Article

ReImagine Generosity

by Rev. Rosanna Anderson

Living Generously is a gripping five-week video teaching series about the joy of generosity. It reveals how God is at work in the lives of an ordinary family. The series of vignettes is designed to lead its viewers to reflect more deeply on how they can show the generosity of Jesus today. Each week features a seven-minute video that’s a professional quality production. Your church can use it in small groups or Sunday school, and share it with the congregation in worship as a lead-in to the sermon. A three minute teaching video specific to each week’s theme helps to facilitate discussion. This program provides leader and participant guides with a key verse, as well as teaching points, and family devotion questions. The films offer a welcome opportunity to gather with church friends to ponder what the Lord is saying to us personally and consider what he is inviting us to do in response.

Meet the Donovan family. Frank, Cassie, and their children Megan and Evan, are living comfortably in the suburbs. Their house may be big, but that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect or under control. Frank is a successful businessman into whose life God is about to bring some challenges. Will he recognize them as opportunities to grow in faith and hope? Will Cassie be willing to host a dinner party at the last minute for a missionary family who are just returning from the field? What will elementary student Evan do when he realizes that his new friend had to leave his toys behind when his family moved? How will the pre-teen Megan respond when she arrives at what she thought was a benefit dinner but actually turns out to be a meal for the hungry in a soup kitchen? The entire family are about to go on a journey into the unexpected. Your congregation will want to know what happens next!

This engaging series presents the gospel without moralism. Instead of confronting us with the law and what we should do, the narrative reveals the gift and ultimate joy that we find in giving. The series doesn’t force us to face the fact that we as Americans are rich, making us feel guilty for having the things that God has given us, and then demanding that we must give a portion back to God through the church. The Lord wants to give us a new heart, full of love, overflowing with kindness for the people God brings into our life. What draws us in is the realization that dawns on us: each person can only come to the Lord with empty hands, because none of our things can save us or our loved ones. When our eyes are opened, we are delighted to see how graciously God provides for us so that we can share generosity with one another. A central character is Re (pronounced Ray) a wise yet humble African-American grandfather who has learned much from having lost everything. The Christ figure in the story, he challenges the family with a tender heart and a good sense of humor. As a gardener and mentor, he has a lot to teach the Donovans—and us.

Your church may be so blessed by Living Generously that you will want to follow up the next year and the year after that. Reimagine Generosity can be seen as a trilogy, a saga in three parts. There are three sets of five-week series throughout which the narrative of the Donovan family and their community builds. It begins with Living Generously. Loving Generously encourages us to seek greater healing and willingness to include others in our everyday relationships. Leading Generously culminates the series with an emphasis on trusting God with our whole life. The overarching goal of the Reimagine Generosity films is to help bring people “on a path from transactional generosity, which focuses on the stewardship of time, talent, and treasure to relational generosity, the call to be agents of reconciliation and the hands and feet of Christ to the vulnerable, lost and poor. This journey culminates in sacrificial generosity – the pouring out of our lives in order to see someone else realize the fullness of their capacity in Christ.”

United Methodist churches will have the opportunity to purchase these videos at a discount by visiting http://shop.umc.org/pages/reimagine_generosity.aspx and using the promo code provided there when placing their order.

All of the resources are prepared thoughtfully with excellent materials. This reflects the biblical principle of giving our best to God and in service to the church. The accompanying commitment cards are tailored to each series. For example, the card for the Loving Generously series includes a place to fill in a personal commitment about offering forgiveness or asking forgiveness. Numerous congregations have found that the Living Generously series has led to increased financial generosity as well as to more people becoming actively involved in ministry and mission. It’s wonderful to think of all the joy that God will bring to our churches and communities as together we trust in the Lord who is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).

Jack Alexander is the chairman of the Reimagine Group, the media ministry team that produced Living Generously. Alexander is an entrepreneurial American businessman who has founded and led successful companies in real estate and technology. He and his wife, Lisa, share their compelling testimony in a twenty-minute video on his company’s website. Alexander’s life was transformed in his mid-twenties when he discovered the good news at a poor but dynamic church in Australia. God gave him the gift of storytelling, which he has honed, like the prophet Nathan who crafted a story to reach King David when he needed to hear it (2 Samuel 12). Alexander directs his creativity and resources toward crafting teaching materials that equip the church. He describes the mission of the Reimagine Group this way: “Jesus came to give abundant life. We seek to guide people toward that life by engaging the imagination through high quality teaching based on solid Biblical truths – all to inspire heart transformation.” The Reimagine Group’s stories feature believable characters to which we can relate. As the characters in the movie respond with compassion and courage to challenging situations, we feel joy bubbling up in our hearts. We want to be more like them! We can picture ourselves willingly following Christ in greater faithfulness.

The Rev. Rosanna Anderson is the Associate Director of Stewardship at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Categories: Generous Living