What is your why?
by Rev. Stacy Emerson
A few years ago, Simon Sinek led a TedTalk called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” One of his critical points is this: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sounds simple enough, but the truth is that most of us, including most of our churches, operate from a place of what we do not why we do it. We have a good music program. We offer a multitude of educational opportunities. We go on mission trips. Come and join us! Look at how we discuss our budgets and the same is true—we need you to give to help us pay our bills, keep our staff, fund our ministry. But really what people are inspired by and motivated by—and respond to—is why we do it. The critical question facing churches in the 21st century is do you know your Why? Beyond the Great Commission we all share, why does your unique and particular church exist? What would be missing in your community without you? Again, sounds simple enough, but discerning our Why is harder than it seems. So start with you. Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you go off to work or school? Why do you go to church? Why does it all matter?
And as you start praying and listening for God to help you answer…go deeper. Go deep enough to touch the grace-filled imagination of God and when you reach that sweet spot, you’ll know. You will start to change. Your church will start to change. The Spirit will flow and people will respond. Not because of what you do, but because of why you do it. What does this have to do with generosity? Everything. Generosity works and transforms the world because of our why more than our what or how. We can give money and time, but when it is given out of our deep why, we connect with God’s work in the world which is more than good works, it is transforming, healing, and revolutionizing.
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Facilitator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.