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Giving Ourselves Away

By Aaron KauffmanAaron M. Kauffman

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
– Mark 8:35 (NIV)

I recently read about a congregation in Texas that has routinely given away some of its best leaders, most committed members and significant financial resources in its first decade of existence.

The result? It has multiplied itself four times over.

Though not at the same rate, something similar has occurred in Eastern Carolina District (ECD) over the past 45 years. I learned a bit of this history on a recent weekend trip to North Carolina.
Durham Mennonite Church emerged in 1970 under the leadership of Frank and Evelyn Nice. Sixteen years later, Durham commissioned a core group to start Raleigh Mennonite Church. Then again in 2001, Raleigh released some of its members to begin holding services in Chapel Hill.

The district partnered with Virginia Mennonite Missions to start Greensboro Mennonite Fellowship in 1988, which has since gone on to start Outlet 10:27, a house fellowship in nearby Graham. Through giving themselves away, our brothers and sisters in ECD have multiplied into five vibrant Anabaptist communities.

In a season of uncertainty for our denomination, it’s easy to adopt a mentality of scarcity. While health and growth are the experience of some congregations—ECD is a great example—many of our congregations are feeling the pinch of decline. There may not be enough to go around, we think, so we’d better keep our resources of time, money and people close.

The problem with this kind of thinking, according to Jesus, is that in keeping our lives to ourselves, we’ll actually end up losing them. Self-preservation may be a natural instinct, but it’s not a gospel mentality.

This Advent and Christmas season is a perfect time to realign our lives with God’s kingdom of abundance, which grows as we give ourselves away. After all, that’s the example God set for us in Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Or, as the camp song puts it, “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.”

What would happen if we adopted this same self-giving attitude in our lives, both as individuals and as congregations? How might we practice reckless generosity for the sake of God’s kingdom? Here are a few suggestions for you to consider this Christmas season:

The list of ways to give ourselves away this Christmas could go on and on. Be creative! What have you got to lose?