DEC. 3, 2010
Dear Saddleback Family,
I feel I’ve spent my lifetime being prepared by God to lead you into your future.
The lessons God has taught me over the past 30 years about spiritual growth - how people really grow, where they get stuck, and what it takes to finish well - are lessons I learned through much pain. But I know that pain was for your benefit, and I’m eager to start coaching you through your Decade of Destiny.
Those of you who’ve been long-term members know the values that shape my life and how I lead you. But many of you are fairly new to Saddleback, so I’d like to explain some of my core convictions that undergird the path I’m taking you on.
WHAT I BELIEVE ABOUT LEADERSHIP
I often tell you that I love you because I do. But let me explain how that impacts how I lead our church family.
1. Leading you is a RELATIONSHIP. It is not a position or title. If I did not trust and love you, I could not lead you. If you do not trust and love me you won’t follow my leading. Real leadership is based on love and trust, which is earned through a track record of serving and sacrificing that gives credibility.
Thank you for placing your trust in me as I’ve tried to do what I believe is God’s will and in your best interest.
2. Leading you is a STEWARDSHIP. True leaders know they own nothing - it all belongs to God - but they will be held responsible and accountable to Him for how well they managed it. Some leaders give the impression that they own everything - facilities... finances... and followers. But godly leadership has the exact opposite attitude! The greatest leader - Jesus - literally owned nothing. Saddleback is GOD’S church, not mine, and I’m simply a steward of whatever God wants to do through HIS church.
3. The only way TO LEAD anyone is TO SERVE them. Jesus was crystal clear that leadership is about service, not “serve-us.” It’s not about me. It is about fulfilling God’s purposes in your life. My job is to see what God sees in you, then help you become that person - even when you can’t imagine it yourself.
4. Leadership is FUTURE-FOCUSED. Most people are too busy with the present to think ahead about the future - but that’s OK - as long as someone you trust is thinking ahead for you. It is a leader’s responsibility to think ahead when others can’t, so I’m always thinking and looking at your life from the long-term perspective to help you maximize your future.
5. Leadership is ALWAYS BY EXAMPLE. Leaders lead by doing it first. I am to show you with my own life, not simply tell you. If I don't lead by example I don't lead at all. For 30 years I’ve lived by the principle of Jesus: I will never ask you to do anything that I’m not already doing. I will never ask you to serve or sacrifice more than Kay and I do.
MY COMMITMENT TO YOU & TO OUR LORD.
Because I deeply believe in these 5 convictions, and because God commanded leaders in the Bible to announce their faith and financial commitments to the people (for example, David’s personal offering for the building of the Temple, 1 Chronicles 29:1-16) I’ve always shared our personal giving commitment in our 5 previous spiritual growth campaigns.
As I told you a few weekends ago, because of notoriety, I did not intend to share our family’s faith commitment for Decade of Destiny, knowing that everything I share with our church family is frequently misunderstood by those outside our church. But obedience to God must always take precedence over any fear of being misjudged, and the truth is - I simply can’t lead you in faith and sacrifice without being willing to set an example. So let me explain HOW, WHY, & WHAT Kay and I decided to give to Decade of Destiny, and also commit in faith to give over the next three years.
A MATTER OF RECORD
It is no secret that I take no salary from our church, nor accept honoraria for myself from speaking engagements. I support my family with 9% of the royalties from my books and our family gives away the other 91%. Specifically, last year, my personal income from my books was $87,000. But for 35 years we have been faithful savers not just tithers, and we follow God’s financial plan so we are debt-free, except for our mortgage, which is an investment.
What I am about to tell you is simply to demonstrate my commitment to your spiritual growth, our obedience to God in faith, and to let you know that I’m determined that no one else ever gives more to our church than my own family. It is not meant to create either pressure, guilt, or praise. Our theme is always “NOT equal gifts - but equal sacrifice!” For some people, just tithing is a huge sacrifice.
When Kay and I began praying about our Decade of Destiny financial commitment (one of 6 faith commitments) we decided in two phases. First we decided on our cash offering - which was the easier decision. We decided to collapse one of our charities, sell all the stock, and give $1.2 million to the cash offering. That’s how much we believe in your spiritual growth.
We then took another week to decide what our FAITH commitment would be in addition for the next 3 years. My first Faith Commitment, made as a teenager 40 years ago, was just $50. Our first 3 year Faith Commitment as newlyweds 35 years ago was to give $3000 over 3 years to the church we attended. Over the years, God has stretched our faith... and blessed us... then stretched us more... and blessed us more... then stretched us even more... and then blessed us even more! (You get the idea - “According to your faith it will be done to you.”)
So, after more prayer, and more family discussion we decided that in order for our commitment to require our greatest faith, it would have to be huge. Small amounts don’t require much faith from us anymore since we’ve seen God do so many miracles in our marriage. We finally prayerfully decided to commit in faith to give $1 million more a year for the next 3 years. Again, this is how deeply we believe in the vision of this church.
Are we scared by this? Absolutely not. You don’t get scared, you get excited, after you’ve seen God miraculously provide time and again.
YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED!
I am actually writing this note in the Dallas Airport lounge waiting for a plane to speak to business leaders in Florida who are interested in the PEACE plan - phase 2. As our plane from California landed in Dallas, a couple in the row behind Steve and me got my attention. The man said “We live here in Texas, but we believe in the vision of Saddleback church, and when we recognized you, we wanted to give you this: It was a check made out to our church - from a total stranger - for $1000! How random is that! For me, it was God’s confirmation that what I’ve written above is simply obedience to God and that he wants to challenge you to grow in faith and generosity too.
If total strangers, who’ve never even attended our church, can see the value and impact of investing for eternity through Saddleback, how much more should we who get to enjoy the blessings be ready to give our all to HIM?
Please bring your Faith Commitment envelope with you this weekend or make your Faith Commitment online now. You don’t want to miss getting in on what God is going to do. Our 12 Decade of Destiny initiatives will change us... and will change history... for the glory of God!
Have I told you lately that I love you?