3.6.09

Generous Christians

The other night a new friend and I were talking about our Faith Journeys when he asked, "Why do you like your church? What is it about *Mars Hill?" I had to stop and think. How do I summarize all that I feel and know about my church into a few words or phrases? Mars Hill feels like home, but it's not the Place that I love, it's the people and what I learn there and through them. I said, "At my church we talk a lot about living the Best Life Possible. We talk about Loving People and Loving God. We wrestle with what that means and looks like. We discuss The Third Way- for sometimes it seems that we have 2 options to solve a problem or a conflict, but often there is a Third Way and it involves Love." Not to mention my Community of Friends who walk My Story with me and I with them. They make me feel a little less crazy and show me what it means to really love and be generous.

My answer seemed simple yet I knew it was true. Those are the reasons I love Mars Hill. My love is not based on how I feel about sermons, worship songs, theology or decoration. It is based entirely on the fact that I am better for knowing people there and have learned how to love God more.

The next day I spent 7 hours working in my Garden. I thought about God, the Creation Story, how plants burst forth from seeds, and about my answer to the question, "Why do you like your church?" I wasn't sure if I answered well or if I had really touched on the heart of the matter.

Sunday I went to church.

Church started with singing and immediately I was smiling because the worship team was using a red, plastic Kazoo. Love it. Then later we sang a hymn from 1848, nice and slow, with the sounds of an organ. *Rob and Ed team taught on this passage and it was all I could do to stay in my seat without clapping and hollering. Acts 2:44-45, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone who had need."

Beautiful.

This was the early Christian church. It was a group of people who found a way for those who Have to give to those who Have Not. It's about community, sharing, loving and living together. They talked about leaping with Joy - meaning, those who have enough are so happy that they are literally leaping with Joy. They have the ability to Leap because their are no stones in their shoes (it's hard to walk with a pebble in your shoe). And then there are those among us who are Limping with the burden of having nothing. How can we share our Joy? While Ed explained this Rob was placing buckets around the stage. Then we heard this, "If you are leaping because you have enough and are paying your bills and have a little bit left over, you may come forward and give. If, however, you are limping because you have to choose between buying food or paying for medical bills, please come down, reach into the bucket and take what you need."

By now I am crying. Such leaky eyes.

Before Ed could really finish the invitation to give, people were already going forward and dropping money. I heard purses being unzipped and saw men reaching for their wallets. The stage was flooded with Generous Christians. After a few minutes Rob and Ed interrupted and said, "We see a lot of people giving and we thank you. But we know a lot of you are out there and you are hurting. Please. Please. Please, come forward and take what you need." Never in my life have I heard a pastor stand on stage and invite people to take money. They were begging people to take it. I saw a few people go forward and sheepishly reach in and count out a few bills. Ed said, "Some of you have taken a bit, please come around a 2nd time and take More." I was still sobbing from the sheer Joy of watching it all unfold.

This, then, is why I love my church.


*Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, MI
*Rob Bell, Ed Dobson

9 comments:

  1. Lovely, did anybody feel embarrassed about taking the money?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, I think so. I heard there was a single mom sitting on the ground in front of one of buckets, holding a fist full of money and sobbing.

    I took money out to give to a friend who Needs it, but my guess is he wouldn't take it for himself (embarrassment) and I've heard a number of similar stories.

    It was a beautiful moment. I know more people should have gone forward. There was no need to feel embarrassed. We give out of love.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this beautiful post. I go to Mars Hill too, and the reasons you give for the love you feel for this church are EXACTLY the reasons why I love Mars Hill.

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 is a day that I will NEVER forget. It was an incredible morning, and affirmed my feelings for the Mars Hill community. I'm guessing you were there during the 9am service, based on what you described Ed as saying. I was there for both (volunteer duties), and the 11am service was just a bit different. Ed helped to alleviate any embarrassment of having to go up and take some money. He said (loosely quoted), "If you need some money come up and take some. If you are too embarrassed to come up and take some, come up with someone or have someone come up and take some for you. If you know someone who needs some, come up and get some for them." I guess the buckets were full during this service, and by the end - the buckets were empty!

    And remember how it was mentioned about "if you are giving at the joy boxes, this is in addition to that?" I found out that the joy boxes didn't suffer at all.

    It just makes me grin from ear to ear when I think about how the morning unfolded! This too is why I love my church!

    ReplyDelete
  4. So glad BWC posted this too. I read your original post last night before bed and couldn't go to sleep thinking of what a beautiful picture of the Kingdom your community painted this past weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, that’s Powerful. It’s wonderful to hear that your church was living out what the bible says about the original church. I think it would definitely be embarrassing for a person to take the money from the bucket, especially if you had an over abundance of people giving and not a lot taking. I think possibly a more discreet approach that wouldn’t embarrass those in need as much would be taking it aside, into another room perhaps, and distributing it to them that way. Then again having them take it there in front of everybody might weed out those that actually have a need (embarrassed but knowing that this is the provision that they have been praying about) from those that sometimes let their greed consume them and end up taking what they don’t need. Nonetheless this example of generosity was very moving. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow. Thanks for sharing this. This is why I love Mars Hill too - but I've never even been there.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If only more of us were in such assemblies! What a blessing and moving of God among His people!

    Now I'll have to try this in our little assembly of saints. I'll try to let you know if it works out as well....

    ReplyDelete
  8. To download the sermon:

    http://www.marshill.org/teaching/index.php

    It will be available for the next 11 weeks.
    Also, since last Sunday Mars HIll has started The White Bucket Project. People can give online AND they nailed down white buckets all over church! LOVE IT.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I attend Mars Hill as well, and was at the 9:00am service that week.
    All my life I’ve been in church, but I have never seen anything like that, and I could never have imagined a church willing to try to authentically live out the life we are called to in such a powerful way.
    Like you said in your post Diane, it’s quite a paradigm shift to see pastors pleading with people to take money, and take more if they already went up once.

    ReplyDelete