Christmas has been over for a while and even the New Year doesn’t feel new anymore. But think back for just a moment. How was Christmas for you? Did you share joy in your relationships with friends and family? Did you find happiness in the gifts you were given? Would you say that it was a time of joyful generosity?
At this point, you are likely tired of the whole Christmas thing and do not even want to consider these questions. Although we make much of these two facets of Christmas – relationship and gifts – they really have a lot more to do with our daily lives and deserve our attention into the rest of the year.
1 Peter 4:10 in the New Living Translation (NLT) says this:
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”
How Does a Church Grow Exponentially?
The early church was marked by a great devotion to two things – the apostle’s teaching, which has now been captured in the New Testament writings, and a life shared together. (Acts 2:42-47) In fact, they likely met together daily in one form or another, whether it was to worship together at the temple (in church), to pray, or simply to share a meal together. Likely those meals also included those in need of a good meal since the early church was also known for its generosity towards those in need.
The bible said that they were in awe of God, and as a result generosity poured out towards others. This selfless generosity is the natural outworking of God’s goodness and presence in our lives.
Sometimes we make a big deal of spiritual gifts and in discovering what gift(s) each of us has. This self focused exercise, although well intended, is not often fruitful in outward love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 points out that unless our gifts are used to serve others in love they are virtually useless. Isn’t it exciting to consider that in God’s kingdom the gift of loving hospitality is as valuable as the gift of teaching or preaching or prophecy. A word of encouragement given in love can be as powerful as a carefully crafted message from the pulpit. Each of us can joyfully participate in purposeful and loving service.
A church that does this well will draw people to it without the need for burdensome evangelistic programs. A church that is radically in love with God, worshiping him in joyful generosity of spirit, and in awe of his faithful goodness, will be an attractive church. Its people will be outward focused in response to inward change.
Joy will pour over her walls
The early church was focused on what God was doing in their midst and they experienced exuberant joy as they took every opportunity to be together in order to share this joy. This was so attractive to others that they too wanted to be a part of this – and thus the church grew. This is in direct fulfillment of the prayer that Jesus prayed before he left the earth. He prayed that the church would experience this great unity of love and purpose so that the world would have clear evidence of God’s love poured out on us through Jesus. (John 17:23)
So although we may be tired of the Christmas hype, may we experience joyful generosity throughout the year in exuberant loving relationship as we share in the gift of love that God has given to us.