After setting up the framework of a biblical church through the lens of Acts and letting the philosophy of ministry pervade our being, the task at hand is to put this into real-life practice. The question that many people ask after being exhorted through Scripture and convicted in heart that it is true, is How? But how does this all work? How can I pull this off in America? How am I supposed to just start this radically simple return to fundamental communalism? I am just one man or woman…or a very small group of people…or it is just me and my family…what I am supposed to DO?
Well, stay in the buggy; hold on. I think, like many things in our walk, we need to begin with the burden of our own present state. We are now prompted to ask, “Where am I being selfish or only looking out for myself?” Start there and start with you. Don’t make this someone else’s problem. Where can I change? Lord give me Your heart towards my brothers and sisters and Your church. Holy Spirit, give me the power to give You ownership of all that I am and all that I have. And, when I am not willing or able and I can’t see how I could possibly change, break me…humble me…and make me more like You. This is where I would start…this is where I DID start.
This process has effected me very personally, else I would not write about this or be constrained so definitely that many of our American ills could be solved by an Acts lifestyle. But the details of my story are maybe best told another day.
An old adage I heard once comes into play here, that I think it is quite befitting for the present discussion, “Give God your time, talent, and treasure.” Simple enough, but it requires more than the churchy ten percent or helping out at a bake sale once in a blue moon. No, it requires, quite starkly, much more of us than the status quo and the tenets of traditionalistic church. Let’s look at each of these points and throw out some practical application for each. This all can be done, even if you don’t see it exemplified very much…even if it seems unbearably difficult. He will be faithful to show us how we should now live. Especially, if we rely on His Word and His Spirit.
TIME: Sit down with pen and paper, yes those archaic things our grandparents used to write real letters. Start jotting down a rough weekly schedule of how you spend your time. After you have done this for every day of the week, ask yourself how much time is spent in studying God’s Word, praying, serving your Body and your family, reading the Bible to your kids, fellowshipping with other Christians, dating your wife or husband, worshiping in song or dance or nature, or actually being at the building you call “church.” Then you gotta ask yourself how much time in the same week is spent sleeping in, watching TV, surfing the Internet or doing frivolous things on the Internet, playing video games, going to the movies, shopping, pampering yourself, showering, doing your hair, doing your makeup, shaving, listening to the radio, etc. Most of the things listed in this last category could be considered “Me Time” by most people.
Now ask yourself one basic question, “Whose winning, me or God?” And when we see the gross excess of time we are giving ourselves and NOT giving God, we should feel the sharp sting and hear the dull thud of the conviction of our flesh. We are selfish and spend too much time on ourselves and our fun and have not been, prior, willing to devote the scheduling and prioritizing of our time to the Jesus that bled to death for us.
Pause for frustration and and overall icky feeling.
But don’t lose hope! “He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you…to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God!”–Micah 6:8 And He will show us much in this brazenly selfish age what to do to give Him more of our TIME.
TALENT: what does it mean to devote your talent to God? This one is a little open-ended but basically entails any skill, craft, or gifting that we may possess or be blessed with that could potentially be used to edify or strengthen the Body of Christ. Quite bluntly, whatever you got in your tool box, give it to the Lord and uses it to build His Kingdom. We have friends who have travelled around the country using their skills in carpentry, remodeling, and building to fix up church buildings, ministry houses, buses, and ministers’ houses. I have a friend who has used his expertise in recording and sound engineering to offer other Christian musicians and worshipers free or low-cost recording sessions in his studio. My wife and two other girls in the Tribe offer donation-based photography for families, weddings, and much more. If you’re a plumber, help out with another brother’s plumbing leaks. If you are an auto mechanic, fix up the single mom’s overworked minivan. If art or painting or sculpting happens to tickle your fancy, ask the Lord or someone in the church if you could bless them with some of your creativity.
The list could go on and on and on and on…but the overall point is that we DO NOT, especially as New Testament Christians need to limit our tithing or better, giving, to a rote or forced 10% in the the offering box every Sunday. No, no, no…we should be looking for opportunities to give of ourselves anything that could benefit someone or meet a need. The Word says hat we should be cheerful givers, here meaning a literal “hilariousness” in our giving. Be stupid with it. Try to out-give God. He loves it when we are overcome with loving each other through the giving of our talents.
I think a side point could be made here that differs just a bit from the giving of talents: the operation of our giftings. Oh yeah, our giftings…like spiritual gifts or charismatic gifts. Whereas talents can be a very learned or honed in skill or trade, a gift, used to build up a brother or sister or even a congregation, comes from the Holy Spirit alone. This is where the divine intervenes in our giving to one another. Where healers can really heal, prophets can prophesy, tongues can be interpreted, and encouragement can take on supernatural proportion. And these are just to name a few. There are also forms of Mercy, Faith, and Giving that are listed under the spiritual gifts that I am sure are capable of going beyond our earthly measures. Now, this entry doesn’t permit me to explore the gifts and each of their proper, biblical usages, but it should be noted that WE NEED TO KNOW OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND THE GIFTS OF THOSE AROUND US. This is so the Body can bless itself and minister in the power of the Holy Ghost. Giving is only amplified when it is lit by Pentecostal flame.
TREASURE: Here’s the biggie. These types of exhortations are always fine until you mention people’s money. But right here, in front of everyone, we need to talk about this. Let’s face it, if God can separate a man from his money, He might just be able to have a fully surrendered man on His hands. I think just about any mature or maturing man or woman of God would agree with me here…the point where God has gained ownership of HIS money in our lives is the crucial place where we become truly broken and dependent on Jesus. At least this is one of the places, and I can attest to that personally and it has been echoed in many of my close friends’ lives as well.
Bottom line, you don’t need as much money as you think you do. This statement could probably be true for 98.9% of all American Christians and most Americans period. I will say again, you can get away with much less money in your life. You can.
Like that time I asked you to literally sit down and write out how you spent your time, you can reenact this, but substitute money for time. How much money do you spend on hair care? I don’t ever wanna hear a woman say they are broke and then pay $60 for a hair cut. No ma’am, you are NOT broke. How much money, oh list maker, do you spend on fast food? Oh no, you didn’t! Yeah, we have a girl in the Tribe that got a a statement form her bank itemizing general areas of where she spent her money. She spent over 30% of her income on fast food and eating out. Or how much money do you spend on cigarettes, movies, Netflix, cable TV, beer, online video games, Ebay, the gym, technology in general…and the list really can spiral out of control from this point.
We all should really itemize our lives at a certain point just to see our unsanctified and unsurrendered zones, places where we haven’t yet let the Lord fix His holy gaze. “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”–1Timothy 6:8. Paul doesn’t even mention shelter here! Now, that is a little extreme for most of us right off the bat, but we need to be thankful when at least these necessities are taken care of. The great thing about God in His grace, is that He will allow us to trust Him one or two steps at a time. But, there are those nutjobs out there who just throw all caution to the wind, abandon to God, and go headlong into faith-living full-time. We used to call these folks Christians, just Followers of Christ…but now they are nutjobs, crazies, zealots, or just “not right.”
Let’s just end this section by asking even more questions diagnosing our personal commitment level. Are we at a place that we can trust God if He asks us to give a large sum of money to someone that will wreck our budget? Are we willing to trust God to be our Provider, if He has called us to not have a regular job or a job that doesn’t cover all our expenses? And are we willing, very honestly, to cut ourselves off of spending too much on superfluous things that could be used to bless others or go to ministry? Heck, are we willing to just let Jesus into our money matters??!!
If we let the Lord in on these fronts, maybe the communalistic/sharing mindset of the church of Acts can become much more a modern reality in our individual and congregational lives.
Next time, we will discuss some of the ways we are trying to introduce and implement these concepts in the Tribe of Judah.