Leaders, it begins and ends with us; everything rises or falls with us. Everything begins and ends with the quality of a leader. The health of a family is really contingent upon the parents. The well-being of a company is contingent upon the CEO. Ultimately, for us as a church, everything’s going to rise or fall with regard to our legacy with the leaders.
So, if you’re an elder at Mars Hill, go ahead and raise your hand. Let us know who you are. Elders, pastors of the church—there are 64 across our 15 locations. How many of you men are elder candidates? You’re in the process. There are 54 across our 15 locations.
How many of you are deacons, men and women who are leaders in our church? Go ahead and raise your hand. We thank God for you. There are more than 600 of you, 500 of which are unpaid. So, the majority of our deacons, by a long shot, are volunteers.
How many of you lead Community Groups? You’re a Community Group host, Community Group leader, Community Group apprentice, raise your hand. Thank you. There are a thousand of you. There are a thousand of you who are leading Redemption Groups and Community Groups, or getting trained to do that.
In addition, there are innumerable leaders. Kids’ Ministry, Student Ministry, Women’s Ministry, all kinds of things that are happening at the church.
Here’s what’s so important: It’s important that we never forget, particularly those of us who are in leadership or aspire to leadership, that people become like their leaders.
When God seeks to effect change, oftentimes in history and Scripture, he doesn’t initially begin by speaking to everyone but by selecting out the leaders and speaking to them, knowing if he can effect change at the level of leadership that everything flows from the top, and that if leaders change, things change. That’s why when Jesus comes to the earth, he doesn’t go into all the nations. He gathers a bunch of leaders, trains them, and sends them into all the nations of the earth.
That being said, there are some haunting words from Jesus in Luke 6:40. I read it as a newer Christian, and it’s haunted me ever since. Jesus says that students become like their teacher. It’s a simple principle, but it is this: whoever you decide to follow you will become like.
As a leader, that’s a haunting thing for me. I wish you had a better pastor, so pray for this one. I’m wanting to grow as much and as fast as I can by God’s grace. But for all of us who are leaders, we need to know that the decisions that we make and the way that we live don’t just affect us but affects others who are following us, because they’re going to be like us.
This could be a good thing. I’ll give you an example where this is a real positive thing. Some years ago, I had an opportunity to preach at a church in Missouri, and I recently visited there again this past year. And to be honest, it’s not a great town. It’s in Missouri, and so that should sort of give you an indication. It’s a long ways to get there, and you’ve got to get a connector, and it takes forever, and massive time change, so it takes a whole day to get there.
We land late, everything’s closed, but I’m hungry. It’s time for dinner. The only thing open is a place called The Waffle House. I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Waffle House. I think the menu is set by Jack Kevorkian. It’s a place filled with double-battered, deep-fried, maple syrup, gravy. It’s a slow suicide at The Waffle House.
So we went there for dinner, and it shared the parking lot—I kid you not—with a cardiology clinic, and I thought, “This sort of sums up this little town.” It’s nice—you can go to The Waffle House, have your heart attack, and they have a shuttle that’ll run you across the parking lot over to the heart attack cardiology clinic.
All that to say, it’s not a particularly awesome place to be, but then you walk into this church, and that’s an awesome place to be. Loving, kind, sweet, happy, joyful, generous people, and being there is really encouraging and it’s life-giving.
I wondered, “Where does this come from? Where does this emanate from?” And then you meet the pastor, his wife, and their kids. They’re great. They’re sweet, kind, loving, and generous. The culture of the church flows from the nature of the family.
I had dinner with the pastor and his wife, and there are flowers on the table because the pastor buys his wife flowers. Then I get home from my trip, and there are flowers in our kitchen, and the staff had sent flowers to Grace when I was gone, thanking her for sending me. The church never ran a class on, “Five Reasons to Give a Woman Flowers,” but as the pastor gives wife to his flowers, the staff learned that it’s good to give women flowers. And women, it is, amen? Can I least get an “Amen” on that point? You may not like the rest, but the free flowers thing you should go with.
In addition, as I was teaching in the church and walking down the hallway, I noticed something: most of the couples were holding hands. And the older couples were holding hands, which I love to see, but the truth is, you don’t see it very often. I thought, “Oh, I wonder where they got this.”
The pastor and his wife get up to introduce me for this event I was teaching at, and they walk up. Guess what they’re doing? They’re holding hands, because they’re friends. Again, they didn’t teach a class called “How to Hold Hands.” Step one, take your hand. Step two, take their hand. Step three, put your hands together. They never taught a class on it. They just modeled it, because like it’s often said, much of leadership is caught, not taught. It’s through observing and modeling.
Well, that being said, it’s incredibly important that God’s leaders conduct themselves in godly ways, because people are going to follow the example that the leaders set. And so as we find ourselves in Malachi 1:6–14, God has a word for everyone, but it is particularly, firstly for those of us who are leaders. And you’re going to hear over, over, and over in the book of Malachi, God’s going to ask a number of questions.
Here today, he asks this question: “Where is my honor? Where is my honor?” I would yell louder, but I’m losing my voice, so listen at a higher volume and help me out, OK? “Where is my honor?”
What an important question in a day when it is fashionable to be dishonorable, when children are encouraged to dishonor their parents, when spouses are encouraged to dishonor their spouse, when people are encouraged to dishonor their leaders, and when even Christian leaders find it fashionable to dishonor God.
God has a question: “Where is my honor?” You can read it with me in Malachi 1:6. Here’s the Lord speaking through his servant, Malachi: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts”—the God who rules over angels and demons, all that is spiritual—“O priests, who despise my name.”
He is here first speaking to the priests. In the Old Covenant, everything orbited around the temple. In the New Covenant, it orbits around the church. In the Old Covenant, the people were led by the priests. In the New Covenant, they’re led by the pastors. These are the spiritual leaders, and he calls them out by name. “Priests, where is my honor?”
God tells us two things regarding his character, that he is a “Father” and a “Master.” “Father” reveals to us his affection for us, and “Master” reveals his authority over us.
So, we all live on a continuum. Some of us are going to more easily see God as loving, compassionate, gracious, tolerant Father. Others of us are going to lean in the direction that he is more authoritative, in charge, giving orders, boss, Master. How many of you, on that continuum, you would more easily see God as Father? He loves you, he’s patient with you, he’s gracious with you, he’s merciful toward you.
How many of you would more easily see God as Master? If he tells you to do something, you better do it. He’s like a boss. It’s both. If you only see God as Father, you can start to see him as permissive Father, the enabling Father, the Father that lets you get away with things that you shouldn’t because he doesn’t really command you but he just endures you.
Conversely, some of you who see God firstly or mostly as Master, you won’t know his love for you, his affection for you, his tenderness for you, his concern for you. And you’ll see him more as one who gives rules, but you won’t see the relationship and the Father’s affection behind them. And so it’s important that we keep both of these continually in our view through each eye, seeing God’s fatherly affection and his masterly authority.
And he says, “You know what? You guys have forgotten who I am. You’ve forgotten who I am.” And he asks this question, “Where is my fear? Where is my honor?” And these go together. God is to be feared, respected, revered, honored with our life, our dollars, our deeds, and our days. And so when it’s talking about honor, he’s talking about respect, esteem, value, defer to, elevate, submit to, obey, follow, cherish. That’s what he’s talking about.
Now, that being said, here’s the question: is your life one that God would say is honoring to him? It doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to see in this book, they keep arguing with God. He asks a question, they ask two more. That’s how the whole book goes. God says, “I’m not pleased.” “Well, you should be. We’re doing our best.” “You’re not honoring me.” “We feel like we are. How are we not honoring you? We disagree.” “You’re not being generous.” “Oh, our committee voted and our committee voted three to one, and you’re only one vote, so you lose, Lord. We talked about this and we disagree. The pastor’s on our side.” They’re going to argue the whole time.
So, here’s the bottom line: It doesn’t matter what you think. If God looked at your life, would he say, “Honoring to me,” or, “Dishonoring to me”? So, the whole issue is honor, and then he’s going to proceed to talk about three ways that we are to honor him.
My question to you is, what would you guess would be the first way that he would approach the issue of honor? Where should he start? He starts in a place that you don’t want him to, which means you need him to, and that is to honor God with your wealth. Immediately, immediately, this is what happens: “Oh, mega church pastor’s talking about money. Here we go, here we go, here we go.” Mega church pastor preaching the Bible, retting over your idol.
OK, that being said, Malachi 1:6–9, “But you say.” You notice this? How many of you do this? God says something, you disagree with it, you’ve got a bunch of questions and objections. So do they. “But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’” God answers. He’s like a patient dad with a bratty kid. “By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’” You see this? “By saying,” he answers, “that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?”
He’s going to tell a little joke. He’s going to make fun of them. Some of you are like, “You should never make fun of people.” God does. “Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.”
So, they’re bringing their offerings. God says, “First things first: you don’t honor me.” “How do we not honor you?” “With your giving.” “You’re going to talk about our money?” “Yes.”
How many of you know that God keeps account? He knows how much you make, how much you give, and how you spend it. Did you know that? He does, he does. God says, “I look at the giving of the people, particularly the priests and the leaders, and the offering is not generous.”
Here’s the issue: God doesn’t want your money. God wants your heart, and your heart is an indication of your money, because Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is.” You can’t say, “I love the Lord; I just don’t give.” In the same way, a husband and a father can’t look at his wife and kids and say, “I love them; I just don’t give them anything.” Love is not what you feel, love is primarily what you do and how you give.
So what God is trying to do is get the finances straightened out, because once the finances are straightened out, then the rest of life tends to get straightened out. And we tend to think conversely, “As soon as I get my life in order, then I’ll get my finances in order.” That’s the wrong order. You get your finances in order, it forces you to get your life in order.
In that day, they didn’t have debit cards. So if you’re a farmer, you bring your crops. Let’s say you’re a herdsman, you bring your animals. Maybe you’ve got a business and you bring your gold, your coins. So, they’re collecting their offering and the food, he says, is polluted. What this really is is, it’s rotten.
This is literally like you’re at the house, and you open the fridge. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, look at that sandwich. It’s got a beard. That is a furry, funky, nasty sandwich. That’s a green beard on the sandwich. What should we do with it, Martha?” “We’ll bring it to church and put it in the offering basket.” “Oh yeah, we’ll give that one to the—what about the good one?” “We’ll eat that, but the Lord gets the furry, green bearded sandwich. That’s what he gets.” Oh, and why do people do this, by the way? “Oh, oh, smell this, smell this, smell this.” You’re like, “Well, why?” “It smells like Satan’s breath.” “Why do I want to smell it? I don’t want to smell it.” “Oh, it smells terrible. What should we do? Let’s throw it away.” “Don’t throw it away. Let’s bring it to church and give it to the Lord.”
So, imagine you’re sitting in the pew, and the plate’s coming by. You’re like [show hesitatation] because it’s just all nasty, funky, gross, rotten food. And God’s joke is, “You would never feed the political officials this.” The governor, the pagan ruler, leader, if he came over to dinner at your house, you wouldn’t, “Hey, do you want some chunky milk, and a bearded sandwich, and something that smells like socks on a warm summer day? Would you like that?” You don’t serve that to people you respect. And God’s saying, “Why would you give to me what you would never give to someone else you respect?” That’s disrespectful.
He’s also inferring and referring to the paying of their taxes, that the governor would demand your taxes, and you would not try and get away with giving the governor a lame, you know, tax payment.
For example, let’s say you get your tax bill and the government says, “You owe x number of dollars.” And you’re like, “Yeah, I don’t want to pay that. I did have a beater old car that got in a wreck and was totaled. I’ll tow that to the IRS office, leave it at the front door with a note saying, ‘My taxes are now paid,’ and I’m sure they’ll be OK with that.” God’s saying, “You’re conducting your affairs with me in a way you don’t conduct your affairs with others. You’re taking advantage of my kindness, and that’s not right.”
In addition to their food, they are bringing another form of their offering, and that is their animals. And here’s the Craigslist ad for their animals, “Blind, sick, and lame.” For how many of you, those aren’t the keywords you’re typing in looking for an animal?
All right, recently we got a dog. My kids wanted a dog. Imagine if I brought home—“I got a dog, kids. I got a dog. I got a dog. Here it is.” “Can it fetch?” “No, it’s blind.” “Can we take it for a walk?” “It’s got two legs, no. You can drag it around or carry it, but you cannot take the dog for a walk.” “Well, that’s OK. At least we can enjoy him.” “No you can’t; it’s diarrhea dog. He’s sick. Sick, diarrhea dog.” “Thanks, Dad.” “Yeah, happy birthday. Happy birthday.” The only thing good about that dog is it can’t run away. That’s the only thing good about that dog, and that’s actually bad.
See, and that’s what God’s saying, like, “You would never give these things to people you love. Why do you think I’m excited about them?”
So then, God has some questions. They have some questions. Here are their two questions. And this is what people do. God says something. If we don’t want to obey it, we start asking questions, trying to change the subject. So, their questions are, “How have we despised your name? Hypothetically we did, how did we do that? And how did we pollute the offering to you? How did we do that? Prove it to me, God.”
Here’s God’s question: “Is that not evil?” And he says it again. He says it twice. “Is that not evil?” Here’s what he’s saying: “You’re not cheap, you’re evil.” Different horsepower on that word. Different horsepower on that word. Some of you say, “I’m cheap,” and God would say, “No, you’re evil.” Oh, because see, God looks at the heart. See, it’s out of the overflow of the heart that the wallet spends.
I’ll give you an example. I know a guy who would have said he was cheap. He told everybody he’s cheap. Just a cheap guy. The worst guy ever to go out to dinner with. Like, if there’s a group, he’s over there, “Who got the iced tea? $1.27. Who got the iced tea? We’ve got to split.” I’m like, “Really Judas, you’ve got to do all the accounting after the meal? Really? Come on, come on. Just, whatever. You know, don’t be like that.” He was not generous toward his wife, not generous toward his family, not generous toward God, not generous toward anybody. He was cheap. He was cheap.
It’s not that he didn’t have it; it’s that he wouldn’t share it. That’s evil. That’s evil. Because love is not just the way you feel, love is what you do, and love is how you give. Right, “God so loved the world, he gave.” The Bible connects giving and loving.
So, they got divorced, and he lost half of everything, and wrote a big check to a divorce attorney. He didn’t save anything. He lost everything. He wasn’t cheap; he was evil. Not only did he never really give his money to his wife and his family, he never really gave himself to his wife and his family. Not only did he never give his money to the Lord, he never really gave himself to the Lord.
Where your treasure is, your heart is. And God looks down and says, “This isn’t just cheap; this is evil.” And it starts with church leaders, and so let me talk real plainly. Many churches don’t even track the giving of the leaders, and then the leaders are encouraging the people to be generous, but nobody’s checking to see if the leaders are generous. I would say that’s evil.
Now, I’m not going through checking every single leader, but I’m making sure that every leader, particularly those on paid staff and eldership, give. Out of the 64 elders, 63 are generous. One, not sure about, we’ll follow up with. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances; something happened. We don’t want to be legalistic about this, but we do want to say, “Before we ask anybody to do anything, we want to make sure that the leaders are setting a good example.”
And I learned this painfully early on in ministry. We started flat broke college kids. Everybody was a punk rocker committed to anarchy, so good luck trying to get an org chart together with this crew. We were struggling, but for some reason, no reason that makes any sense, a church brought me in as a consultant. And I was going to work for free, which is probably why they brought me in; that’s what they could afford.
They bring me in as a consultant, and the issue was, “We have this small church. It’s been going a long time and it’s struggling financially. We can’t really afford to compensate the pastor. He loves the people, works really hard, puts in a ton of hours. We all appreciate him, but we need to take better care of him and his family. So, how can we increase the revenue at the church?”
I said, “Well, before we get into that, my question is what is the giving of all the elders, the pastors, the senior leaders in the church? You guys need to tell me, go around the circle, what do you give, what do you give, what do you give, what do you give, what do you give?”
All of a sudden, it’s like somebody turned on the air conditioning. “Oh, it’s chilly in here.” And then the guys start all looking at the ground, like…and all of a sudden, it’s like everybody turned into Rain Man. Like, what happened? Like, all of a sudden, “Hey, hey, why do we have to do that? The left hand shouldn’t tell the right hand,” and “Oh, it’s none of your business,” and you know, “Shouldn’t we trust—”
All of sudden, they’re quoting verses out of context. All of a sudden, they got all kinds of excuses and answers. It stinks like Malachi 1. A lot of questions. I said, “Well, how much do you guys give?” They would not answer the question.
I said, “OK, then I’m done. I’ve got to go.” The bookkeeper, who was unpaid, walked me out. He said, “The pastor gives and I give. The other elders”—five or six guys, however many it was—“don’t give. The reason they wouldn’t tell you is that they’re not giving.” He said, “And some of them run small businesses. Some of them are doing OK. You know, they’re not rich, but they’re not broke.” And he said, “If the elders would all tithe 10 percent, everything they want to do would be paid for. God’s already given the money, but it’s in the pockets of the elders and they won’t share it.” That is—what’s the word, Mars Hill? That’s “evil.” That’s evil. That’s evil. And that’s what he’s talking about.
It’s not about how much you give, but it’s about how much you give out of what you have. So, there’s a woman in the New Testament. She’s a widow. She’s really broke. She gives generously. If you look at it, it’s just a small pittance, but percentage-wise, it’s great generosity.
I had an experience like this when everything literally fell apart in Haiti some years ago. If you remember, we led relief mission there, and you guys were generous, and we helped rebuild churches and bring medical supplies and stuff.
Landed in this devastated country to deliver the medical supplies and went out to visit the churches, just to see what was going on with God’s people after the tragedy hit, and it was horrifying: Churches collapsed. People in the church, staff members, people in for prayer meetings, choirs practicing. Dead bodies in the street. I saw a kid shot in the head in front of me and bleed out within the first hour of being there. It was crazy.
I was visiting the churches. One church was collapsed. Members of the church were in the church. The pastor was unsure if his own family was dead or alive. He thought they were in the church but couldn’t find them in the rubble. I’m in a tent talking to this guy. And I can’t remember if it was a candy bar or a PowerBar, and he broke it in half and he handed it to me. He didn’t even think about it. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’ll split it with you.”
That’s everything this man had. Church just fell to the ground, right? His ministry is buried in the rubble, his family might be dead, his home is gone, and he’s going to break his bar in half and share it. Well, that tells me everything I need to know about that guy. As we looked at him, we said, “Well, we’re going to support you.” He’s like, “You don’t even know me.” I was like, “I do. I know everything I need to know.” That God is a generous God and God has a heart that wants to give, and when God puts resources in the hand of the leader, and then the leader clenches their fist rather than share, they don’t have the Father’s heart. That’s exactly what he’s going after in Malachi 1.
So, here are some questions for you. They had two questions for God, God has a question for them, I have four questions for you.
If I came to you and I said, “Give to the Lord your sin,” you would say, “Yes, I’ll give him all my sin. I’d like to be forgiven for everything I’ve done and stuff I haven’t even got to yet. Oh, I’ll give generously all my sin, Lord Jesus. I’ll give it all.” If I came and then said, “And give your wealth,” “I don’t know, you know? Why do you ask? What are your motives? What are you gonna—”
All of sudden, the questions come. Why would you enthusiastically give God your sin and begrudgingly give God your wealth? Why would you give him the worst gladly and give him the best begrudgingly?
“Lord, thanks! Mine.” God gives to us so that we can enjoy and share so that others might have joy. We’ve got five kids as you know, but when we go somewhere, be at a high school football game, or we go to a little league game, or whatever it is, there’s always a concession stand.
Here’s what I don’t have to do: give $4 to each kid. Instead, I give $20 to one kid, and they know the drill. “I get this from Dad, and I get to go get some stuff, pretty awesome, and then I get to pay for all the other kids, and we share.” It’d be a horrible thing for the kid to go, “Thanks Dad, $20 in my pocket.”
Then the kids are like, “Where’s my lollipop?” You say, “Oh, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. I’m saving you from a horrific fate of being greedy.” All right? Wrong verse. “God loves a cheerful giver. Give me the lollipop. That’s a better verse right now.” OK, you get that? You’ve got to look at it that way. Everything comes from Dad. Some of it we get to enjoy and some of it we need to share.
The story of Judas is this: He didn’t give generously. He stole continuously. And he saved up all his money so he could go buy a rope and hang himself. Sometimes giving keeps you from buying a rope. It keeps you from spending money on things that are going to kill you. In that way, God is not taking from you; he’s saving you. It never dawned on me until this week as I was praying—Judas stole all that money. What did he do with it? He bought a rope. That was not a good investment.
How many of you would agree Jesus is not a lame sacrifice? The Bible does not say, “God so loved the world, he sent the blind, lame, sick sacrifice, his only begotten Son.”
See, the whole point of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to foreshadow the coming of Jesus. You bring a sacrifice without spot or blemish, foreshadowing that Jesus would come without spot or blemish, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. The Bible uses all this language.
If Jesus was not a lame sacrifice, if God gave us his only begotten Son, the best, perfect, without spot or blemish, sinless, why would we think that Jesus, who was a perfect sacrifice, would be excited about a lame sacrifice? These are strong words because this is the last thing God is going to say for 400 years, and he wants to make sure that people take seriously his glory. If God’s people don’t take God’s glory seriously, no one will.
Number one, we honor God with our wealth. Number two, we honor God with your work. “Oh!” I kind of hear it like that. Your dad ever say that? You don’t even know what happened. You can just get an idea, right? Hear your dad in the other room, “Ohhhh!” You’re like, “Not a good day for Dad.” “Oh that there were one among you.” If I could get one priest on the org chart, “who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain!” Sometimes ministry is in vain.
How brutal is this? Some of you are like, “This is not a very encouraging sermon. I thought he’d be more encouraging. How’d he get all these people? He just yells at them the whole time.” “He’s been doing it for 17 years.” “That’s crazy. That’s unbelievable. I’ve yelled at people, and they don’t come to my house anymore.” Imagine if you got a tweet from Jesus, you got a text from Jesus that said, “I have no pleasure in you.” Aww, I was hoping for something different, like, “You’re my favorite.” How much pleasure in you? No pleasure in you.
Now, God already told us in chapter one, “I love you,” and here he says, “I just don’t enjoy you.” The relationship is in trouble, amen? “I love you; there’s just nothing about you that I enjoy,” and he’s saying this to his people. It’d be like God saying, “Sunday, no pleasure for me. Community Group, no pleasure for me. Redemption Group, Children’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Student Ministry, no pleasure to me.”
Here’s what’s crazy: people were still coming because they liked it. You can have a church that people like and God doesn’t. Church is for him. There are benefits for us, but church is for him. And the worst thing is when a church gets together, votes, and says, “We like it,” because there’s only one vote that counts if God says, “I don’t.”
“I find no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept the offering from your hand.” “Collect the offering and then set it on fire, because I don’t want it.” “For from the rising of the sun to the setting”—that means the earth. Just so you guys know, our goal is earth. They find life on another planet, we called dibs, we’re planting, OK? That’s how we roll.
“My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised.”
We do not understand the magnitude of what God has just said. The temple was the center of worship and witness for the entire Old Covenant. God is in heaven, and we are on earth, and we cannot ascend up to God, and Jesus has not yet descended down to us, and so the connecting point between heaven and earth was the temple. It was the temple. And the temple was filled at its center with the presence of the glory of God, and the people of God would come there to worship and to meet with God. And the priest would offer sacrifices so that death could come in the place of sinners that they might experience salvation and removal of God’s wrath.
And all of this was the foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus, who is the presence of God among us, who is the connecting point between heaven and earth, who is our great high priest, who offers his own life as a sacrifice.
What God says is, “Shut it down!” All of the synagogues were connected to the temple. All of the leaders and theologians were taught at the temple. If you shut the temple down, people can’t meet with God, people can’t atone for sin, people can’t connect with their Creator.
God says, “I’d rather have that. I’d rather have nothing than a vain thing.” This is infinitely more significant than God even saying something like, “Shut down the White House. Shut it down. Lock the doors, everybody out, turn off the lights, unplug everything. We’re done.” It’s infinitely more significant than that. God is saying, “I can’t even get one guy on the payroll to do what I tell him to do and shut it down.” It is not always a grievous thing when a church shuts down.
Sometimes it’s a grievous thing when a church doesn’t shut down. There are about 400,000 Protestant churches in America. Eighty percent are plateaued and declining, forty percent are considered very sick, near terminal, and every year, one percent close, about four thousand, give or take. Some churches are great and love Jesus. Some are in struggling season that’s going to make them stronger and flourish.
However, some just need to be shut down. They are not honoring God with their work. Routine has replaced ritual. It no longer means anything. If the leaders are halfhearted, the people are quarter-hearted, and their children are hardhearted. And that’s not going to be a legacy, that’s going to be a tragedy. And the leaders are not working hard, and caring, and giving, and people are going to be like their leaders, and God is devastated by the entirety of this system.
We are to honor God, number one, with our wealth, number two, with our work of ministry, and number three, with our weariness. “But you say, ‘What a weariness this is.’” You hear this? “Community Group again? With these people? Can’t we get nicer, better people with less problems? Every time she comes, she cries.” Redemption Group, “We finished last quarter, we start this quarter, more broken people.” “Oh, it’s Sunday again? Didn’t we just do this? Oh, Mark’s yelling again. Agh, he’s always yelling. Bet you he’s going to take an offering when he’s done yelling. They don’t even have good coffee. The coffee’s never as good—” Weariness. “I’ve been doing this for years, I’ve been doing this for minutes,” whatever. “I’m sick of it. I’m tired of it.” It’s actually right here, “And you snort at it.”
That’s the Hebrew word for—Any of you had that day? Somebody’s like, “I need you to . . . . Could you please . . . ? It would really help us if you . . .” You’re just done. Your heart’s not in it. You just sort of roll your eyes, deep breath. How many of you have got that kid? “Hey, can you do the dishes?” They just roll their eyes. OK, we’re God’s kids and we do that to him all the time. Could you give? Could you pray? Could you serve? Could you become a member? Could you become a deacon? Could you pick up your trash? “Again?” “Yes, until I come back or set you on fire. Either way, yes.” Do you think God ever gets sick of us? I’m thinking yes.
You snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and you bring it as your offering! You stole from your company, you lied on your taxes, and you’re tithing that to me. Just so you know, I’m not looking for stolen tithes.” “Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.”
It’s not that they won’t give—or let me say it this way: it’s not that they can’t give; it’s that they won’t give. God says, “I gave you a nice animal for a sacrifice, and you gave me the lame one.” We cheat when we don’t give God our best. That’s what he’s saying. Any ministry leader who is not wholehearted in their service is cheating—cheating the Lord and the people—and I see it all the time.
There are some good, godly, hardworking, wonderful leaders in our church and other churches, but I’ll just be honest and say, not all pastors are above the accusation of cheating. I’ve seen pastors who don’t work very hard. They golf a lot and go out to lunch. I’ve seen leaders who falsify their expense reports and push money over to the side of the church for personal things. That’s cheating.
I talked to one guy some years ago—I’ll never forget it—I was new to ministry, and I was talking about Mars Hill. We were just a couple years old at the time, and I said, “Yeah, I hope to be here for my whole life, preaching and teaching the Bible. That’s my hope, man. I want to be with these people for the rest of my life.” I said, “How long have you been at your church?” “Well, I’ve been there a couple of years.” He said, “You know, the way it’s set up in our denomination, every two or three years, they move me from one church to another.” I said, “Wow, isn’t that hard?” He said, “No, no, no. I’ve got two or three years of sermons and I preach them here, and then I preach them here, and then I preach them here, and then I preach them—” and that’s his career. He doesn’t need to study the Bible anymore, doesn’t need to pray anymore, doesn’t need to grow anymore, just plays the greatest hits. That’s cheating.
Pastors who steal sermons from other pastors are cheating. Pastors who expect their people to work and give and don’t work and give are cheating. You need to know that we track the giving of the leaders, not in a legalistic way, but to make sure that we’re not asking you to do something that they’re not doing. There’s nothing worse than parents who look at their kids and say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That’s cheating. That’s cheating.
So when it talks about weariness, there are two ways that we experience weariness, weariness of ministry or weariness from ministry. The first is very ungodly, the second is actually very godly. The weariness of ministry is where you just start going through the motions. You get hardhearted. You get sick of it. You hit your lid. You’re not going to go to the next level. You’ve maxed out. Whatever it is, you’ve been doing it a long time. You’re just sort of going through the motions. You’re weary of ministry.
All of sudden, people are a burden. And I had somebody recently—I said, “We’re going to plant our fifteenth church.” They said, “Do we need it?” I was like, “People are going to hell. It’s hot. Forever’s a long time. Yes, yeah.” It’s a blessing to plant a church. It’s also a burden. It’s a lot of time, energy, money, and work, but yes. This person asked, “Well, when are we going to stop?” “Never, so plan on hanging in there.” Right, I mean, guys, planting a church is like having a kid. Everybody gets excited about the birth, but nobody’s really fired up about the diapers, and the midnight feedings, and the ear infections. But it’s not about just starting things, it’s about sustaining them.
And that’s what’s happening here. They’ve got the temple open. The first temple had been shut down—the first temple was destroyed. Then they rebuilt the second temple, and that generation worked hard and gave to make it happen, and then their kids and grandkids are sick of it. They don’t care. They’re weary. They’re halfhearted. They’ve given up. They don’t have any idea of legacy or sustainability.
Mars Hill’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m not done. In the grace of God, we will press forward. And if we fail, we’re going to fail in an amazingly, epic way, OK? Because I would rather die trying than just die. And I believe that if God is gracious enough to save people and to use us, then we should avail ourselves to every opportunity that he affords us.
And the truth is we should not grow weary of ministry, but we will grow weary from ministry. You’re going to be tired and exhausted. You’re going to be and you should be. Paul talks about pouring himself out like a drink offering. Athletes would say, “I left it all on the field.” Jesus never got weary of ministry and he still doesn’t. He’s still ministering to us right now. But there were times on the earth that Jesus got weary from ministry.
True or false, Jesus took naps? Do you ever think that’s weird? It’s like, “Where’s God?” “Over there.” “What’s he doing?” “Napping.” “Why?” “He’s exhausted.” “Really? I thought he said he was God.” “Yes, napping God.” Wow, Jesus really carried a burden. Remember the story where the guys get in the boat, they row out, a storm hits? They’re, you know, sort of rowing against the storm all night. The seas are violent, their lives are in danger, they’re all freaking out. What’s Jesus doing? He’s sleeping, man. He’s exhausted.
It’s like, “Wake Jesus up. Tell him to quiet the storm.” You know you’re tired when in a violent sea storm, you are sleeping on a boat while men are screaming for hours, right? You’re like, “I think he’s tired.” I’m pretty sure he is. Peter’s like, “Get up! Get up!” “What?” “We’re all dying!” “I know where we’re going. I was asleep.”
It’s amazing to me that the Bible portrays Jesus as being tired. So, I always get shocked when I meet ministry leaders. “How are you doing?” They’re like, “I’m tired.” I’m like, “That’s like, ‘Hello water, how are you?’ “‘Well, I’m wet today.’ ‘Well, I kind of expected that.’” You’re going to be tired if you’re serving Jesus, but what a great thing to be tired for. And let me say that ministry—for those of you who aspire to ministry leadership—is a calling, not a career—which means it’s a lifestyle, not a job.
How many of you run a small business? You’re a small business owner. OK, it’s like that. Small business owner can’t be like, “Five o’clock, we’re done.” No, you’re working until it’s all done. Or like being a parent. How many of you moms, kid throws up 3:30 in the morning, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” “Sorry, we closed at 5:00, we don’t open until 8:00, and we do not have a vomit department, so, I don’t know, Yelp it. You know, I don’t know.”
What does mom do? Whatever needs to be done. Ministry is more like parenting. Somebody gets saved—it’s like a kid being born. Now you’ve got to love them, serve them, and grow with them, and look after them for the rest of your life, and that’s going to be exhausting and wonderful because you get to see life. You’re going to grow weary of ministry, or grow weary from ministry. I would encourage you to pour your life out growing weary from ministry.
Now, here’s the question: why? Why should we honor God with our wealth, with our work, and with our weariness? Why? This is amazing. Here’s what he says: “For I am a great King.” That’s why.
True or false, Mars Hill, Jesus Christ is a great King? We serve, we belong to, we are headed for a great King. Our King is a great King. Our King is the greatest King. Our King is the King of kings. Our King got off his throne. Our King came down and humbled himself. Our King gave us his wealth. Our King gave us his work. Our King gave us his weariness. Our King gave us salvation. Our King gave us the cross. Our King gave us the resurrection. Our King gave us the Holy Spirit. Our King gives us a mission to make his name great among the nations so that everybody would hear about how great our King is. That’s why. That’s why. That’s why!
And this was an invitation to Israel that tragically, sadly, historically, they rejected. See, as I yell, it echoes. The point of the church is to scream the goodness of our great King, that his fame would echo through the nations of the earth. And the nation of Israel chose not to do that.
So God’s name is now being made great in the nations of the earth, and the good news of Jesus is ringing out, not primarily from Israel, but wherever the Holy Spirit chooses to plant a church, and to cause people to meet Jesus, to make disciples, to plant more churches, and to make more disciples.
If you have any idea how great this King is, you don’t see this as a burden, but a blessing; not something you have to give your life to, but something that you get to give your life to. Because whatever else or whoever else you were giving your life to—there’s no pleasure in it. It’s not just that God will find no pleasure in it, neither will you. It’s hollow, it’s empty, it’s lame, it’s blind, it’s sick. It’s not life-giving, it’s not sustaining, it’s not eternity altering.
Here’s what’s amazing: our King is great, so making his name great is something that we get to do by simply telling the truth about who he is and what he’s done. That’s the whole point, so he says, “I am a great King. I am a great King. I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” “I want everybody to know who I am and what I’ve done.” And Jesus is our King of kings, and Jesus is our Lord of lords, and Jesus is our humble Master.
Mars Hill, we’re not playing church; we’re following Jesus. And there will be a day when the church comes to an end, and it will be absorbed into the kingdom of God, and Jesus will be seated on his throne, and all the nations will be subject to him, and his name will be great, and we, we, we will share in his pleasure. I want you to be part of what God loves, what God does, what God decrees, and what God commands.
Mars Hill, I am so excited. I don’t know if you caught that. I’m really excited about Jesus and the opportunity he’s given us to be part of making his great name great among the nations.
So I want to share with you kind of where we’re at. This was, in the days of Malachi, a little update, and it was not a good one. I have a much better update, by God’s grace. And I want to share with you our plans to continue to make the name of our great King great.
So, as we collect our tithes and offerings, after that, we’ll take Communion, remembering Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, the work and the gift of our great King. Let me do a brief update on how things are going. And thank you, things are going pretty well, and by God’s grace, I think next year will be our biggest year of all.
Here’s where we’re at: Recently, 10,177 adults in attendance across Mars Hill. Fifteen churches, five states. We count people because people count. We count people because people count, and it’s not just numbers, it’s faces and names. There are also almost 2,500 kids, right? Can we say, “Praise God”? We like kids. When we started Mars Hill 17 years ago, there wasn’t even a children’s ministry—because there were no children. People are coming in, getting saved, getting baptized, getting married, getting pregnant. Ideally, that’s the order, OK?
Lots of kids are being born 10 and under, so there’s the future, there’s the legacy. We don’t want to do what they did, and one generation builds the temple, and then the next generation abuses it. Percentage of adults who gave, 30 percent. Some of you are not Christian, the rest are evil, OK, based on Malachi.
I thought you’d find that funnier than you did. OK, our giving is averaging about $40 per adult per week. Our expenses are about $44 per adult per week. That’s roughly $4 difference per adult per week. We had a little bit of a surplus and we’re reinvesting it in our local churches, and I’ll explain to you what’s coming up.
Here are our year-end goals. We want to meet budget. We’d like to bring in an additional $2 million surplus for a number of projects. We’re moving Mars Hill Tacoma. They’ve outgrown their setup/tear-down school into a great church, but it needs some renovation. It’ll allow us to grow in the South Sound, and that is a very fast-growing church.
Same for Mars Hill Everett. They recently had their first Sunday in their new building, and we’ve got some construction and work left to do to get that place all tidied up. Same for Mars Hill Olympia, moving into their first permanent home. As well as Mars Hill Huntington Beach—that’ll be a rental. The others are all purchases, but long-term homes as our church family is growing. We want to be good stewards, get into new buildings.
Here’s what’s cool: the cost of ownership is lower than the cost of renting, so it’s actually a great investment for us as well. And these churches have given generously, but the rest of the family needs to kick in to sort of get them over the finish line and into those new homes.
And also we’re opening Mars Hill Phoenix, so that’ll be our fifteenth church in our fifth state. All of these officially open, all 5, January 12th. Huge day, huge day. On that day, we start the book of James, we kick off our new year, and I think, in God’s providence, we could grow by 2,000 people next year by opening up and adding these churches.
We’re also increasing our Mars Hill Global church planting giving to 73 churches. What that means is 73 church planters in Ethiopia and India. You are paying their salary, you are feeding their family, you are funding their ministry, 73 church planters, and we’re increasing that this year, so thank you for joining us. And to get us ready—you can clap if you want. We need to pray, right? Because if our hearts are right, everything else will get right.
Before we figure out what to give and where to serve, we’ve got to make sure that our hearts are right before the Lord. And so we’re going to begin on December 1st, 40 Days of Prayer across all of our churches. And you’re going to get a list of things to pray for every day. And if your health allows you, we’re going to have the final week be a week of fasting. And then we’re going to meet in all of our churches for a night of worship, prayer, and fasting to begin the new year by committing ourselves in our year to the Lord.
Mars Hill, I am convinced, utterly convinced that we are poised for the biggest year we’ve ever had. And we’ve got some great leaders, and I’ve got a great honor today of sharing some of them with you. I want you to see who we’re talking about, and what they’re doing, and where they’re leading. We’ve pulled up their giving. They’re all giving, OK? They’re all serving, they’re all working, they’re all caring, they’re all trying. And you are helping them by giving generously and praying faithfully.
So as we transition our time, I want you to see what God is doing, and I want you to be excited.
Pastor Sutton: Howdy Mars Hill Church, this is Pastor Sutton. I’m here with my family. My wife, Marcy, my daughter, Grace, my daughter, Faye, and Joe Joe. We’re just here to say thank you for being a part of the extended family of Mars Hill Global.
Jesus has done some crazy, awesome things through Mars Hill Global this last year. As you guys know, we support church planters and evangelists in Ethiopia and India. This last 12 months, we’ve supported 20 evangelists in Ethiopia. They preach the gospel to 11,000 people and 890 people have been saved, so it’s just pretty amazing. And in India, as a partnership with Arjuna and Vision Nationals, we’ve planted over 53 churches. And next year, what’s super exciting is is that our 43 church planters and evangelists are going to grow to 73.
I just ask that you guys continue to pray and continue to give to Mars Hill and to Mars Hill Global. And I just pray that through Mars Hill Church, that legacies will be transformed, changed by Jesus, not only in the United States, but in Ethiopia and in India. Thank you.
Pastor Bubba: Pastor Bubba here with my wife, Shelly, our son, Jones, and our son, Jackson, and we are in Tacoma, Washington, where the need is great. There are over a million people in this area who’ve yet to meet Jesus. And I say yet because we are planting Mars Hill Tacoma in the area to be a regional church to reach multiple cities. And we would ask, be praying for us. Pray for more leaders. We need 10 more pastors, 60 more Community Groups. As well, we would ask to be praying for conversions, that people would meet Jesus, that Jesus would save people. I’m praying for 200 baptisms in 2014.
So we just want to say thank you. Thank you for praying, thank you for giving, thank you for helping build the legacy in Tacoma.
Pastor Ryan Welsh: Hey, Mars Hill. Pastor Ryan here from Phoenix. This is my family, my wife, Kate, our daughter Ella, and our Son, Liam. We are standing in our building. It’s an art gallery. It’s in downtown Phoenix. It’s a really cool place to meet, and we’re really excited to be here. We have over 4 million people that live in the surrounding areas of downtown Phoenix, and a lot of them don’t know Jesus, so we have an amazing opportunity to invite people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So far, we’ve already been very blessed here in Phoenix, where our first quarter gathering a few weeks ago, we had 386 people come. And then this last week, we launched our first 14 Community Groups, and we had nearly 100 people show up to our first week of Community. So, God’s do amazing things, but we need for our public launch on January 12th, we need a lot more leaders. We need more production help, more kids volunteers, more security, more Community Group leaders. So please be praying for that as we head towards our public launch. Thank you for praying, thank you for giving as we live for a legacy here in Phoenix.
Pastor Ryan Williams: Hey, Mars Hill. Pastor Ryan here. This is my awesome wife, Natasha, and we are standing in the auditorium of Mars Hill Church Everett, the armory. This is about to be transformed into the place where we’re going to have about 700 seats available for people to come and hear the gospel of Jesus proclaimed in the heart of Everett. We are super excited about being here. We have been given such an amazing opportunity right in the heart of Everett to minister to this city and to this county. We trust that Jesus is going to continue doing what he’s been doing for the last 2,000 years, building his church.
So we want to invite you guys to pray for us. We need tons of volunteers. We’ve had so many new people come to our church already. We’ve outgrown our old space. We’re about to move into this new space. So, would you guys pray that more volunteers would come here, that they’d get involved? We believe that this building is going to stand for over 100 more years, and we believe that legacies are going to be changed here by Jesus for his glory, and that families, generation after generation of families, are going to worship Jesus right in this space, that their hearts are going to be changed, and that thousands of people are going to be baptized for God’s glory.
Pastor Mark: Howdy, Pastor Mark here with the family, part of our “Living for a Legacy” series, is letting you know what’s coming up this summer. We’ve got something brand-new and super cool. We’re calling it the Jesus Festival. We’ll pick a nice day, be outside. We’re going to have bouncy houses for kids, lots of fun stuff. We’re also going to do baptisms, and preaching, and music at Marymoor Park. All the Mars Hill churches are welcome. We want to see you all there.
We started the church 17 years ago. We didn’t have any kids. Ashley was one of the first kids born, and now that first generation is getting ready for college, so it’s time for us to get ready to help them get ready for their future. So, fully accredited undergraduate and graduate Bible-based, Jesus-focused education through Mars Hill. The credits will be able to transfer to other universities. Both institutions are accredited. We’re excited about that, and with 3,000 kids ages 10 and under, we’ve got to get ready for the future leaders. And the Driscoll family wants to give the church family a very merry Christmas.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.