, well, it's going to great. Stop now. And so I'm going to be direct with you today. If you're a guest here, just listen, if you're not sure about Jesus, I'm not talking to you, but if you've been sitting in these chairs for at least a year and you are not actively giving, contributing. Finish the work.
Don't burn out the best Christians in this place. You've received. It's time to give. And if this isn't the church for you to give. There's lots of other churches.
My Christianity is not just about receiving from Jesus. It's about receiving first, and then giving
So finish the work.
Because that's actually best for you.
There's a curious. Little I maybe missed it when I read it. Paul said here's my judgment about what is best for you. In this matter.
Interesting how he's telling them give money because it's best for you. Wait, Paul. Don't you mean best for them? Like the people who get my offering? No, no, he says it's actually what's best for you. This is what Jesus said. It is more blessed to give. Than to receive generous. People actually you think you'll lose out. Right. Well, I have less time. If I'm volunteering, I have less money. If I'm giving an offering house this best for me. Paul knows. He knows that when you are part of something bigger than yourself and your stuff. When you are part of lives being changed and souls being saved, the poor being fed and the Next Generation being raised up for Jesus. You have something at the end of your life, that means so much more than all the temporary Pleasures that come and go. So quickly, givers get
Because it is more blessed to give than to receive.
And if you don't believe that's true, let me show you a picture of a young woman. Who's some of you might recognize?
That's Ava. Some of you know her because Ava and her older sister and her younger brother were all baptized here at our church just a few weeks ago, an amazing service he was also the incredible. 12 year old who took a challenge that I once made and read literally, read every single book on the shelves in our church Lobby. That's watching at home. You might not know. We don't have like two or three books on the shelves in our church Lobby. We have like 20 to 30 of them and this young woman read all of it. But what? Forgiveness, she read it. They've got Jesus, she read it. The book about tough questions on Christianity. She read that too. Sure. The book about marriage, about sexuality, about family, she read all the books at the same. This 12 year old, this gen Z reading Queen. Just dominated all the but I don't think anyone in our church has ever done that. Raise your hand if you think that's kind of awesome? Yeah, yes. Well, thank you very much for that because I do too. That is super amazing and guess who made that possible.
All that Jesus, all that true. That startup and hard. Guess who did that?
I'll give you a hint. I don't have a printing press in my basement.
I wrote a couple of books. But it's those of you who gave. It's those of you who gave me the time to write through my salary. So those of you from Time of Grace, who support the ministry with your gifts, you might not know her. You might not have met her, but when you give your helping people like that connect to the truth of Jesus Christ. Yeah. And you tell me you go back to the last fish fry. You had the last game you went to is a better than that.
Nope, I'm hungry. Two hours after I eat, it doesn't matter how much I eat, but that's a story that's going to stick in my heart for a long, long time. The Apostle Paul knows that is true. What is best is when you give something easy, it's not convenient but afterwards just like going to the gym. We're so glad that we did it.
Give her. Because I Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. So, I mean, make it really practical today, what should you do, if you want to be blessed by giving, I'd say two things. Number one, if you're not a regular Financial contributor go to the church app, go to the church website, go to time of Grace dot-org, you pick how much you want to give? I'm not going to twist her arm and just give. I don't nod your head, say, Amen fill in the blanks. Actually do it. Pick your gift, repeat it every week, every month, whatever you want to do, and just give
And if you're here alive as Pastor Michael said, there's something waiting for you. Once the service is over it is a huge, beautiful, “I can't wait to experience it” Service Fair. You're going to see all the different service teams that we have here at our church, all the team leads. Many of them are sitting in this worship space right now and they're going to tell you about what they do and how you might fit. In, with the time commitment, looks like what kind of people are best meant to fit? I'm expecting like literally a heard think of like five year olds playing soccer, they're just like oh I'm going to be gather around. That's going to be you in just a few minutes when you're going to go check out the service fair and see how can I serve? Where do I fit? Now, I'm going to give a couple of you permission, not to attend the service Fair.
If you're not sure what you believe about, all this just said you can go but you also can go to If you have a parent who's dying right now, And like, you gotta get there because your phone just buzzed in the middle of church. Don't go to a servicer just go if you're there's a woman here who's due date I think was yesterday if your water breaks, you you just go. All right, well follow up with you later.
But for the rest of you,
I'll see you the service here.
Which brings us to the last thing for today. It's thing actually that a lot of Christians Miss, but I don't want you to miss it before I say, Amen. Just one last verse I want to read from 2nd Corinthians 8. Paul said this?
For if the willingness is there. The gift is acceptable. According to what one has Not according to what one does not have.
If you're listening carefully right now, you might have noticed that I didn't tell you how much money to give. I didn't suggest you how many hours a month you should serve? I just said, give
And that was intentional. There is no such thing as a flat rate to faithfulness to generosity. Because people are different. Paul said it this way. The gift is acceptable. According to what one has what each individual person has? Write it down this way. Just give X percentage is give y number of hours. Give what you can.
I think about your stage of Life, think about how God has blessed you and don't give what he can or she can, or we on average can give what you personally can. Because when it comes to both money and time you and I are pretty different, are we? That's why things I love about our church. We I think every single Sunday have multimillionaires, who worship Jesus. And homeless people who are sub judice. And everyone in between,
And it wouldn't be right to either this person or that person to just pick the average amount to give. No. Give what you can.
The truth is some of you here today are broke. Like, broke broke, broke. Some of you are so broke, you can't afford to pay attention. Some of you are so broke. You go to KFC, just to lick other people's fingers,
I Googled you so broke jokes. That was my favorite one that came up. All right? The fact is some of you. You just, you don't have money. So, giving 50, 100, 200 dollars every single Sunday. That's not you, you can't do that. And I just wanna tell you, that is so okay. Give what you can. Jesus once praised, as an example of generosity, a woman who gave two little coins like two pennies,
Look at her, she's so generous Jesus said, because she gave what she could. So, if you're broke, give what you can.
And if you're rich, give what you can. And lots of us here today. Historically, globally have been blessed with so, so much. We have an opportunity, like few Christians in history to be insane examples of open-handed big-hearted generosity. And if that's you, if you have a stable income, give what you can for some of you a hundred bucks a week, isn't close to enough. You can some of you, God has blessed your business, he's given you scholarships, he's giving you a faithful job, you're making? 15, 18, 20 dollars an hour. You're on salary, you got a promotion if God has blessed you in big ways. Give what you can. Some of you are so rich. I didn't Google this one. Some of you are so rich you buy birthday presents for your dog. Wow, that's right. I've been in like impoverished villages in Mexico. Where the dogs follow you around? Can you imagine telling those people? Yeah, my dog actually lives with me and I buy him a birthday present. Oh my goodness. They would say you're so rich. So if you are So rich, some of your biggest stresses in life are how much food is in your fridge and how much stuff is in your closets, that's rich. Some of you have Netflix and Hulu, that's pretty rich. Some of us have a lot of disposable income, which means we can help a lot of people get connected to. Jesus, listen, I met a lot of rich people.
None of them regret giving to the poor to the community. Million dollar checks. I've never met someone who's gone big with generosity and said, you know what? I wish I would have bought a nicer car.
Now when they see souls connected to Jesus, when they see a community being loved and cared for, when they see problems being fixed there, so glad that they chose to give what they could. So, some of you here today is gonna be a huge step for you. You've never done it before. You're gonna pick a crazy percentage, 10, 15, 25 of your gross income, you're going to set up a recurring gift and you're going to give what you can. And if a year from now, you regret it, you let me know.
I'll try to find the money. Just give it back. Jesus wasn't lying. It is more blessed to give than to receive. So start with Grace. They just give. And give what you can.
Can you imagine what would happen at just this church through Time of Grace? Just this one Ministry. If one in three turned into two out of three.
If so many people have gotten a rooted in Jesus and connected to his grace, if one out of seven are currently serving what, what could possibly happen if it was two or three or four out of seven. What if “Pareto's Principle” stopped being true in this place and the majority of us like Jesus, first did gave
I hope you help me find out.
Because I say this, I've been on both sides of generosity. And there's nothing quite like it.
A couple of you might know my parents Tom and Judy are some of the most giving people you'll ever meet. My dad was really successful in business, when I was growing up, he helped get me through college with zero dollars in student debt. Thanks Mom and Dad my parents when I graduated from high school up. In Green Bay, Wisconsin. Bought me a brand-new 1999 Saturn SL2. There were givers, when my grandma got sick, my grandma diwani my dad, she lived out in the country, couldn't care for herself. He bought her this beautiful new home, close to our home, so he could love her and care for her, my parents gave. And my mom, have you met my mom? My mom makes Mother Teresa look like a slacker. But she's like a 37 time back-to-back Award. Winner of volunteer of the year. My parents have given me us so much
But then 2008 happened.
How the recession hit hard and my dad really got hit hard. Like bankruptcy. Foreclosure. Nowhere to go hard.
And my wife and I talked, I was a brand new pastor and my wife get, this was willing to let her mother and father-in-law live with her for four years.
My parents moved into my basement.
And that's when they gave us even more.
See we had just had our second daughter Maya. She was born 15 months after Brooklyn. Oops, that was not the plan and I laugh about it now but our marriage was not great after kids. Number two came, we were just out of energy and we just weren't serving each other while we're struggling as a couple. Went to counseling at that time. But then my parents showed up and they gave. They gave those two little girls time and attention and affection and love. They turned on the baby monitors. So they gave Kim and I a chance to go out and reconnect and date each other until we die my parents. During those years gave us something so much better than a brand new car.
They give us a closeness and a connection that we haven't had in a long time. They gave us a gift.
They give us a gift. I will never be able to repay.
And they proved, That no matter how much you have, Jesus was right. It is more blessed. To give.
Let's pray. Oh God. I'm so grateful for forgivers.
And I've experienced it so good when people live life with their hands open and their hearts open to you. Oh Lord, we're even so much more grateful for you. You're a giver. You're not a God who demands and gives us a list to work our way up to heaven. You just gave us eternal life as a free gift. So I will never stop loving you. Abba, Lord. Now we need your help. Actually, trust you to think that if we give we are still going to be blessed and that if we serve, we won't miss out on something better. We need you to give us Faith to believe that. This take, take, take world's people notice givers and we want our light to shine. So brightly in this dark world, that people would see something different in us that we're not in it for ourselves. We're here as people of faith who really want in their hearts to say, you first, So God give us faith to take the next step. And I just agree with the principle of it, but to actually do it, your spirit empowers us today. So that one day, when we see you face to face, we will agree Jesus. As we see the smile on your face and love in your eyes, we will say you were right. Jesus, it is truly more blessed to give and all God's people said, Amen.