Given a week to reflect on the Exodus Experience has helped me to more deeply love the people in the body of Christ. Last Thursday evening we hosted a music and art festival, celebrating the healing of our first patients through Rooftop 519. It was amazing
We had six acts, a dozen artists and photographers, and most of our volunteers onsite for the event in Puyallup, Washington (it’s pronounced pew-AL-up, and it’s a Northwestern Indian name for “Land of the Generous People”). We celebrated with over 600 people from 5 until almost 9, playing music, laughing, eating and creating some great art (at least, the artists created great art… the rest of us either watched or pretended that we were back in 2nd grade).
I’d like to share some principles of what happened.
There was no ticket price, no long speeches and no bidding wars (although a silent-auction guitar painted by one of our artists went for $500!). As a fund-gathering event, it wasn’t all that great. We brought in around $12,000, with a couple more people who are making pledges. Each gift we received is greatly appreciated, but the people who gave would have likely given regardless of whether or not we hosted the ExEx. I’m truly grateful for all who partner with us financially.
As a classically, professionally-trained fundraiser (I have a degree from the University of Washington to prove it!), I understand how to create an event that pulls in money. I know the recipe for how to get the right people to the right event and ask in the right way. What I am learning is how to let God provide what we need while doing things his way, and God is always less concerned with money than he is with people. On the scale of money and people, there is no single person whose worth is not greater than all of the riches of the world. Relationship is the prize.
I Corinthians 9:7,8 “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;”
In fundraising we rarely encourage people to let God move in the heart of the giver. Sure, we give them 30 seconds after a an entertaining night, a good meal and a well-scripted appeal (in which we strategically get “our donors” to cry three times and laugh five), but how often do we really pray for each person? Do we really care more about what God is doing in their heart than we do about the amount of money they can give to our cause? Pardon me while I go back and re-read the scripture above.
About 45 of our 130 volunteers prayed together at 4:45. A few last-minute “helpers” included Mike, a homeless man who loves Jesus, and Amanda, a severely disabled car-accident victim who loves talking, poetry, food and Jesus (maybe even in that order, but I’m pretty sure God has enough grace for sweet Amanda).
Our Rooftop 519 board chair told me that Mike, “…prayed so hard he must have left a dent in the gates of heaven-he squeezed my hands so hard he left dents in them.”
Luke 14:21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'”
James 2:3 “and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
On Thursday night, everyone was welcome to the party.
So many people were able to travel from distances to be a part of our celebration. Our team of three came from SoCal, including our 19 year-old intern Danny who had never flown. Check out his short video here.
Our Artists Inspiring Action friends came up from Portland for the day. They loaded their car with stretchers, paint, backpacks, cameras and more in order to celebrate with us. There was an incredible spirit of adventure during the entire event, which always excites me. When I think of the four guys who carried their friend to the great physician, the story never seems complete without imagining what the walk home was like for the five of them. The awe, hope, wonder and miracle that comes with being touched by the Great Physician.
When our patient Astrid went home to Ecuador, her family and friends celebrated for at least three days. I experienced a great sense of meaning during our celebration of three hours. Our busy American churches have forgotten the art of a good party, and an adventure with a purpose.
A teaser here – Rooftop 519 and Artists Inspiring Action are plotting to do something together in February at the Justice Conference in February. It’s going to be awesome.
One of the greatest injustices we face, IMHO, is the unreasonable expectation that the church looks like our culturally shaped biases would dictate. The church is a wild thing, mostly incompatible with business best practices and hierarchy. Sure we can assign IRS recognition to religious organizations, and having principles in an organization are really important. What is absolutely critical is making sure that ecclesia, or the gathering of God’s people, is being the church regardless of a building or an IRS structure.
Anybody who believes in any faith fiercely will never agree with anyone completely, yet the thing we can all agree on is that we should be the hands and feet of Christ. When we are his hands and feet, justice comes, because Christ brings it. Justice sometimes means sacrificing our sacred cows of business and giving the best steak to a homeless guy named Mike in Puyallup, while celebrating the healing of a legless girl named Astrid in Ecuador. Thursday night was a wild thing indeed. It was not a church. It was the church.
At my count, I ran into the following at the ExEx: Catholic, Lutheran, Atheist, de-churched believers, non-denominational believers, PCA, PCUSA, Foursquare, CMA, Baptist and Episcopal. And on that night, not a single denominational rift was felt (to my knowledge). What I did hope, and observe, was that those who didn’t know Jesus saw him in us (or more correctly, they saw us in Him).
1 Corinthians 3:18-19 “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
This verse relates directly to justice because our version of justice does not look like God’s. I would encourage you to read Generous Justice by Tim Keller. It’s a very intelligent and foolish book on the subject.
I want to close with a thought from Dr. R. Scott Rodin from his book The Steward Leader. “(Jesus) chose ill-prepared people who did not understand his mission; he so frequently spoke in veiled and unclear language that the people he came to lead seldom understood what he was saying, and most left him in frustration; he concealed his true mission from even his closest associates until the very end of his term; he angered those in authority who could have been an asset to his work; he made such outrageous claims about his abilities that all but a handful of followers turned against him; one of his own team members testified against him to the police; his closest friend denied he ever knew him; when he left for a time, his team was in total disarray and completely demoralized; and it was left to those who followed him to reassemble the team, recruit new members and build an organization.”
I want to be a fool for Jesus. I’d like to celebrate with his people, even the ones that will betray me. I want to be his hands and feet, especially to those who cannot repay me. I should be so lucky that I die while serving in his name, hopefully while carrying a child to the Great Physician.
Through the Roof,
P.S. – just read this post from an old friend of mine about the ExEx.
P.S.S – enjoy these pics! If anyone has pics of the bands, please post links or send them to me.
- Having fun with kids & stretchers in Puyallup.
- One of Jacob Herring’s stretchers “A Cloud By Day”
- “A Pillar of Fire by Night”
- Artists Inspiring Action working their magic!
- Our younger artists loved to help.
- The semi-completed community-participation art. Glory is going to finish this over the coming weeks and months. I can’t wait to show you pictures!
- Exodus’s hos mom is creating a community-participation art piece.
- A beautiful painting that was auctioned off for Rooftop 519.