Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciples are not above their master. Following Christ means ‘passio passiva’, suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luther reckoned suffering among the marks of the true church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the church as the community of those ‘who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel’s sake.’ If we refuse to take up our cross and submit to suffering and rejection at human hands, we forfeit our community with Christ and have ceased to follow him. But if we lose our lives in his service and carry our cross, we shall find our lives again in the community of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed of Christ and his cross and all the offense which the cross brings in its train.”
From A Testament to Freedom 314 p 147 ‘A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Why Rock Star Worship Leaders Are Getting Fired
April 24, 2023
Some megachurches have been hiring rock star worship leaders (RSWLs) and are finding out they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. A megachurch is a unique breeding ground for a RSWL—he probably couldn’t survive in a smaller ministry. A typical church music director is a busy guy or girl who schedules volunteers, conducts rehearsals, writes charts, arranges music, and plans Christmas and Easter events. Some megachurch rock star worship leaders surprisingly can’t even read music, let alone create a chord chart.
So why are they hired?
hey often don’t have musical training or organization skills, but they look and sound good on stage. This will blow some of your minds — I know of one rock star worship leader who makes about 100K a year by going to a weekly staff meeting and picking out six songs for the praise set. That’s it. He has a full staff who does his work for him—making charts and tracks, scheduling volunteers, and even leading rehearsals. This type of RSWL could only exist at a megachurch—he’d be helpless if he had to do everything himself in a smaller ministry.
Why Rock Star Worship Leaders Are Getting Fired
The RSWL unfortunately tends to inherit bad habits from his secular counterparts.
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A famous rock star making millions from his music can afford to be self-absorbed and narcissistic—it even enhances his mystique. Narcissism doesn’t go over so well in a church, and people start resenting the guy. A Google search on the subject showed me it’s a growing topic among fed-up churchgoers.
Here are some thoughts I found on a blog by a disgusted person about their RSWL that sum up what congregations are thinking:
Worship leaders are like reality TV stars: They’re regular people with a disproportionate sense of self because people are looking at them. They’re rock stars without the fame or talent … or money (all things that redeem rock star behavior). But ultimately, it’s the disparity that kills me. So many of them are spiritually/emotionally/socially immature, but just because they can sing, they’re placed on this ridiculous pedestal.
One megachurch claims their narcissistic RSWL is to blame for an attendance drop of almost one-third (at least until they fired the guy—attendance is on the way up again).
One RSWL candidly told me he approaches ministry much like a CEO runs a company—you never fraternize with your employees (i.e., hang out with your praise band members after rehearsal when they all go out for pizza).
I could go on and on with rock star worship leader horror stories (I know a lot of churches), so it was no surprise that over the past few months I’ve started noticing a rash of RSWL firings in the megachurch world. (In polite company, this is referred to as, “We’ve decided to part ways due to philosophical differences.”)
In most cases, it looks like the RSWL’s shenanigans have come to a head and the church has said “enough.”
My suspicions of this firing trend were recently confirmed.
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A friend of mine is using a church job-placement agency to find a worship leader position for himself. The representative mentioned they’ve never had so many worship leader job openings. When asked why, the representative explained that churches are finding the performance worship leader thing isn’t working out so well. It seems congregations are tired of being performed to instead of led in worship.
The job my friend found is with a megachurch who just fired their own RSWL. This guy hopped around stage during worship, trying to drum up enthusiasm like any good rock star would in concert. As my friend looked at the rock star worship leaders set list from the past six weeks, he noticed not a single song was repeated. Typical RSWL behavior—they’re performing worship songs, not leading them.
One big reason my friend’s church fired their rock star worship leader was that they were concerned their congregation wasn’t worshipping during the music. Of course they weren’t—they didn’t know any of the songs!
Bottom Line: If you’re interested in a full-time worship leading job at a megachurch, now may be a great time to start looking. If a church was willing to pay 100K a year for someone who simply smiled, sang and strummed on Sundays, just think of what they’d pay a down-to-earth and skilled worship leader who knows how to work for a living.
Sunday Listening from Come before Winter Chuck Swindoll pp 116-117
…Dr Ralph Nichols, considered by many to be an authority on the subject [listening], believes that we think four, perhaps five times faster, than we talk. That means that if a speaker utters one hundred twenty words a minute, the audience thinks at about five hundred words a minute. That difference offers a strong temptation to listeners to take mental excursions … to think about last night’s bridge game or tomorrow’s sales report or the need to get that engine tune-up before next weekend’s trip to the mountains … then phase back into the speakers talk…
…there are two crucial ingredients that make it happen. First, the one who speaks must speak well. Second, the one who listens must listen well. Neither is automatic. Both are hard work…
…I’m indebted to Haddon Robinson, a Ph.D in the field of communication, for these four don’ts that are worth remembering.
Don’t assume the subject is dull. When the topic is announced, avoid the habit of thinking, ‘I’ve heard that before’ or ‘This doesn’t apply to me.’ Good listeners believe they can learn something from everyone. Any message will have a fresh insight or a helpful illustration. A keen ear will listen for such.
Don’t criticize before hearing the speaker out. All speakers have faults. If you focus on them, you will miss some profitable points being made. Those who listen well will refuse to waste valuable time concentrating on the negatives. They also refuse to jump to conclusions until the entire talk is complete.
Don’t let your prejudices close your mind. Some subjects are charged with intense emotions. Effective listeners keep an open mind, restraining the tendency to argue or agree until they fully understand the speaker’s position in light of what the Scriptures teach.
Don’t waste the advantage which thought has over speech. Remember the gap between speech-speed and thought-speed? Diligent listeners practice four skills as they mentally occupy themselves:
First, they try to guess the next point.
Second, they challenge supporting evidence.
Third, they mentally summarize what they have heard.
Fourth, they apply the Scripture at each point.
Young Samuel took the advice of Eli the priest…
‘Speak, for thy servant is listening.’
Try that next Sunday. A few seconds before the sermon begins, pray that prayer. You will be amazed how much more you hear when you work hard to listen well.
How the brain learns Gorgy Buzsaki
The following is from Gorgy Buzsaki Scientific American, June 2022 pp 38-42a neuro scientists about aspects of the brain. One part struck me, that its often thought that the brain grows and expands as it learns. Buzsaki seems to be saying that instead, the brain is already pre-programmed. Through our own actions we can mess it up, but instead of the brain being tabula rasa, it looks like God pre-programs how our brain functions, and still leaving it so we can mess it up.
“…Most students were happy with my textbook explanations of the brain’s input-output mechanisms. Yet a minority – the clever ones – always asked a series of awkward questions. ‘Where in the brain does perception?’ ‘What initiates a finger movement before cells in the motor cortex fire?’ I would always dispatch their queries with a simple answer: ‘hat all happens in the neocortex.’ Then I would skillfully change the subject or use a few obscure Latin terms that my students did not really understand but that seemed scientific enough o that my authoritative sounding accounts temporarily satisfied them.
Like other researchers, I began my investigation of the brain without worrying much whether this perception-action theoretical framework was right or wrong I was happy for many years with my own progress and the spectacular discoveries that gradually evolved into what became known in the 1960s as the field of ‘neuroscience.’ Yet my inability to give satisfactory answers to the legitimate questions of my smartest students has haunted me ever since. I had to wrestle with he difficulty of trying to explain something that I didn’t really understand.
Over the years I realized that this frustration was not uniquely my own. Many of my colleagues, whether they admitted it or not, felt the same way. There was a bright side, though, because these frustrations energized my career. They nudged me over the years to develop a perspective tha provides an alternative description of how the brain interacts with the outside world…
…The contrast between outside-in and inside-out approaches becomes most striking when used to explain the mechanisms of learning. A tacit assumption of the blank slate model is that the complexity of the brain grows with the amount of experience. As we learn, the interactions of brain circuits should become increasingly more elaborate. In the inside-out framework, however, experience is not the main source of the brain’s complexity.
Instead the brain organizes itself into a vast repertoire of preformed patterns of firing known as neutonal trajectories. This self-organized brain model [??? -mine, self-organized, how does that happen?] can be likened to a dictionary filled initially with nonsensical words. New experience does not change the way these networks function – their overall activity level, for instance. Learning takes place, rather, through a process of matching the preexisting neuronal trajectories to events in the world.
To understand the matching process, we need to examine the advantages and constraints brain dynamics impose on experience. In its basic version, models of blank slate neuronal networks assume a collection of largely similar randomly connected neurons. The presumption is that brain circuits are highly plastic and that any arbitrary input can alter the activity of neuronal circuits. We can see the fallacy of this approach by considering an example from the field of artificial intelligence. Classical AI research – particularly the branch known as connectionism, the basis for artificial neural networks – adheres to the outside-in, tabula rosa model. This prevailing view was perhaps most explicitly promoted in the 20th century by Alan Turing, the great pioneer of mind modeling: ‘Presumably the child brain is something like a notebook as one buys it from the stationer’s, ‘ he wrote.
Artificial neural networks built to ‘write’ inputs onto a neural circuit often fail because each new input inevitably modifies the circuits connections and dynamics. The circuit is said to exhibit plasticity. But there is a pitfall. While constantly adjusting the connections in its networks when learning, the AI system, at an unpredictable point, can erase all stored memories – a bug known as catastrophic interference, an even a real brain never experiences.
The inside-out model in contrast, suggests that self-organized brain networks should resist such perturbations. Yet they should also exhibit plasticity selectively when needed. The way the brain strikes this balance relates to vast differences in the connection strength of different groups of neurons. Connections among neurons exit on a continuum. Most neurons are only weakly connected to others whereas a smaller subset retains robust links. The strongly connected minority is always on the alert. It fires rapidly, shares information readily within its own group, and stubbornly resists any modifications to the neurons’ circuitry. Because of the multitude of connections and their high communication speeds, these elite subnetworks, sometimes described as a ‘rich club,’ remain well informed about neuronal events throughout the brain.
The hard-working rich club makes up roughly 20 percent of the overall population of neurons, but it is in charge of nearly half of the brain’s activity. In contrast to the rich club, most of the brain’s neurons – the neural ‘poor club’ – tend to fire slowly and are weakly connected to other neurons. But they are also highly plastic and able to physically alter the connections points between neurons, known as synapses.
Both rich and poor clubs are important for maintaining brain dynamics. Members of the ver ready rich club fire similarly in response to diverse experiences. They offer fast, good-enough solutions under most conditions. We can make good guesses about he unknown not because we remember it but because our brains always make a surmise about a new, unfamiliar event. Nothing is completely novel to the brain because it always relates the new to the old. It generalizes. Even an inexperienced brain has a vast reservoir of neuronal trajectories at the ready. Offering opportunities to match events in the world to preexisting brain patterns without requiring substantial reconfiguring of connections. A brain that remakes itself constantly would be unable to adapt quickly to fast changing events in the outside world.
But there also is a critical role for the plastic, slow-firing-rate neurons. These neurons come into play when something of importance to the organism is detected and needs to be recorded for future reference. They then go on to mobilize their vast reserve to capture subtle differences between one thing and another by changing the strength of some connections to other neurons. Children learn the meaning of the word ‘dog’ after seeing various kinds of canines. When a youngster sees a sheep for the first time, they may say ‘dog’. Only when the distinction matters – understanding the difference between a pet and livestock – will they learn to differentiate….
…neurons devote most of their activity to sustaining the brain’s perpetually varying internal states rather than being controlled by stimuli impinging on our senses…”
QUOTABLES: Luther & Prideful Writing
The raising of Lazarus by Ambrose
Why did Jesus call Lazarus by name – “Lazarus, come out” (JOhn 11:42)- when He raised him from the dead? Some way, following Ambrose, replied, ‘If Christ had not called Lazarus by name, He would have emptied the whole graveyard,” But indeed, so He has.
“The Lord … raised not Lazarus alone but the faith of everyone. If you believe what you read, your spirit also, which was dead, revives with Lazarus. For what does it mean that the Lord went to the sepulchre and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’ except that He wouldd give us a visible proof and set out an example of the future resurrection? Why did He cry with a loud voice, as though He were not accustomed to work in the Spirit and to command in silence? He did this only that He might show that which is written: ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … we shall be raised’ (1 Corinthians 15:52). The raising of the voice answers to the sound of trumpets. And He cried, ‘Lazarus, come out,’ Why is the name added, except that one might seem to be raised instead of another, or that the resurrection were rather accidental than commanded? …
…When the power of the divine command was working, nature did not reguire its own functions; brought, as it were, into extremity, it obeyed no longer its own path but the divine will. The bonds of death were burst before those of the grave. The power of moving was exercised before the means of moving were yet supplied.
‘If you are amazed by this, consider who gave the command, so that yo might cease to wonder; Jesus Christ, the power of God, the life, the light, the resurrection of the dead. The power Himself raised him who was lying prostrate, the life Himself produced his steps, the light Himself drove away the darkness and restored his sight, and the -resurrection Himself renewed the gift of life’ (Ambrose, “On the Death of Satyarus, 2. 77-79) quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” p 65 edited by Scott Murray
The Adventures Ahead on the New Earth
Randy Alcorn / March 01, 2023
At 2:30 a.m., on November 19, 2002, I stood on our deck gazing up at the night sky. Above me was the Leonid meteor shower, the finest display of celestial fireworks until the year 2096. For someone who has enjoyed meteor showers since he was a kid, this was the celestial event of a lifetime.
There was only one problem: clouds covered the Oregon sky. Of the hundreds of streaking meteors above me, I couldn’t see a single one. I felt like a blind man being told, “You’re missing the most beautiful sunset of your lifetime. You’ll never be able to see another like it.”
Was I disappointed? Sure. After searching in vain for small cracks in the cloud cover, I went inside and wrote these paragraphs. I’m disappointed, but not disillusioned. Why? Because I did not miss the celestial event of my lifetime.
My lifetime is forever. My residence will be a new universe, with far more spectacular celestial wonders, and I’ll have the ability to look through the clouds or rise above them.
During a spectacular meteor shower a few years earlier, I had stood on our deck watching a clear sky. Part of the fun was hearing oohs and aahs in the distance, from neighbors looking upward. Multiply these oohs and aahs by ten thousand times ten thousand, and it’ll suggest our thunderous response to what our Father will do in the new heavens as we look upward from the New Earth.
Imagine sitting around campfires on the New Earth, wide-eyed at the adventures recounted. Yes, I mean telling real stories around real campfires. Why not? After all, friendship, camaraderie, laughter, stories, and cozy campfires are all good gifts from God.
On the New Earth we may experience adventures that make our current mountain climbs, surfing, skydiving, and upside-down roller coaster rides seem tame. Why do I say this? It’s more than wishful thinking. It’s an argument from design. We take pleasure in exhilarating experiences not because of sin but because God wired us this way. We weren’t made to sit all day in dark rooms, watching actors pretend to live and athletes do what we can’t.
In Heaven, we will be able to do as we wish and go where we wish, never wondering if our wishes are wrong!
Want to see the crossing of the Red Sea? Want to be there when Daniel’s three friends emerge from the fiery furnace? It would be simple for God to open the door to the past. Because God is not limited by time, He may choose to show us past events as if they were presently happening. We may be able to study history from a front-row seat.
Think of friends or family members who loved Jesus and are with Him now. Picture them with you, walking together in this place. All of you have powerful bodies, stronger than those of an Olympic decathlete. You are laughing, playing, talking, and reminiscing. Now you see someone coming toward you. It’s Jesus, with a big smile on his face. You fall to your knees in worship. He pulls you up and embraces you.
At last, you’re with the person you were made for, in the place you were made for. Everywhere you go, there will be new people to meet, including Charles Spurgeon and his friends Charles Stanford and Hugh Stowell Brown. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (11:13-16, NLT).
There will be new places to enjoy, new things to discover. What’s that delicious aroma? A feast? A party’s ahead. And you’re invited.
Here are some further thoughts about our coming adventures on the New Earth:
In the glimpses afforded of [Jesus’] life beyond resurrection we find . . . freedoms even further enhanced. At the physical level he can appear, disappear and then reappear at will (cf. John 20:19, 26; Luke 24:15, 31, 36, 51); at the moral and spiritual level there is a freedom from the awful burden of responsibility for the completion of his mission; at the relational level there is a new freedom to indwell and personally identify with all who belong to him. Such is the promise of the heavenly life—an existence of boundless freedoms.
Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven and Hell
We are partly “Heaven-blind” because the worldview our culture has adopted has made it hard to see supernatural colors.
Daniel Brown, What the Bible Reveals about Heaven
Their souls being on fire with holy love, shall not be like a fire pent up, but like a flame uncovered and at liberty. Their spirits, being winged with love, shall have no weight upon them to hinder their flight. There shall be no lack of strength or activity, nor any lack of words with which to praise the Object of their affection. Nothing shall hinder them from communing with God, and praising and serving Him just as their love inclines them to do.
Jonathan Edwards, Heaven: A World of Love
If it brings glory to God and increases our knowledge of Him, you will indeed be able to engage in some form of time travel.
Larry Dick, A Taste of Heaven
We want to serve God more, but we have to sleep. We want to pray and study the Bible, but we grow weary. In Heaven, bodies will do whatever we want them to do. We will possess boundless energy with which to serve God.
Steven J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us!
Actually, we will do many of the same things in Heaven that we did here on the earth—just perfectly.
Steven J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us!
This voice of joy [in Heaven] is not like our old complaints, our impatient groans and sighs; nor this melodious praise like the scoffs and revilings, or the oaths and curses which we heard on earth. This body is not like that we had, nor this soul like the soul we had, nor this life like the life we lived. We have changed our place and state, our clothes and thoughts, our looks, language and company.
Before, a saint was weak and despised; so proud and peevish we could often scarce discern his graces; but now, how glorious is a saint! …Happy union! Now the Gospel shall no more be dishonored through our folly.
Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest
I haven’t been cheated out of being a complete person—I’m just going through a forty-year delay, and God is with me even through that. Being “glorified”—I know the meaning of that now. It’s the time, after my death here, when I’ll be on my feet dancing.
Joni Eareckson Tada
If Jesus’ resurrected body is a clue, along with accounts of angels appearing to a host of other biblical worthies, I surmise that we will transport ourselves not only across but also through space—and with what by earth standards would seem incredible speed. Anyone who has envied a hawk’s ability to soar or a whale’s to dive can get enthusiastic about heavenly release from present limitations of mobility.
Arthur Roberts, Exploring Heaven
These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else—since He has retained His own charger— should we accompany Him?
C. S. Lewis, Miracles
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
Throughout eternity we will live full, truly human lives, exploring and managing God’s creation to his glory. Fascinating vistas will unfold before us as we learn to serve God in a renewed universe.
Edward Donnelly, Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell
There will be new planets to develop, new principles to discover, new joys to experience. Every moment of eternity will be an adventure of discovery.
Ray C. Stedman, “The City of Glory”
Browse more resources on the topic of Heaven, and see Randy’s related books, including Heaven.
Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash
How we are brought to Jesus
We do not “choose” Jesus, He choses us. It is so pretentious to think that we have anything in us to presume that we could “choose” Jesus. The following is quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” by Scott Murray he is quoting St Augustine in the following pp 52-53.
“When Jesus invites us to come to Him He is not talking about a long journey but about one that is instantaneous. When we believe in Him, we have already come and arrived at the port of our destination. It is not a long and perilous journey as ancient travel was.
We are embarking on a conveyance that means that the price has been paid. Our ship of salvation is none other than the ship of the cross, upon which the Lord directs us to the ultimate safe haven of His love and salvation. All that is hard has been expiated through the cross, on which we now travel in the care of the crucified. The journey means that we are already there. We can only arrive in Christ. If we believe, we are there.”
Augustine: “…Christ said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (John 6:65). Now as to where the Lord said this, if we call to mind the previous words of the Gospel, we shall find that He said, ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44) He did not lead, but He draws. This violence is done to the heart, not to the body. Why then do you marvel? Believe, and you come. Love, and you are drawn. Do not suppose here any rough and uneasy violence. It is gentle; it is sweet. It is the very sweetness that draws you. Is not a hungry sheep drawn when fresh grass is shown to it? Yet I imagine that it is not bodily driven on but fast bound by desire. In such a way you, too, come to Christ.
…But inasmuch as even in this kind of voyage, waves and tempests of many trials abound, believe on the Crucified One, so that your faith may be able to ascend the wood of the cross. You will not sink, but you shall rather be borne upon the wood. Thus, even thus, amid the waves of the world did [Paul] sail, who said, ‘But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)
Prayer of repentance Psalm 51
Psalm 51 is a powerful prayer for obtaining the Lord’s forgiveness and healing. As we pray this psalm, we can stand before God guilty but unafraid. As we make this prayer of David our own, we are disposing ourselves to receive an abundance of our loving Father’s mercy and compassion.
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guild and of my sin cleanse me.”
Jesus came into the world as our Savior and Redeemer. As we appeal to his mercy and compassion, Jesus is pleased because we are acknowledging him for what he wants to be most – Redeemer and healer.
Our attitude also bespeaks our openness to the transformation he wants to effect within us.
With the tax collector, let us pray: ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)
David Rosage “Rejoice in Me” p 79
Great Insights into stewardship Abby Perry “Something’s got to give” How Holiday Generosity can ease your stress and increase your joy” Christianity Today Dec 2022 pp 80-85
…A OnePoll survey found that 88 percent of Americans feel that the holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Seventy-seven percent find it difficult to relax during the season that purports to be a time of joy and celebration, and well over half use the word ‘chaotic’ to describe the holiday season.
Financial concerns and others’ expectations top the list of holiday stressors for most Americans. Yet by the time November comes around, most households have piles of fundraising letters from ministries and nonprofits that grow each day. Already stretched by the number of gifts they need to purchase and dinners they need to host, some feel as though adding philanthropic giving to their December to do list is simply one task – and one hit to the bank account – too many…
…when Christians think of themselves as merely as potential donors, they see their financial contributions as an act of ‘giving away’ of resources.’ There’s no ongoing relationship with the organization or sense of investment. But the team at Maclellan says that a ‘steward-investor’ concept invites deeper engagement between giver and organization…
…Rather than experiencing them as yet another obligation or guilt inducing to do item, a steward investor mindset invites Christians to think wisely and intentionally about which ministries or organizations to support, as well as what it might look like to give generously and with a sense of lasting impact…
…The experts at Stewardship Legacy Coaching recommend taking inventory of one’s finances at the end of each year, looking for places where stewardship could be increased and more intentional giving could be practiced…
…The thought of giving at the end of the year may seem stressful or anxiety inducing, but research shows that generosity actually improves mental health in several ways. Scientists at the University of Oregon have conducted scans that show the pleasure-related reward centers activating when people decide to donate money to a cause they believe to be good. Additionally, participants in a joint study from the University of Lubeck, Northwestern University and University of Zurich who pledged to spend money on others over the next four weeks exhibited brain activity while making that decision that predicted an increase in their happiness.
Giving also has positive effects on hormones and other neurological functions. For example, donating releases oxytocin, the hormone that is most often associate with feelings of love and connection to others. Individuals also experience the release of serotonin, the mood stabilizing hormone, when they give, as well as dopamine, the feel good transmitter.
Between activating the brain’s reward center and initiating the release of positive hormones, acts of generosity can become habit forming as givers want to repeatedly experience those positive feelings. Such a routine is a win-win for all involved: organizations can count on regular support from a reliable giver, and the giver enjoys less stress and increased happiness during a busy time of year.
In addition to the brain boost, people who give report higher life satisfaction than those who do not, and, according to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, generosity is associated with workplace benefits, such as a lower risk of job burnout. In an era rife with mental health struggles and skyrocketing rates of mental illness acts of generosity can lessen depression and produce a sense of meaning and purpose.
Generous behaviors also seem to reveal connections between mental and physical health. For example, giving is linked to physiological benefits like lower blood pressure and successful recovery from coronary related health events. Researchers at the University of Michigan have even found that generosity seems to increase one’s lifespan: Individuals who did not provide support to others were more than twice as likely to die in the next five years than people who gave support.
And, perhaps most fitting for all of the holiday campaigns funneling through our mailboxes and inboxes, Jill Foley Turner at the National Christian Foundation shares research from the American Psychological Association that indicates generous people have a higher likelihood of experiencing the feeling of awe or wonder. These givers ae likely to feel small, but not in a negative way – instead, in the way that one might feel small beholding a starlit night sky or the ocean as it meets the horizon. In other words, when people give, they are invited to remember who they are in light of an immense God and to participate however they can in reflecting His goodness. What better time to reflect on our smallness than the Christmas season, when we celebrate the arrival of God as an infant: tiny and infinite at once…
…SRG managing partner Paul Schultheis and fellow members note that giving collaboratively has several positive outcomes for the givers. These benefits include a stronger approach to vetting organizations, the opportunity to take on large projects, and a variety of gifts and skills brought to the table by a diverse group of donors. Collaborative giving allows people of various financial means and availability to join together in making a difference – perhaps one person can write a large check while someone else has the time in their schedule to serve as a liaison with the designated ministry…
… Parents can help their children research organizations and choose one to support, for example, or participate in an endeavor like the Salvation Army Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts to children who otherwise may not receive any…
…’whoever sows generously will also reap generously’ (2Cor 9:6), giving during the Christmas season is a powerful way for believers to experience the goodness of God while simultaneously ushering it into the lives of others. As the angels brought tidings of great joy at the birth of Christ, so can we bring tidings of great joy to organizations and ministries carrying out God’s work in the world and to our own hearts, as well.”