Act$ 4:32-35
$econd on Mi$$ion
World Missions Offering 2008
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

In all the annals of recorded human history, few scenes are as beautiful as the one in our text. For one brief shining moment, Heaven nestled on Earth.

Acts 4:32-35 (Holman) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need.

The earliest Christ-followers, by being a generous people, brought to this world a glimmer of Paradise. Historian Mark Noll says Christianity has been its best “when believers who are strong – because of wealth, education, political power, superiority, or favored location – have reached out to the despised, the forsaken, the abandoned, the lost, the insignificant, or powerless.”

I fear many believers have lost this compassionate edge. Tennessee Williams, asked the secret to happiness, said “Insensitivity.” In other words, to be happy, don’t care what happens to people. Many live this way, callous to needs of others, but true Christ-followers march to the beat of a different drum.

Second, founded in 1885, has always expected its members to tithe to the general operating budget of our church. Thirty years ago, numeric growth required us to begin putting a special focus on buildings. We annually conduct a special campaign to raise funds above and beyond our tithes to pay for buildings.

Ten years ago we decided missions had become so important to our church that it warranted a special offering in its behalf. Our World Missions Offering 2008, which we recently received mail about, is the reason for this lesson.

To do missions right, money is not the only resource needed, but giving is a good starting point. A missiologist said, for God’s awakening power to sweep the world, one more revival has to happen, the revival of stewardship. As God’s people open their pocketbooks, God’s power will be felt worldwide.

An artist was asked to paint a picture of a dying church. Instead of depicting a tottering old building, the artist painted a gorgeous auditorium, carved pulpit, magnificent organ, beautiful stained-glass windows, and in the corner a collection box inscribed, “For Missions,” covered with cobwebs.

MacGorman well says, congregations that spend all but a pittance of their resources on themselves are missing churches, not mission churches. I’m saddened to know we in the USA spend more money on pet food and chewing gum than on world missions.

Giving begins with the tithe, but generosity is not about doing the minimum, especially when it comes to missions. For our missions future at Second to succeed at a higher level, finances will be critical.

When a church first enters the mission enterprise in a significant way, the limiting factor is usually finding enough people willing to go. But as years pass, money becomes a more pressing problem than volunteers.

The number of people wanting to go becomes restricted by a lack of funds to send them. This is our dilemma at Second.

Next Sunday you will be asked to bring to this altar a card stating your financial commitment to Second for missions in 2008. Some say they don’t believe in missions pledges because they don’t want their left hand to know what their right hand is doing. I fear we sometimes give so little our right hand would be ashamed to let our left hand know.

It’s not enough to sing mission songs, and then fumble through a bulletin when the collection plate is passed. It’s no good to use both hands to applaud missions, but then use neither hand to reach in the wallet to give. If we expect the Gospel to fly on wings, each member must donate enough for a few feathers.

Too many are heroic in missions-giving only in their dreams. Could we trade our huge future fantasies for a more mundane current reality?

If we had a million dollars, would we give $100,000 to missions? Maybe. In the meantime, could we increase our giving to the World Missions Offering by driving our current car a little longer, or buying a vehicle less expensive than planned?

In 2007 Second gave for the first time in one year over a million dollars to missions. You are the most giving people I’ve ever known. You are giving at record levels collectively.

Each of us needs to ask, if Christ returned today, would He be pleased with how much money we have personally given to extend His kingdom? Many of you give exactly as you should, tithing first, plus contributing to the Building Fund and our World Missions Offering. Some are rightly saying, “I can’t give any more.”

Many, though, have not made a significant sacrifice in order to give. If this describes you, I trust you will give more to missions this year than ever before.

Everything we do for missions is in some way connected to the one dollar bill. Thus, we must find ways to tap into deeper resources for missions at Second.

Please pray for God to open up ways for us to give more to missions than we ever dreamed of giving. Our church is striving to do missions outside the box. Our giving needs to follow the same bold path.

Pray for increased stock dividends, for investments to do well, for an unexpected windfall that would enable us to give more. A few have been blessed beyond the ordinary by God and could give much more to missions. Some could add an extra zero on what they currently give to missions, and never feel the difference.

Maybe you could pay the salary of someone who feels the call to go as a full-time missionary from our church. Possibly you have confidence in our church’s ability to find and send forth people willing to relocate. God may lead you to say, “You find the person, I’ll find the money.”

This way of thinking may sound radical to us, but is not without precedent. Others have already charted these waters for us. The long-time motto of People’s Church in Toronto, Canada, at one time the greatest missions church in the English speaking world, sounds better all the time, “Be a missionary or send one.”

In the Old Testament, Boaz loved Ruth, who was a foreigner, an outsider who belonged to a different culture. She gleaned in his fields, seeking to eke out a living by gathering whatever the harvesters left behind. Boaz told his workers to drop behind them handfuls on purpose to bless Ruth.

I think we would all like to look back down the corridor of our lives and see that for unbelievers we dropped handfuls of money on purpose. It will be sad if we clutched it all, for in the end we can’t take any of it with us.

In a passage ripe with missions implications (Matt. 15:26-27), Jesus tested the resolve of a Gentile mother whose daughter was demon possessed. He said, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Her profound reply, combining faith with humility, gained her the victory she sought. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!” Though outside the blessing of Israel, this woman was determined to have a smidgeon of what God’s people were enjoying.

If the world knew what they were missing by not knowing Jesus, they would be begging for just the crumbs. We must give in order to share with others what we enjoy, yet too often take for granted.

Martin Luther said, “God divided the hand into fingers so that money would slip through.” I think this is especially true when it comes to missions.