The last three Sundays, I've been incredibly honest with the congregation. I guess if you can't be eloquent or insightful, at least be honest, huh? It's not that easy to bare your soul before a group of people, especially not 3 Sundays in a row, but that's what God has been leading me to do.
On the 10th, I shared openly about Erin and my struggles with infertility. Although I cried while writing the message, I didn't feel much emotion while preaching it. I could sense the empathy pains others were feeling, though. You can listen to that message here.
Two weeks ago, God completely changed what I was going to say on Saturday morning. And to freak me out even more, God kept me from preparing a message and instructed me to spend time in prayer, instead. The next morning, I made a few quick notes before heading to worship. I was completely terrified during the music and wanted to hop in my car and drive home. I then shared very openly and honestly about the challenges (how they freak me out) we're facing as we move to a new school and the opportunities (how they pump me up) that we're facing as well. Just as the church is stepping out into the unknown, God lead me to do the same thing with my message. listen
This last Sunday, I had to be honest in an entirely different way. I was preaching on Matthew 6:19-34, explaining how Jesus' expectation that we're generous with our money is what sets us free from extreme worry and extreme consumerism. My good buddy, Joe Kumor had some nice words to say about that message - link. Since Joe is one of the most generous people I know, it's not surprising that message would get him all excited.
Preaching about money is never easy for me to do, I'm pretty much assured that someone in the congregation is getting angry with me as I speak. I didn't hold back on Sunday, though. A couple main points from that message:
1) Jesus doesn't give an "if you can afford it" clause. He expects EVERYONE to be generous. He was speaking to some of the poorest people in the world.
2) Generosity is what sets us free from worrying about whether we have enough to fit in (the image of the flowers) or whether we have enough to survive (the image of the birds).
3) If you think TFC is just after your money, give your money away somewhere else!
4) Life doesn't always turn out the way we think it should; birds die and flowers get cut down, but we still keep God first.
5) God wants your heart above all else, but since money represents security and independence, God's path to your heart goes directly through your wallet.
6) I also shared a very personal story about a recent event in which God asked (told) Erin and me to give away a significant amount of money, something that had never happened before in our lives. This was the most difficult thing for me to share out of the past three messages. It's one thing to share your struggles or concerns, it's another thing to share something good that God has done through your life. I took the risk of sounding like I was bragging to let people see our internal struggle. I hadn't planned on ever sharing that story, but as I was working on the passage, I sensed God guiding me into a place of honest vulnerability - again.
To hear the message, click here.
TFC has been responding to my honestly. After Sunday's message, we had a time of prayer. We gave several ways to respond. Answering reflection questions from the weekly, lighting a candle as a prayer, writing your concerns on some paper on the wall and being prayed for by our prayer teams. There was a powerful sense of the Holy Spirit moving among our congregation on Sunday. It was great!