If You’re Ready to Find Joy in Giving

Maybe you cringed at the thought of reading a post about giving. It’s understandable; giving is a spiritual practices that is often difficult to speak about for myriad reasons. God, however, has shown us in His word that He intends giving to be joyous and celebratory. And that’s how He’s moved Tim and Angie Hill to feel about giving. Maybe you want to feel that way, too? Read on!  

The Hills sat down to answer some questions about giving, a spiritual practice about which they are very passionate and in which they find much joy! We hope the following interview blesses you as you consider God’s view of giving and how He is inviting your heart to wade in or wade deeper into the waters of giving and generosity.

As always, thank you for your generosity and commitment to Accelerate, our one-fund that supports all ministry efforts at Immanuel. 

Immanuel Church: How do you feel giving has blessed your lives?

Tim and Angie Hill: Giving to Immanuel and other charitable causes blesses our family by helping to keep money in the proper prospective. As it says in Matthew, No one can serve two masters. By giving away a portion of the blessing that God has given us, we can break the bond of servitude to money.

Giving also blesses our family by allowing us to bless others. We believe in the work Immanuel is doing. We know that Immanuel has blessed our family in so many ways and we want to be a part of helping Immanuel bless others. We believe in the work done by the other charities we support and we want to help, if only in a small way. Perhaps it is an over-used cliche that it is better to give than to receive, but I am sure most people can think of a time where they gave their time or an item, or money to help someone-out and they left knowing that they were the ones truly blessed. That is how we feel about our giving.

IC: What role does your faith in God have in your giving practices?

Tim and Angie: Faith plays a critical role in our giving because we are 100% confident that God will use the money for the purpose he intends. Without this faith, we would be more likely to doubt how the money would be spent and thus would likely not feel as generous or would at least be less joyful about giving. A confidence that we are giving back a small portion of what God first gave to us and knowing that giving is part of God’s plan makes giving an expression of faith rather than a burden or something we are “supposed” to do.

IC: If you were part of a committee responsible for relaying the importance about the practice of giving in the Church, how would you express this message to others?

First, we would need a catchy slogan like Haggai 2:8, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty.” Or how about Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Money and giving are often difficult for people and church communities to discuss. I believe that is because too many people give from a sense of guilt or duty. It says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” I believe this has to be the key to any promotion of giving. It has to be about giving because of a sense of gratitude rather than a sense of necessity.

Also, while monetary giving is important, it’s important to focus on giving time and talents in addition to treasures.

Lastly, I believe some see a Biblical tithe of 10 percent as unobtainable, and, thus, become frustrated. But we don’t need to be frustrated at the thought of giving a specific amount. Bob Goff said at the Loves Does summit, “Focus on who you are becoming.” Make a plan, set a goal and strive toward it. In the words of Goff, “Pitch, pick and point!”

IC: If there was a point at which you didn’t give, what are the differences in your lives now compared to then?

I can remember a time when giving at Church was an act of seeing what I had in my wallet, deciding what I could afford, and then needing to been seen putting something in the offering plate. It was something I probably should do because God and the people around me were watching.

We moved away from this by deciding to become more intentional in our giving just as we were becoming more intentional in our faith. This involved making a commitment in our giving and signing up for an automatic giving program. It also meant having a plan to move from the current level of giving we were at to a tithe over a number of years. As we did this, giving no longer felt like a burden. It felt like a blessing. It no longer was “paying” a portion of our hard earned money. It was expressing our gratitude for the abundance God has place in our care. It was no longer selfishness. It became stewardship.

Accelerate: Gratitude, Generosity and God’s Grace

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me

-Oceans by Hillsong United

by Laura Forman

Thanks and giving are two words that have merged in a new and wonderful way for me this year. They are clearly directions to which we are called as Christians. Gratitude and generosity- is it possible to experience one without the other? I believe the answer is no.

This is my family’s first year at Immanuel, our new church home. Recently, we have been blessed with the opportunity to grow our faith in two important ways: by cultivating gratitude in the midst of difficulty and giving financially despite uncertainty.

It was an act of clever planning that the Accelerate offering, with a record-setting goal, was scheduled the same day as the Thanksgiving Stories service and our annual Worship Night. November 24 was a day to “worship, honor and thank” God for His faithfulness, a time to give back.

That morning, I was one of the brave, sharing my story of personal challenge this year and how God held my family through it all. I expressed gratitude for God’s plan at work in our lives, for Immanuel, for Pastor Joe. Like you, I shed tears at the hearts of our church family poured out in thanksgiving.

To joyful lyrics and impromptu dancing, my husband placed a carefully written check into the basket, one with its own story.

Hebrews1315Earlier this month, while praying about our contribution to Accelerate, we followed through on a decision to financially support a Kenyan pastor planning a mission in his home country. David sent the amount, which in his words “stung a bit”.

In spite of David’s job insecurity, and in the midst of my own career change, we opened our hands to give …  and soon after, received. The very next day we were told of an unexpected utility credit. The amount? The exact sum given to Pastor Davis Juma of Kenya.

We applied the surprise windfall toward our Accelerate offering. God reminded us in a clear way that we are built for generosity, that we can trust Him because His ways are greater. The sting didn’t last.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

After witnessing God’s grace at work in Immanuel and beyond, having opened my hands a bit wider that morning, it was time to praise and worship. An evening of music, prayer and silent moments with God culminated a day of breakthrough.

At that moment, with my hands raised, singing, I glimpsed the connection between thanks and giving – it’s the flow of love from and to God. I’m grateful to return a small portion of what I’ve received, in faith.

We are so thankful for the excitement surrounding the special Accelerate offering taken this past Sunday! That said, we’ve got a lot to celebrate, so we’ll be announcing the total in person this Sunday. You won’t want to miss it! See you Sunday morning at 9 or 10:45 a.m.! Thank you for your generosity and for following the Lord where He leads!

100_1824Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.

Accelerate: Hosting Self-Discovered Truth with Micro Alpha

Chances are you’ve heard about Alpha, if not experienced it firsthand.

Through fellowship and an introduction to Christianity, Alpha invites us to “explore the meaning of life” and  meets seasonally at Immanuel Church. Micro Alpha, on the other hand, is designed to literally meet people where they are – in our communities, our neighborhoods and our homes – on a very small scale.

Pastor Joe Boerman and his wife Deb dove into hosting their first Micro-Alpha this fall, and when asked about the experience, Joe was quick to note, “I wish we had done this sooner.”

When asked about the Micro Alpha, Pastor Joe was quick to note, “I wish we had done this sooner.”

IC: What led you to host a Micro Alpha?

Joe: I was the first one to feel God’s invitation to do something in our neighborhood. We’ve lived on our block for 25 years, and I felt a nudging from God to explore spirituality with our neighbors. Deb and I were both feeling independently that God was calling us to take this step.

Deb: I felt the need to reach out to our neighbors, beyond our church, where I’m most often teaching Christians. I felt God was directly leading me and I said ‘okay’ to Joe.

IC: What makes Micro Alpha unique?

Joe: Beyond the small group setting, it seems to speak to people where they are, whether they have church or spirituality in their background or not. There are other materials that assume a Christian background coming in, but Alpha doesn’t – it builds from the ground up, laying a foundation. The best truth is truth that is self-discovered. The videos are done in such a way that there is a lot of self-discovery.

So many times when Jesus or his followers got together, there was a meal or breaking of bread. A very big part of Alpha (and Micro Alpha) is the sharing of a meal and it’s a great way to begin. We’ve found it breaks down barriers and helps people get beyond their own boundaries in sharing. It’s a commitment, but really worth it.

Deb: It’s been very comfortable and enjoyable. There are some people that would never go to a church Alpha, and Micro Alpha meets a need for people that have been hurt by the church. They like this setting.

IC: What advice would you give someone interested in hosting a Micro Alpha?

Joe: We have found people are open for community. They are open to spiritual discussion, as opposed to someone giving all the answers. My advice would be to do it sooner than later. And if you have fears about it, do the thing you fear. It has become a very enjoyable group that we look forward to meeting with every week.

Deb: I told our neighbors we’d be talking about the meaning of life from a Christian perspective. I was blown away that they said yes, that they come every week and [by] how interested they are. Just do it. It’ll just work out, especially the dinners. It’s not hard. Actually, the hard part is not answering their questions!

IC: What role do you see Micro Alpha playing at Immanuel?

Joe: Our group ends in a month, and they’re sad it will to be over soon. They’re already asking if they can do this again, and invite other neighbors.

We will continue to have the all-church Alpha. I see Micro Alphas as the future of Immanuel because there are so many people that will not come into the doors of a church building, but they will go to a neighbor’s house. That’s a lot of people. In order to reach them, we have to go through the home into the neighborhoods.

Deb: My vision is that our neighbors will someday want to host a Micro Alpha in their own homes with people they know, that it would pyramid. So what’s the future? I’m not a prophet, but I see that it could keep going.

IC: Speaking with participant Mike Lombardo, what’s your favorite part of the course?

Mike: The interactive approach. It’s is designed for the guests to interact, and that matters as much as the course itself. The video mediator (Nicky Gumbel) will ask if there are any questions, which is typically when the learning starts. The course and the guests are a magic recipe that results in a wonderful learning experience and furthers you down your path with God.

IC: Would you recommend this course to others?

Mike: I would, for a variety of reasons, especially if you’re trying to find direction in your life. Having a relationship with God and then discovering God’s direction for you is a lifelong journey. Many courses are designed to leave you with answers to equations or start you down a new path. If you walk away fulfilled that’s wonderful. However, if you walk away with questions, like most nights, that’s even better.

On Sunday, November 24, Immanuel will be taking a special offering with the hope that $75,000 will be given. This amount has never been given on one Sunday during Immanuel’s history.  None of the money collected that week will go toward operating expenses; all will go toward mortgage reduction, global ministry (India anti-human trafficking) and local ministry (micro Alpha).

Eighty percent of the money collected will go toward reducing our mortgage so as to more quickly free up ministry money. Ten percent of the money given will go toward local ministry — specifically toward the investment of Micro Alpha.  

100_1824Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.

Accelerate: What $3K Can do for a Girl Who Has Been S*x Trafficked

On Sunday, November 24, Immanuel will be taking a special offering with the hope that $75,000 will be given. This amount has never been given on one Sunday during Immanuel’s history.  None of the money collected that week will go toward operating expenses; all will go toward mortgage reduction, global ministry (India anti-human trafficking) and local ministry (micro Alpha).

Eighty percent of the money collected will go toward reducing our mortgage so as to more quickly free up ministry money. Read more about that here. Ten percent of the money given will go toward global ministry — specifically toward anti-human trafficking initiatives in India through our partnership with Bright Hope. Read more about our involvement with Anti-Human Trafficking below. 

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Beyond Numbers: A Real Face of Human Trafficking

Heena had been s*xually trafficked since age seven. She learned that if she helped to traffic girls, she could keep some money for herself. Last January, while the anti-human trafficking team was eating lunch, they witnessed a girl being beaten by a group of boys. They called the police, and she was given the option to go to the safe house. She chose not to and went back out on the streets.

One month later, our team rescued Heena for the second time. She again chose not to go to the safe house because life in s*x trafficking was what she knew. A short time later, our team saw Heena in the news. Her body was lying in the road, beaten and bruised. The police called our team a third time to come get her. She was on heavy drugs. She was taken to the safe house and within three days, she jumped off the second story balcony and ran away.

Jan 2013 Rescued Girls PUBLICIn July, the police called a fourth time, and our team went to rescue Heena … again. They explained to her that she could leave if she wanted to, but this time, she has chosen to stay.

She is 15 years old and has been in the program for three months. She is amazed that people cared for her so much that they rescued her four times and love her in spite of her past. She cannot believe that she is wanted and cries often. But Heena is beginning to dream about what she wants to do with her life. She wants to start a safe house for girls.

Our Partnership with Bright Hope:

Human trafficking, or the sale of humans, is the fastest growing business in the world, grossing $32 billion dollars a year. India ranks fourth in the list of countries with the most trafficking. In two large cities in northern India, this is what has happened over the last year:

  • Churches have united to make a dent in sex trafficking
  • Two safe souses have been established with teams that include house parents, counselors, investigators, security guards and teachers
  • The anti-human trafficking teams have worked closely with local police and government officials
  • Thirty-seven young girls have been rescued
  • Twenty-two are in the healing and restoration programs of the safe house
  • Five girls have come to know Christ!
  • It has been said that until we act in Northern India to stop s*x trafficking, we will not be able to make a dent in it anywhere else in the world

God is ALIVE and active! He pursues and restores. He heals and upholds the broken hearted. Immanuel has played a part in this effort, and we would like to continue!  God is reaching into the darkest places and using His followers to bring Hope to the hopeless. Pray without ceasing for the anti-human trafficking teams and for the girls in India.

Here’s where the special Accelerate offering comes in: it takes $3,000 to rescue a girl and care for her for one year.  If $75,000 is given during the special offering, we could provide care for two rescued girls for an entire year and there would be a little money left to help sponsor the care and rescue of another girl. 

Three lives.

Three lives could be rescued and cared for as a result of what God does through our generosity! Together we can partner with Him to make a difference.

Accelerate: Moving into Year Two

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by John Worth, director of Accelerate

Dear Immanuel family,

The month of November is an exciting month in the life of Immanuel.  There are several things I would like to make sure you are aware of as we begin this month.

To begin, we are reaching the end of the first year of our two year Accelerate generosity initiative.  Many of you made a commitment of “Accelerated” giving to Immanuel back in November of 2012, and we are grateful for your commitment and faithful giving over the past year.

As we begin our second year of Accelerate we would like to invite those who haven’t made a commitment as well as those who did last year to fill out a new commitment card for planned giving during December 2013 – November 2014. The commitment card is simply a way to help us to plan for the additional fund’s use during the second half of Accelerate.  We will not call and bug you about the amount nor will we as an Accelerate team know who has committed how much other than on an anonymous basis.

We hope you will take the time over the next several weeks, as a family or by yourself, to listen and discern what God is asking for you to do in terms of generosity toward Immanuel. You can place your completed commitment cards in the offering basket, or at the table in the foyer through the first week of December.  Or if you prefer you can also follow the link below or the IR code to fill out your commitment card online.

Secondly, I am pleased to report that during our first year of Accelerate we so far have exceeded our budgeted giving by $17,500, which has been distributed between mortgage reduction, locally into the Alpha ministry and globally to a special project in the Philippines. We are very thankful to all of the people of Immanuel for making this possible.

Finally, the biggest thing to come in November was announced last week by elder Ben Ondo, our special Accelerate offering on November 24.

Immanuel’s leadership team is taking a step of faith and designating the entire offering we receive on that Sunday toward our special Accelerate initiatives. None of the money collected that week will go toward operating expenses (ie. staff, utilities, programming); all will go toward mortgage reduction, local ministry (micro Alpha) and global ministry (India anti-human trafficking).

Our goal on November 24 is to raise $75,000, an amount that has never been given on one Sunday in Immanuel’s history.  You won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to make an enormous impact on the world for Christ through our combined generosity.

Provided we raise $75,000, we would be making a payment of $60,000 toward our mortgage. To put this extra payment toward the mortgage in perspective, our current loan balance is approximately $2.7 million. Our loan will need to be either fully paid off or refinanced by April of 2018.  A $60,000 principle payment would mean if we were to refinance to a 30-year loan at 5 percent interest we could have the loan paid off 20 months sooner and save $56,000 in interest!
That’s close to two years of $12,800 additional dollars per month that could be used toward reaching our community and our world for Christ!

At Immanuel we believe that God is calling all believers to be involved in His work, both with our time as well as talent and treasure in order to help us grow as His disciples. Thank you for your continued generous support as we prepare at the end of November to celebrate all God has done for us and say thank you as we give back to Him.

Please feel free to reach out to me, any member of our elder board or staff with questions you may have regarding Accelerate at Immanuel.

John Worth
John.worth@hollister.com