“The Power of the Gift”
January 27, 2019
By Ed Young
Good morning, everybody! How are you guys doing? You doing pretty well? So am I. What a great, great day. You know, today we kick off our capital campaign to build. We’re doing some exciting building at Fellowship. In fact, we’ve done three of these in the history of our church and I think this is the fourth major, major building program we’ve been involved in. So, basically what’s happening is today we’re beginning our three-year commitment over and above our regular giving to do what we need to do: buy a building in Frisco off of the tollway, the fastest-growing county, they’re telling me, in America. Take all of our different campuses and even Allaso Ranch, with technology we even have some television opportunities that are awesome before us. So, we’re doing all of that and we’re committing three years. So, if you think about the past, the present, and the future it’s absolutely awesome. Everything we have, you know physically, tangibly, has been built because of offerings over and above our regular giving. So, that’s what we’re going to do.
The other day I was in a coffee shop. I love coffee. I’m kind of a coffee snob, and so I began to write out some things about my life and basically why I do what I do, why I am involved in this endeavor, in this story. Because, I have some really cool stories about generosity. One, in particular, I’ll share with you happened in 1993. I’m talking about the past. Lisa and I drove up here to the Dallas/Fort Worth area with one car, one kid, one dog, one rent house, in a little area that our church rented with 30 families. Now, when you walked in you were handed a magazine and one of those shots is a picture of the 30 families that actually helped us launch Fellowship Church. After several years our church really began to grow. Whether you’re in Norman or Miami or Northport or Fort Worth or Dallas or Frisco or Southlake, wherever you see this, check this out. This is really a really cool story.
So, we wanted a facility. We wanted a place. We didn’t have a place. Everything was a rental. We set up and we would tear down. So, we looked and looked and looked for some land. Couldn’t find land, couldn’t find it, couldn’t find it. The economy was horrible during this time. Well, the government owned some land. I’m talking about our government, and there was a tract of land we found, 159.2 acres, the land where our broadcast campus sits. The government had it and we had to submit a bid to buy the land. Well, we found out some other major, major corporations were submitting bids and they could just buy it like I would buy you some Skittles or some Altoids or something like that, no problem. For us, it was massive because we had zero money. Let me say it again. Zero money, zero assets, banks wouldn’t touch us, I mean, nothing. Zero. So, we aggressively went for this tract of land. The guy in the government who made the call was a former pastor. He’d heard about Fellowship Church, so he granted us the bid. Oh boy! We got 2.5… wait a minute. We don’t have $2.5 million. Oh boy! We have 159.2 acres, but we can’t pay for it. So, I went to the church. “Hey church, we’re gonna commit for three years.” It was called Build a Vision. “Let’s commit, let’s give sacrificially to make this happen.” At the time Lisa and I had two kids. We wanted another but the doctors told us we were experiencing secondary infertility. They said there’s no way you’re going to have kids again unless you have all these procedures and you go through these surgeries, etc., etc. So, I had squirrelled away like $15,000 for that surgery, procedures, drugs, etc. Well, during this capital campaign the Holy Spirit of God just whispered to me. Not in an audible voice, but like, whispered, “Give the money. Give the money, all the money, to the land. I’ll bless you. I’ll take care of you.” So, Lisa and I kept praying about that, thinking about that, and believed it was the thing God wanted us to do. It sounded crazy because I think $15 grand was like half of my salary at the time, something like that. Close to it. So, we swept the money into the Build a Vision campaign. We raised $700,000, our church did. Put the down payment. We owed $1.875 million on this tract of land. So, we did it, but we owed $1.875 million on the land. Well, several months later we sold 22 of the 159 for $1.875 million to the penny. So, now we have this tract of land. And then <whoom-sound effect> Grapevine Mills, Outdoor World, all the hotels and things started happening right here around our broadcast campus.
Well, one day Lisa walks into my office. She goes,
“Ed, I want to show you a couple of pictures.”
“Baby A and Baby B,” she goes, “twins!” So, without any medication, any doctors, any surgeries, twins! Can I talk to you about blessings? Can I talk to you about you can’t out-give God? So, why am I involved in this? Well, because God commands me to. Have you ever thought about that? God commands generosity, because when I’m generous I’m agreeing with my nature. Once you become a believer, we have a new nature. There’s something inside of us that goes, yes! The Holy Spirit whispers to you and me. Become a generous person. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave…” Everything about God is generous, and I wrote this down in this coffee shop. God tells me to.
Also, another reason why I’m generous, this is gonna sound very shallow but it’s not, I just like myself better when I’m generous. When I’m selfish… I can be selfish so fast I amaze myself. I can be so materialistic, so greedy. Let me say, I’ve written about the subject of greed. No one will admit that they’re greedy. I’ve heard people confess to all sorts of spectacular sinning, I’ve never heard someone say, “You know, I’m just greedy.” Never heard that. But I’ll confess it. I can get greedy. I can get selfish. I can get materialistic. When I’m generous, though, Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” When I put God first, the first, the first 10% of everything you have, and mine, it’s a test. It should be an act of worship. I bring it to the church. I’m not giving it because it’s not mine to give in reality. So, I’m bringing it to the church. When I do that suddenly God is supernaturally involved in my finances.
I love the term currency. We always talk about currency. What’s the currency doing? And I love ocean and the rivers, and I love lakes, and you have a certain current and you get in the current and you just kind of flow with it. Well, when we begin to bring the first, the first fruits into the house, the only thing that God ever built, into God’s current, his currency, and that’s a great place to be. But I just like myself better when I’m a generous person. See, generosity really begins at 11%. Starter generosity is about 11%, 12%. Ten percent, the tithe, that’s just the minimum worship requirement. And for some of us, we will never understand the supernatural movement of God until we begin to do that. Because every time God talks about the intangibles: trust, faith, grace, hope, in the zip code you’ll find the intangible.
The third reason why I’m a generous person is because it breaks the back of selfishness, materialism, and greed. As you’ve heard me say, if I don’t get it out of my hands quickly it can wrap around my heart and choke me out. I’ll have to tap out. That’s why I go online, we have recurring giving. I would challenge you to do that. It’s the quickest way. You don’t have to worry about it. I’m not sure about this! Just make it a part and watch God bless.
The fourth reason, and this sounds shallow, but this is just me, because of the blessings. I mean, I’m gonna be blessed. I’m gonna get blessed when I give. That’s not why but it happens like that. The Bible says it. Huh. Really? You know, the term blessed, or blessings are probably used more out of the context than any term in our world today. People say all the time, “I’m just blessed.” Oh really? Well, you’ll never understand the blessings of God until you first bring your blessings, until you bless the church. But the blessings of God. When I give, I’ll get. And some of you, some of you are gonna get a lot of money because you’re generous. I’m just gonna say it. Let me say it again. A lot of you will have a financial windfall because of your generosity. Yeah, you’ve got to prime the pump. I’ve got to prime the pump. In other words, God’s gonna sit back, and wealth is a test. We bring the wealth, then the blessings. But we want to go, all right Lord, make it rain! And once it rains, then, then. I call it when and then. When, when the deal happens, then. When, then. When, then. But that’s just why I do this.
I’ll tell you another cool story but to really understand this story, is Tracy Barnes here? Tracy come here. I want to tell you this story, an adventure in giving story. This has to do with Tracy Barnes. Tracy is one of our pastors and at the time I didn’t even know him that well. Tracy’s parents, and they’re now with Jesus, were some of the founding members of Fellowship Church but I want you to hear this story. Because this has to do with a story that Tracy was involved in, in about 2000, 2001, and a story that Lisa and I and our kids were involved in. I want to show you how these stories sync up.
Tracy: Yeah, this is working together, so keep that in mind. These are all concurrent. This is how God operates. In 2000, the year 2000, some of you know Debbie and our story, with our two sons, Roger and Phillip, who were born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. When we had moved back from Pennsylvania, back to this area, which is where we’re from. We grew up in Irving and mother and dad were part of the start of Fellowship Church. Well, the year 2000, when I looked at the van we had, that 10-year-old van we had been driving was in serious shape. Because when we got that van it was designed to take two manual wheelchairs. There’s a world of difference between a manual wheelchair and an electric wheelchair. It’s called weight, size, a whole host of things. So, we needed to get a new van. So, we went out one day and priced out. To do that it’s a three-step process. You buy the shell first, then you take it over to another place where they take the floor out and drop it down. Then it goes to another place to put in all the handicapped gear, lifts and so forth and so forth. Well, we spent most of the morning, got it priced out. When we got it done, we went, “Oh, that is one pricy van.” And Debbie said,
“How are we gonna do that?” I said,
“Honey, I have no idea because the truth is, we don’t have it.” But one thing that I did know, and I need to bring this in. Debbie and I, up to that point and continuing on, we’ve been married 41 years. Tithing, actually giving more than that, had been a regular part of our married existence. Even back in the day when we first got married and we were just trying to figure out how to get from Friday to Friday, literally. That’s what we were doing. But we were always faithful in bringing that. We were learning about generosity. And we had seen God move in some miraculous ways over and over again, so I knew that God would do something. So, when we got back that afternoon from pricing out the vans, I was standing in the front yard just kind of mulling this over when my phone rang. And it was one of the pastors from Fellowship Church.
Ed: Not me, someone else.
Tracy: Not the pastor here, this was another one. He had never, ever called me. Ever! And I thought, well, this is odd. So, I said, “Hi.” And then he said,
“Hi. What have you been doing today?” He’s never, ever asked me what I was doing in the day. So, I just said,
“Well, Debbie and I have been out pricing vans.” I explained the thing to him. And he said,
“Man, how much is that going to be?” and I gave him the bottom line. And he went,
“Wow. Do you have that?” and I said,
“No, I really don’t have that. But one thing we know, God will provide.”
Ed: A month earlier, I bought Lisa a car. I don’t know how wise it was because I paid cash for it. The first time I’ve ever paid cash for a car. I was happy, and it took a good bit of my savings, but you know, no car payment. She was happy. She loved the car. My assistant walked up to me several weeks later and she goes,
“Ed, someone has given Lisa a brand-new car, a Suburban.” I go,
“There’s no way.” Because you know, now and then we’ll have nutty people call and “God told me that you’re gonna be the President of the United States. I mean, crazy people. Not a lot but there are some crazy things that our office and our security deals with and it’s OK, it’s OK. So, I’m thinking this is nuts. No one would give me, or give Lisa, a brand-new Suburban. So, there’s a number, so I thought, OK. I call this number. This guy owned a dealership. He goes,
“Yeah, someone has donated a car and they want this car specifically for Lisa.” I said,
“Sir, I don’t need a car. I just bought my wife a car. I don’t need a car.” He goes,
“You don’t understand. This gift is completely anonymous, and the car is on its way to Fellowship Church, brand new Suburban for you and your four kids.” Because, remember the twin miracle. I said,
“Well, OK.” And I’m thinking to myself, oh boy. Man, have I hit the jackpot! Sell Lisa’s car, pocket the money. Got a brand-new car! Woo-hoo! I’m feeling good, man! So, I’m walking down the halls of Fellowship Church and this pastor who had just got off the phone with Tracy Barnes, and this pastor goes,
“Hey Ed! Do you know Tracy Barnes? He has two sons with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They’re gonna die over the next, you know, 5-7 years. They need a customized van. It’s gonna be $40,000. Do you know anybody who has that kind of money who could give them the money to get the van?” And I said,
“I have no idea.” I wish I could tell you I said something better. That’s what I said. “No.” And then I said, “but I know some guys I could call.” Is that pitiful? And that whisper, that pesky whisper…. “Ed. Ed. Ed. I want you to give this money that you’re gonna make from Lisa’s car to buy (it was about the same amount) this van.” And I was thinking to myself, no way. No. Can’t I enjoy this brand-new Suburban, God? Can’t Lisa just enjoy it? It kept happening, kept happening in my soul. Went home, told Lisa about it. Told the kids about it. We’ve gotta do it. Let’s take the money, the $45,000 or whatever, buy the van. Sell mom’s car, buy the van. OK, let’s do it. So, we made the arrangement, called Tracy and his wife. Yay, God!
Now, most stories stop there. You’re like wow, Ed. What a great guy! Man, that’s awesome. You’re blessed, got a car. I mean, how many people have that happen? I’ve never had it happen in my life. But then, oh, I don’t know, several days later I’m talking to my accountant, and normally I get a check back from the government. But my accountant goes,
“Ed, I think I made a mistake and you’re gonna have to pay this year.”
“What?” And it was a big number to me. And I’m thinking like, I can’t sell this car, give the money to buy the van because of this crazy tax bill. I go,
“Lisa, we can’t do this. This is ridiculous. I mean, I think I’ve lost my mind. Maybe that wasn’t God. I’ve gotta have this money. We have to, because if I do this it’s gonna wipe me out. The voice. Ed, do you trust me? Ed, you preach it, you talk it. I’m just testing you. Ed, just trust me. So, we did. We bought the van, sold Lisa’s car. Every time, every time, every time our kids and we saw that van, yay God. And look how God has blessed! This land, twins, Tracy and Debbie and their family. And now Roger and Phillip are in Heaven with the Lord and they’re hearing this. They know.
Please, I beg you. I’m not trying to be that guy. Oh my gosh. Ed’s such a generous person. He’s so great. No, I’m not. It all comes from God. And I’ve missed many opportunities. I will tell you this. For 36 years Lisa and I have faithfully brought the minimal worship requirement and we have faithfully been generous over and above the tithe. We’ve been blessed relationally, emotionally. We’ve been blessed with a family. Yes, we have been blessed financially. No doubt. We’re gonna give the biggest gift we’ve ever given over the next three years, several hundred thousand dollars. For us, that’s massive money. For a lot of you it’s a lot of money. For some here you could give seven figures and it wouldn’t even rattle your financial cage. You’ve never done this before. Everybody, everywhere, engaging in eternity. Many of you have stories that are just like the story I told. Many of you have stories right now. Many of you will have stories when you make this three-year commitment at all of our campuses. But I just want to, I just basically want to stop in the present as we think about the future and look back at, I want you to hear some stories.
Absolutely amazing. God has stories for you in Norman, Oklahoma. He has stories for you in Downtown Dallas, stories for you in Northport and Miami, stories for you in Dallas/Fort Worth, Keller Southlake, stories, stories, stories right here in gorgeous Grapevine. Stories. We serve a God of the story.
You might be wondering, what are these boxes? Well, these boxes if you missed last time, I did a message called the Chest of Joash. There was a kindergarten king in the book of 2 Chronicles and he was raising money for the house of God. You show me someone who loves God, I’ll show you someone who has a heart for the house of God. So, he made these boxes. He designed them, he had them made. And the boxes were in a prominent place in God’s house. People brought regularly their offerings to God’s house and it’s called the Chest of Joash. So, we have kind of modernized that, they’re made of foam board, not wood, and they’re at all of our different locations, the chest of Joash.
I want you to look at 2 Chronicles 24 (vs. 10). Check out the response of people. When they began to bring their offerings for the house of God it says, “All the officers and all the people, let’s say it together, rejoiced.” At all of our environments, rejoiced! “And brought in their levies, tithes, offerings, and dropped them into the chest until they had finished.” Right now, we’re going to prepare to do that. I’m going to challenge all of you like I’ve challenged myself to make a three-year commitment for this endeavor, over and above your regular giving. Now, the greatest gift maybe might not be a 6-figure gift or 7-figure gift, it might be a widow’s mite gift. You remember Jesus? He was at the temple right by the offering box and a woman, a humble woman put just a couple of coins in the box. And Jesus said to his disciples, that gift rocked Heaven because of the sacrifice, because of the generosity. So, it’s not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice. And Lisa and I, as I have told you, are gonna do something for us that’s a lot. We are taking something that matters, money, and putting it toward something that matters more. The way we came to this number is we stepped out. I have some things in the future over the next three years I believe that will happen. I’m not sure they will. I have a couple of book deals, hopefully it will happen. I have some other investments that I hope will happen, and that’s going to – by faith – bring us to this number.
So, I want you to step out. I want you to trust God. What number could you come up with God, himself, would have to show up for it to happen. I don’t know. For some of you, you could give in the millions. Guarantee it, no doubt about it. No doubt about it. Others, in the hundreds of thousands. Others, tens of thousands. Others, thousands. Others, maybe hundreds over three years. I don’t know. God does. It’s the greatest investment you’ll ever make. So, I want to make sure at all of our campuses here that everyone has one of these commitment cards. We are not forcing anyone to fill these out. You don’t have to fill these out. You can skip this. It’s between you and God, but at the end of the row at all of our different locations we have these commitment cards. So, we prayed, we fasted, we thought about it, we discussed it. So, I want you to just take some time and fill this out. Oh, I don’t have a pen! Well, use an eyeliner. I don’t have a pen! Well, in the back of the seats there are pens and if not, we have pen pals. Some of our incredible hosts will give you pens. So, I’m just going to fill out right now my name and my address. And if it’s in Dallas, where I live, or maybe you live outside of Norman, Oklahoma. Or maybe you live, I don’t know, in Fort Lauderdale and you attend our Miami campus. Maybe you live in Sarasota, but you attend a NoPo campus. That’s how we say it in the hip-hop world. Northport, NoPo, get it? Well, I got it. So, don’t forget the zip code. I have a hard time. I used to remember my zip codes so well. Just for some reason now, I mean, the zip codes don’t come as fast. Who knows. Maybe it’s the gray hair. Surely not. Because gray hair means you have wisdom, correct? That’s what I tell myself. Or, maybe all the hair dye I used to use kind of just fried my brain cells and I have a hard time remembering. I don’t know.
So, write your commitment out. And we should do this joyfully. You know, God loves a cheerful, hilarious giver. And maybe you’ve committed to give $10,000 and you’re like, man. God has spoken to me. I want to up it to 15 or 20. Maybe you said OK, I want to give $200,000. You know what? I have a million that I could sweep into this and it wouldn’t even rock me at all. Because, many of us here are afflicted with affluence. What did David say, the multibillionaire? What did David say? I’m not gonna give anything to God that doesn’t cost me something. David said that. He was a pretty heavy hitter. So, maybe you want to do it weekly, monthly, annually, whatever. And one of the ways, as I’ve told you with our regular giving, that I’m so excited about our church. I think 71-72% of us give online. I would challenge you to give recurring, because if I don’t give recurring, if I think about it too long, you know what happens. What happens? It gets around my heart. I’m like, hmmm. That’s mine. What? It’s not mine. Well, yeah it is. And that way I know the first and I know always where it’s going.
So, you can do this. Fill the cards out. Maybe you want to say a quick prayer with your spouse or maybe kind of huddle up with your loved ones. This is a huge commitment and time of joy as the church comes together. This is how we built Fellowship. And a halleluiah, like a crazy goal, would be $40 million. We don’t have $40 million. We have zero. We have just enough to satisfy our covenants with the bank. That’s it, that’s it. That’s how we roll. It’s a faith endeavor. But I do want you to fill this out. And I want to do something. I want to pray right now a financial blessing over your life. You might be going, what do you mean, financial blessing? Well, God’s gonna bless a lot of us financially because he knows where it’s going. It’s gonna go to his church. It doesn’t mean that we should not enjoy the fruits of our labor. I just mentioned David was a multi-billionaire, and he was called a man after God’s own heart. But also, too, you have the widow, the widow’s mite, and she is on the All-Star team of people of faith. Then you have another lady, the widow of Zarephath. She didn’t have enough to make bread. I mean, she was ready for her last meal and the prophet Elijah showed up. And Elijah said, “No, feed me first.” And she went and made him bread that she was supposed to eat, gave it to the man of God, Elijah. And God supernaturally replenished that bread until the famine in her land was over. God will supernaturally replenish and bless you even more and more.
So, I’m gonna pray a prayer of financial blessing over your life and after I end this prayer, Lisa and I are gonna lead out and we’re gonna walk our commitment forward and put it in the Chest of Joash. So, you do the same thing after us, whether you’re at any of the campuses, and then after that return to your seat as we worship and then we will be dismissed. So, let’s pray together.
[Ed leads closing prayer.]