If you felt God leading you to give away all of your income to help the poor, would you do it? That’s exactly what Traceway Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi, did between April 2010 and April 2011.
John Richardson is the pastor of the small congregation, which usually hosts about 50 people each Sunday.
“Everything that was given to our church in the offering plates,” said Pastor Richardson, “was given away to abused mothers that got out of bad situations basically with the clothes on their backs, or people that were trying to break free from addiction, or people that had lost jobs or facing foreclosures, or had extreme medical bills, or anything like that.”
In total, the church distributed approximately $60,000 throughout the 12-month period.
You might wonder how a church could afford to give away every dollar of its offering. After all, who’s going to pay the minister’s salary? How are they going to keep the lights and heat on inside the church?
They employed some creative thinking in order to get the job done.
Another church in search of a facility decided to come and share some of Traceway’s underutilized space.
They covered some of the essential costs of maintaining the infrastructure. Individuals and organizations in the community were asked to consider making a one-time donation. In the end, every expense was covered and in the process, the small Mississippi church learned a valuable lesson about generosity:
“When you really start to live generously, and especially if you feel this is something that God has asked you to do,” reflected Pastor Richardson, “it just opens your eyes to how incredibly generous God is to us. Generosity is not just a nice thing to do. It’s probably the answer to the biggest spiritual hurdle that we have today in becoming disciples. When you are generous that’s an antidote to greed.”
Generalities are dangerous and sometimes simplistic, but when it comes to our personal giving, most of us could probably afford to give a little bit more than we do.
But the question is not so much a matter of affordability or squeezing a little more charity out of our budget. It’s about seeing everything we possess as a gift on loan from God. It’s a matter of us listening to the Lord’s leading. And it’s about being obedient to what we hear Him encouraging us to do.