Some call it the Ripple Effect, others the Butterfly Effect. We know
it as the Generosity Effect. It's the sense that the smallest of
actions affect others. One small act of kindness leads to another.
Sometimes we have the privilege and reward of seeing how our actions
touch others. In most ways, however, we use the eyes of faith to
recognize that "we'll never know" how one gift can make a difference.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. Small acts of hoarding,
greed, and fear lead to even greater challenges. Selfishness is just
as contagious as love, and we only need to read the newspaper or watch
the news to see its tangled web of suffering across the globe.
The early Christians and the 21st century church have known this to be
true. Whether a little boy with 5 loaves and two fish, or 1 child
sharing $1 from a $10 allowance, little things mean a great deal to a
very generous God. Church has always been the place where we
counteract greed, corruption, and financial hardship with generosity.
We share with the world demonstrate to one another what this obedience
to Christ looks like. In the month of April, we as a First Baptist
family chart a new course through the Generosity Effect. We will not
arrive there overnight, but it will take all of us doing our parts to
Here is how our plan works. Over the next 10 years, we are seeking to
become a more generous congregation. By 2020, we want to be 10% more
generous than we are today by living obediently to the command of
Christ that "whomever much is given, much is required." I don't know
what your plan for generosity is for 2020, but I am asking you to
commit to taking one step this year of giving 1% more than you did
last year; in 2011, another 1%, until by 2020 all of us can claim
lifestyles of generous living.
To do this requires leaving behind a couple of other things. As a
church, we leave behind special capital campaigns for now. For the
last 10 years, we have asked you to dig deeper "over and above the
budget," to help us pay off debt, repair organs, renovate buildings,
and do ministry. These campaigns have been a financial lifeline, but a
new commitment requires new discipline. Because of your commitments
over the years, we want to honor your past gifts by not asking for
another special fund drive this year. We want to unite together around
our unified giving to the budgeted resources of the church. By doing
so, we can accomplish together what we've been doing separately for 10
years. We can complete our indebtedness, extend the ministry of the
church, maintain our staff, continue television uninterrupted, and
reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We can do as our
strategic plan calls us to do: to improve our church, increase our
ministries, and invite others into Christ's life.
To accomplish the generosity effect requires heart work on your part
as well. Just as the church leaves behind old practices, so each one
of us must reexamine what holds us back from generosity. Each one of
us takes inventory so we can give back to God what is already His.
Join me as we take step one. On April 25, we will have a public
display of our commitment through our combined service and our mission
trip to the border. While we worship gathered and scattered, together
we will show each other that we're in this together, no matter how
large or small our wallets and investments, For 2,000 years, Christ
has been taking our offerings and multiplying. I trust that once
again, he will be faithful to do the same for First Baptist.
William D. Shiell, Ph.D.
First Baptist Church of Knoxville
510 West Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902