On Sunday I went to the 7.30pm service at HT – the first one of its kind :O
Mike Pilavachi was speaking on generosity and he shared some of the ways the generosity of God has been present in his life – really wonderful and powerful stories which will stay with me. However, what touched me the most was what the vicar, Rupert Charkham, got up and said at the end.
He recounted how he had met Mike for the first time in the Café Nero on King’s Parade the day after his father had died, all in a bit of a mess (understandably). At that point in time, Rupert had been vicar for just over a year, and HT was very different to how it is now – under-resourced, small congregation, little student involvement. As such, Rupert was in the position of needing to ask Mike if he could help by sourcing a worship leader for the church, and whether he could commit to speaking at HT on a termly basis – neither of which was going to be an easy request to make. Mike was prepared to (graciously) refuse, but as he came through the door of the café, the Holy Spirit told him ‘you must help this man build his church’, and so it was that he agreed to help.
Some time later, Rupert (a little more with it) rang Mike up to essentially offer him a get-out clause, worrying that Mike had effectively been bribed by his emotional state at the point they had met – and fearing that Mike would be pitching up to preach to him, his wife, his two kids and their dog. But Mike held to his word, and as well as organising the sharing of a worship leader between churches, said that he’d be there to speak, even if only to him, his wife, his two kids and their dog. He’d do so because it was pleasing to the Lord. Mike has held that commitment to the present day.
As Rupert told this story, there were tears in his eyes. He was standing there at HT’s first ever fourth Sunday service, in front of at least 100 people (mostly students), having expected around 35. I can’t imagine how powerful that was, having come from the starting point, years back, of very little student engagement at HT. It was obvious that Rupert felt indebted to Mike for his generosity, and was so enormously thankful to be in the place HT is at now.
What struck me about this story, is that the generosity Mike has shown to HT isn’t a flash-in-the-pan lavishness, but a prolonged commitment sustained without expectation of return. This is also characteristic of Chris (who you’ll see occasionally commenting on these blog posts) – one of the first people I think of when I think ‘generosity’. I’m not sure I’ve ever come out of her home without something in my hand. Not that her generosity is just about what she gives – it’s just symptomatic of her straightforward investment in others. Her generosity is also not of the ‘flash-in-the-pan’ variety. At her 70th birthday celebration this year people were asked to raise their hand if they had ever received a meal from Chris: the whole room raised their hands. One lady said her family have received a meal from Chris every week over a duration of years.
I think another marker of generosity is an ‘indiscriminateness‘. Mike was involved in HT long before it had anything to show for itself. And Chris has always shown care to everyone, regardless of age, position or what they could give back to her. It’s impressive, and I’m wondering how I can practice the generosity they model. It strikes me also how this sort of generosity is so hugely kingdom-like – the grace and mercy of the kingdom is generosity in its purest form.
If you’ve been keeping track of this blog for a little while, you may know that I’ve been reading in Acts. Yesterday (not anymore because I wrote this at the beginning of the week haha) I read about Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 (side note: the section before this a young man, Eutychus – a lightweight with a talent for sleeping that matches my own – falls asleep because Paul’s sermon is going on a bit, falls out of the window he is sitting in, and has to be resurrected by Paul: it gets a 5 star review from me) and it’s a clear continuation of the rest of Acts – a lived out generosity. This is a generosity that resides in the deeply practical which then extends to an all-encompassing generosity – living in such a way that all of life is shared. Paul reminds them that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, before they kneel down to pray together.
Ahhh to be generous is a great thing 🙂