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Preseason: Give Faithfully – Sermon Notes


Part Two: Give Faithfully
Pastor Rick Henderson                August 19-20, 2023

Has anyone in here ever coached a little kids sports team? It’s a blast.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

The challenge is that even in the middle of an action-packed game, kids still get distracted—even though they are on the field. How many of you have fond memories of scrambling to get out the door early on a Saturday morning, paying the money to get them a jersey and cleats, you worked hard to get the orange slices ready for halftime, but during the game, your kid was picking flowers—while on the field?

Heather and I have memories like that. Those moments can be more than fond and funny memories. They can be a window into an important life lesson. Just because you’re in the game doesn’t mean you’re in the game.

Believe it or not, the same applies to the Christian life and to church life. It’s possible to be in the game, but not really in the game. The Apostle Paul used this kind of metaphor. He used sports imagery and the language of winning to connect us to the urgent truth. He once wrote this to a church.

1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

If you approach the Bible as an austere, reverential book—you might be surprised at just how down-to-earth it is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m absolutely convinced this is God’s word to us. I’m absolutely convinced that God inspired men and women to contribute to it. I’m absolutely convinced that it is without error in all that it intends to teach.

This book is raw. It’s real. It gets down in the dirt with us to communicate in a way we can understand. This is the Apostle Paul huddling up with us, getting eye-to-eye with us to communicate urgency and wisdom. This is the message. We are in the middle of something important. We’ve been given a mission and we want to succeed. We want to win. So, run to win the prize.

If you were here last week, do you remember what the prize is? It’s not our salvation or getting into heaven. We don’t compete for that. We’re given that as a gift that we received by faith. The prize is being able to lead other people to know and follow Jesus. That’s the prize we are getting after. Lead other people to know and follow Jesus. Everything else is secondary to that. So, just like athletes who train in obscurity, who pre-decide to make choices now that will allow them to win in the moment later, we do the same. If we are going to be a church that wins the prize, we will be a church that makes winning pre-decisions. So, this is our recurring theme.

SERIES THESIS: Wise people don’t just make GOOD decisions; they make PRE-DECISIONS.

This is a Jesus-like thing to do. When we pre-decide, we’re not just being wise, we are being like the one who is wisdom personified. Let me show you what might be my favorite verses that celebrate the kind of pre-decision Jesus made for us.

HEBREWS 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus pre-decided that it didn’t matter how shameful the experience of the cross would be. Jesus pre-decided that it didn’t matter how painful the experience of the cross would be. He pre-decided to endure whatever he had to endure for the joy on the other side. Understanding that, in response to that, all of us who know and follow him—we run for him and we run together.

With the intent of bringing that into focus, each week of this series we going to zoom in on a different aspect of the very first church.

ACTS 2:41-47

Grab a bible, use your phone, I want us to read this together. This was a church that knew how to run together to win the prize. They are an example to every church. Which means they are an example for our church.

ACTS 2:41-47 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

If this church had a scouting report, it might look like this.


  • Devotion to teaching and fellowship
  • Inspiring stories of God at work
  • Generosity and humility
  • Gathered in large, public settings
  • Gathered in small, intimate settings
  • Enjoyed hospitality and good food
  • Growing in number

Last week we paid a lot of attention to this. They were devoted to the teaching of God’s Word and they were devoted to each other. What they experienced together must have felt like the best kind of relationship possible. Because the Christian life and the mission we’ve been given is a team sport, we can’t talk about our church mission without discussing our relationships as a church.

RECAP: The best relationships are defined by high TRUST and healthy EXPECTATIONS.

We can visualize this and even chart it.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

The higher we go up, the healthier expectations we have. The lower we go, the fewer healthy expectations we have. The more we go this way, the more trust we have. The more we go back this way the less trust we have. The best relationships are here. They are relationships with high trust and healthy expectations. It feels like this.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

Last week we only talked about trust. We experience off-the-charts trust with each other when we contribute and when we receive the elements of trust.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

Today, we start talking about the other component of the best kind of relationships: EXPECTATIONS. If that word feels prickly to you or if it feels like a bad word—maybe it’s because you know what it’s like for expectations to be imposed on you. Whenever expectations are imposed on us, that feels like control. That’s not a great relationship. Instead of imposing expectations, we invite them. In healthy relationships, we invite to depend on us, and we invite people to give us permission to count on them.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

In the best kind of relationship, both sides give the other permission to expect certain things. That works in friendships. That works in dating relationships. That works in marriage. And it works that way at church too. Today begins a conversation that’s all about pre-deciding what expectations we are willing to commit to. Maybe you remember this from last week.

RECAP: Wise people pre-decide the OUTCOMES they want and the INPUTS they’ll give.


If we want the best kind of relationship possible so that, as a church, we can run together and run to win—it just makes sense that we would pre-decide to give the kind of relational inputs or commit to the kind of expectations that support that.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

While that makes intellectual sense, we might have different experiences emotionally as we talk about this. When we talk about expectations, but trust is here, it feels like this.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

If you’re here, it doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean the other side of the relationship is wrong. It just means that sufficient trust doesn’t exist currently. Something may be wrong. Someone may be in the wrong. But just because someone is here doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is wrong. It does mean that there is vulnerability. Anyone of us who stays here too long risks becoming CYNICAL.

Someone who isn’t experiencing trust and who is also disconnected from healthy relationship inputs can easily feel like this.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

No one is aiming at this. But being here doesn’t mean that you’re wrong or someone else is in the wrong. It’s possible someone is in the wrong. All we know is that there isn’t sufficient trust, and there isn’t commitment either. There is a vulnerability here too. Anyone of us who stays here too long risks becoming COMPLACENT.

Things start to get a lot better on this side of the line. This is not the final destination for the best kind of relationships. And yet, it is a necessary stop along the way. Before we can achieve healthy expectations, there must be sufficient trust. People who are here may not be committed to any expectations, but they are experiencing trust. And it feels like this.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

While this is a great place to be, while this is a place that every relationship needs to get to before it can go here (Q4), it has a vulnerability too. Anyone of us who stays here too long risks becoming a CONSUMER.

Everyone in life starts out as a consumer. That’s not wrong. But if we never grow into also being contributors, something has gone terribly wrong.

Today we are going to build on what we talked about last week. If you missed it, please go back and watch that message. Last week was about pre-deciding to choose the elements of trust. Those are: HONEST, SAFE, and RELIABLE. Trust has to come first. Anytime we add expectations before trust, it feels like control. At the extreme end, it feels toxic or abusive. Trust comes first, and then healthy expectations.

If at any point today you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, it may be, it may be a sign that relationally you are right here (Q1) or (Q2). That doesn’t mean you’re wrong. That just means more trust is needed in the relationship. Instead of asking you to suck it up, buttercup, I’m only going to ask that you focus on trust. We’re not asking anyone to jump from here (Q1 and Q2) to here (Q4). We want to build trust with you so you can move here.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

We must be here (Q3) to eventually move here (Q4).

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

We want to move at the speed of trust. We can go faster than the speed of trust, but we don’t want to. There are probably times when we have no choice but to move faster than the speed of trust. And yet, there is always a cost and always casualties when we move faster than the speed of trust.

Let’s go back to the scouting report of the very first church. We want to experience what they experienced.


  • Devotion to teaching and fellowship
  • Inspiring stories of God at work
  • Generosity and humility
  • Gathered in large, public settings
  • Gathered in small, intimate settings
  • Enjoyed hospitality and good food
  • Growing in number

This is what we are focusing on today. Let’s look again at how this was described.

ACTS 2:44-45 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

It’s normal to read this and immediately think back to the time that a rich guy came to Jesus, asking about how to have eternal life. Jesus told him to sell everything that he had and follow him. Then the guy just walked away. You can read more about that in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter 18. The same guy who wrote that biography of Jesus’ life is the same guy who wrote Acts.

What that rich guy wasn’t willing to do, the first church is now doing with and for each other. Does this mean that we should all sell our stuff? Should you sell as much as possible so that you can give as much as possible? What do you think?

I don’t think that’s the point, and personally, I’m not doing it. I’m keeping a lot of my stuff. Am I just a middle-aged, middle-class evangelical manipulating Scripture to match my lifestyle and agenda? Maybe. But here’s why I don’t think so.

  1. Jesus told that man to sell everything because his wealth was what he lived for. It was his idol. And Jesus spoke directly to what he treasured most and wanted that guy to switch allegiance from money to him.
  2. Some of Jesus’ disciples were rich women who were the major financial supporters of his ministry. He never told them to sell everything.
  3. The Apostle Paul never once shamed people for being rich. Instead, he instructed them to be rich in good deeds.
  4. In Acts 5 we read about a married couple who sold a piece of property, then told the church leadership that they gave 100% of the money to the church, but they secretly held back money for themselves. If you don’t know the story, read it in Acts 5. The Holy Spirit struck them both dead. Here’s the important part. The Apostle Peter told him that the property was yours to do whatever you wanted with it. The money was yours to do whatever you wanted with it. The grievous sin wasn’t having money, making money, or keeping money. The grievous sin was lying to God about it.

If you own property and stuff, do with it whatever you want. I hope that you are able to make money and save money. I don’t think anyone in here should every feel the tiniest bit of guilt for what you have or how much you have. But what I hope you feel, what every follower of Jesus should feel is responsible. Don’t feel guilty. Feel responsible. What do you want to do with that responsibility? Let’s settle down on this for a moment.

The gospel movement is CHURCH-based and CROWD-funded.

Jesus gave us a mission. He gave us a prize to run for. The Christian life, the mission that he gave us, is a team sport. We run together. We compete together. The prize we are after is leading people to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. We want to lead people who don’t know Jesus to know him. We want to lead people who do know Jesus to grow as followers of him. That’s the prize for which we run.

Jesus gave us this mission. Everything else is second to that. So, as a church, we are on this adventure together, and we continually surrender our agendas and our preferences to the urgency and priority of that mission. One of the ways we do that is by giving financially to our church. We do give because of grateful obedience to Jesus. We give because it’s the thrill of a lifetime to join him on mission and it’s a privilege to fund it together.

As we look at this passage and you’re looking around the room, you might think that there doesn’t appear to be any need people. I hear you. Most of ya’ll look like you’re doing alright. When I moved here I learned that our church has a couple of nicknames: Awfully Rich Church or Autumn Rich Church. Even if you’ve never heard that before, you might think, “It seems like this church has so much money. Why does it need any more?” Sometimes, people tell me, “Our church has a lot of money.” That thinking makes sense to me. There’s just a tiny problem. It’s not exactly true.

Our church doesn’t have a lot of money; we have a lot of stuff

It is a fantastic thing to have a building like this, property like this, the staff that we have, the ministry resources that we have. I think we should be grateful for the resources we have.

Our church doesn’t have a lot of money; we have a lot of stuff, and we do a lot of stuff.

We are heavily invested in ministry in this community. We are heavily invested in ministry partnerships around the world. We are heavily invested in ministry within our church. And like the very first church, we have inspiring stories of God at work. It was just a few weeks ago that held our summer outdoor baptism.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

That’s the prize we are running for. I know we know this, but sometimes it’s just good to say it out loud. All the ministry we do is funded by you. As Heather and I give financially, as you give financially, collectively as we give financially—the work of the mission is funded. All the ministry we do is funded by you.

That very first church was committed to giving financially. It’s possible that our vision for giving is broader than how theirs started out. It started with funding each other’s immediate needs. If you read the rest of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, the scope of what they funded continually expanded.

  • They gave financially to feed widows who were vulnerable.
  • They gave financially so that church leaders and pastors could serve and lead in ministry efforts.
  • They gave financially to missionaries and funded the start of new churches.
  • They gave financially to support churches in other towns that had needs.
  • They gave financially to support orphans.

On and on the list would go. We come from a long line of men and women who pre-decided to give faithfully so that the mission could be funded.

We benefit today from others who pre-decided to give YESTERDAY.

If you’re new to our church, you may not know this, but you are sitting with some of the most generous people you will ever meet. There are people in this church who have given faithfully. We benefit today from those who pre-decided to give yesterday. I want to honor you, and I want to say thank you.

I want to invite us all into this pre-decision to give faithfully.

Others will benefit tomorrow from what we pre-decide to give TODAY.

There are a few approaches to giving. Guys in my position will sometimes tap into different kinds of motivations. The first motivation is to give to an immediate need. That’s a good thing. We need that. That kind of giving comes with a dopamine hit. It just feels good to be able to immediately see what we gave to. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The second approach to giving is campaign giving. There’s a cause or project, and everybody rallies around it. That also comes with a kind of dopamine hit, especially when you get to see the finished project. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Both of those motivations for giving are good. What they share is that both are temporary. I want to suggest to us that there is another approach. That approach is faithful giving. This is the approach that I believe Jesus is calling all his followers to pre-decide.

Faithful giving is pre-deciding how MUCH we will give and how REGULARLY we will give.

This kind of giving doesn’t come with a dopamine hit. And yet, it comes with deep joy because this is the kind of expectation or input that supports the best possible relationships. Wise people pre-decide the relationship outcomes they want and the relationship inputs they’ll give.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

If you are here (Q1 or Q2) I don’t want anything from you. I want the experience of off-the-charts trust with you. If you are on this side of the line (Q3 or Q4), will join us in faithful giving? I want us to be the kind of church that embraces faithful giving all throughout the year. Instead of coming to the end of the year and scrambling, trying to figure out how we’re going to make it all work out. I want us to be the kind of church because we’ve embraced this, we’re strategizing how to deploy the funds we have to our ministry partners and our ministry dreams.

When Heather and I were in our 20s, we wanted to be generous people. The problem was that we always had too much month at the end of the money. We wanted to give generously to the church. We wanted to give generously to other people. We had this dream of adoption. But we knew we weren’t financially in a place to do any of that.

We believed that if we could buy a home, we’d be in a position to adopt. A pivotal chapter in our story was attending Financial Peace University.

Preseason: Give Faithfully - Sermon Notes

We eventually bought our first house. We got our finances in order through Financial Peace University. Do you know what we were able to do? We adopted our oldest daughter. We cheated and adopted a 17-year-old. She’s now 30, married, and has two boys. I became a grandpa before the age of 40.

This is why I’m sharing that. Heather and I could never have made the good decision to adopt without a bunch of pre-decisions that put us in a position to be able to do that. As a church, we’ve got big dreams too. Did you know that more churches close each year than are planted? While the US population is increasing, the number of churches is decreasing.

Wouldn’t it be great if our church could fund the start of new churches? Wouldn’t it be great if our church could help churches not close their doors but experience revitalization? Wouldn’t it be great if our church ran in such a way that we could help other churches run in such a way as to win the prize? One day, I think we will be the kind of church that can do that. Those good decisions are the result of being wise people who make pre-decisions.


  1. Pre-decide to take advantage of Financial Peace University.

Go to our website, it’s on the main page. We give every one of you free access to all of it. We want every person to be the boss of their money and not their money being the boss of them. We want that for you.

  1. Pre-decide to give FAITHFULLY.

I’m about to wrap this thing up. Before I do, can we end with some real talk? I’m talking gloves off, unfiltered, unedited real talk with each other. What we’re talking about, having the best kind of relationship possible here at our church, doesn’t depend on liking every decision that’s made at church. Having the best kind of relationship possible with high trust and healthy expectations has nothing to do with liking every decision. You’re never going to like every decision a church makes. I don’t like every decision our church makes. I have more organizational authority than anybody here, and I don’t always like every decision. But I love the direction. I’m all about the prize that we are running for. If you love the direction and if you want to win the prize, I’m inviting you to be a ministry partner with us by giving financially.

If you love the direction, will you lock in? If you agree that we are aimed at the right mission, if you agree that we are after the right prize, let’s lock in and run together. Let’s run like we’re trying to win. Let’s run in such a way as to get the prize!