F A Q
Why is it called the Whole Life Offering?
The goal we are reaching for is full maturity in the likeness of Christ. It requires that we lay down our bodies –our entire existence – as a worship offering to God in response to the mercy that he has freely given (see Romans 12:1-2). The Whole Life Offering is designed, both theologically and practically, to do just that.
How did you develop the list of the Works of Mercy and Works of Piety?
Several streams of Christian tradition have their own lists, often based on particular needs of their time. To develop those that compose the Whole Life Offering, attention was given to the various lists in existence, as well as the teaching of Scripture itself, to identify the major Biblical causes we are each called to and the ways Scripture says we receive God’s mercy.
Is the Whole Life Offering tied to any denomination?
No. With the content being derived from Scripture and various streams of Christian tradition, it can be used and applied in any number of denominations. However, due to Rev. Foley’s conviction that pastors and churches exist within an accountability structure and his own love of the Wesleyan movement, he is ordained through The Evangelical Church.
Are there study materials available for use with the Whole Life Offering book?
They are in the works! We hope to have them available in late 2011 or early 2012.
Can I purchase Whole Life Offering books wholesale or in bulk?
Bulk Pricing: The Whole Life Offering can be purchased for $23.99 (20% discount) per book, plus shipping, when ordering a minimum of fifty books. Orders must be placed directly with .W Publishing. Please contact .W Publishing at email@example.com for more information.
Wholesale Pricing: Retailers may purchase The Whole Life Offering for $19.99 per book, plus shipping, when ordering a minimum of one hundred books. Please contact .W Publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Can my church use the Whole Life Offering as our small group curriculum?
Yes! While we haven’t yet developed curriculum tools to go along with The Whole Life Offering, we praise God any time he puts it to use in a church. And if you want to let us know how you’re using it and what God does as a result, we’d love to hear it!
Most of us think philanthropy is just something to help millionaires keep their taxes lower. Is it really a biblical concept?
Absolutely! But not at all the way the word is popularly used today. Here’s the ten-second version of what I say in the book: The term “philanthropy” was not created to describe acts of kindness and charity from one human being to another. Instead, it was created in the 5th century B.C. to describe acts of kindness and charity from a god—Prometheus, actually—toward human beings. So the term was first used in Greek mythology, but before long, the church got a hold of it. Paul uses it in Titus 3:4, for example, to denote God’s deep love toward humanity in Christ. In other words, philanthropy is not primarily something we give, it is something we receive. It is only after we receive God’s “friendship-love”—that’s what “philanthropy” literally means—that we can mirror it into the world, which we do as an offering back to God.
How do you balance specially designed gifts/talents from God with this “new” viewpoint of offering your whole life?
Here's the amazing thing: The idea of Christian service being built on specially designed gifts/talents from God is actually the "new" viewpoint! The vision of the New Testament, on the other hand, is believers growing comprehensively to look more and more like Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gospels don't portray Jesus administering a gifts test to his disciples and dividing up the labor according to their gifts. Instead, Jesus trains his disciples by living with them and having them to do all of the same things he did--healing, proclaiming, sharing bread, opening their homes, throwing banquets, and so on. These weren't preliminary activities designed to help them discover one or two ways to focus on serving him. Doing all the activities - grounded in the inward spiritual disciplines like prayer, scripture study, worship, and doing it on an ongoing basis - is how Jesus portrayed normal Christian life.
What we're in danger of today is Christian specialists who have not learned to be generalists. Biblically, specialized callings are never to preclude general growth to fullness in Christ. Christians are never called, for example, to focus on proclaiming the Gospel or sharing bread with the poor while neglecting to forgive and reconcile with those who have sinned against them. Christians are called to “in all things grow up into him who is the Head” (Ephesians 4:15). When they reflect only a part of what they see, they portray to the world a house-of-mirrors-Christ, grotesquely distorted. The distortion is not overcome when Christian specialists clump together like doctors in a practice. Clumps do not produce an accurate portrait of Christ so much as they produce a confusing array of distorted mirrors, with an aspect of Christ’s whole life offering exaggerated in each one.
So in The Whole Life Offering I talk about how mature Christians are called to train less mature believers to embody comprehensiveness and proportionality in their re-presentation of Christ. In one’s whole life offering, bread is shared with the poor, the Gospel is proclaimed, and families are reconciled—along with the other acts of service—in each Christian life. Each is equally present in the life of the Christian-as-philanthropist, because Christ himself was a generalist, not a specialist.
What role does passion play in determining what God wants one to focus on?
Our passion and focus needs to be on experiencing the fullness of Christ's love for us and for mirroring the fullness of Christ to all we meet, rather than finding the one or two things we think we should be doing. Otherwise, what we're presenting to folks is our passion, not our Christ. We live in a day where division of labor is such a natural part of everyday life that we can't fathom the idea of Christ really calling us and equipping us to grow into a full representation of him, rather than a one pixel part of a wider image. Christians sometimes cite Paul’s analogy of the body (see 1 Corinthians 12) as justification for focusing on one or two areas of service while neglecting the remainder. They think of themselves as an eye and not a foot—a minister to the homeless but not a proclaimer of the Gospel, for example—and assume that Christ somehow mystically stitches all of the disjointed pieces into a gorgeous physique. But contemporary biology demonstrates that even a single eye cell contains the DNA necessary and sufficient to reproduce not only the foot but the whole body. Ministry “specialists” who are unable to reproduce the whole of Christ’s body are cancer cells, fostering unhealthy growth and distortion in the proper functioning of the body.
Jesus told us to “sell all you have” and give it away. Is that wise?
It’s wisdom personified. The rich young ruler thinks in terms of his receiving an inheritance—“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”–and Jesus responds in terms of his becoming the philanthropy of God dispensed to the world in Christ’s name. As Jesus notes, it is not a one-time act but rather a daily choice one makes. The rich young ruler rightly perceives this as a threat to his system of personal security which says that he can only care for others once his own wellbeing is secured. But in Christ, our wellbeing is never in question. He will always empty himself into us. And the more deeply we become conscious of that reality, the more we will respond by emptying ourselves into others. The security comes from Christ’s constant self-emptying into us, rather than from what we don’t empty into others. We cannot take up a cross and a little bit of self-fulfillment daily. We have to decide that Christ is going to continue to empty himself into us or he’s not.
What does it mean to participate in "every work Scripture calls believers to?" What does that look like?
"Discipleship" is the best word for it! Simply put, it looks like normal, everyday Christians willingly undertaking a process of intentional growth by the power of the Holy Spirit under the mentoring of more mature believers, in order that their lives may gradually come to look more like Jesus’. When we hear something like "every work Scripture calls believers to," our first response is to think, "How is that possible? There must be hundreds of things the Scripture calls believers to!" But from the early church on through the Protestant Reformers, the consensus of church history is that there are around ten different ways the Bible calls us to love our neighbor--like doing good to our enemies, sharing our bread with the poor, opening our homes, and so on--and about seven different ways the Bible gives us to grow in our love for God--like searching the scripture, prayer, worship, self-denial, and so forth. Martin Luther's list and John Wesley's list were a little different, but they all had lists. It's just that in our day we neglect this because we're all about specialization and professionalization. Certain functions that the church and ordinary Christians used to do are now outsourced to Christian nonprofits. It's as if we say, "Don't try this at home! Leave it to the paid professionals!" And the result is that we only participate in the works we like and understand, and we get stuck in our immaturity rather than growing to fullness in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
How does one's calling fit into their whole life offering?
Calling is at the heart of The Whole Life Offering, but biblically it means something very different than "specialization," which is the way the church often uses the term today. Deitrich Bonhoeffer said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." That's the Bible's idea of calling--developing each of the areas of our life, laying the whole thing down on the altar of the world, sanctified by the blood of Christ. It's not about discerning a particular career path to take or what ministry project to sign up for. Biblically, the idea is this: over time the Holy Spirit is going to guide us through all the different areas of service and growth so that the world can see God regardless of what career we're in. Calling is always a matter of dying to oneself (with all of its passions and preferences) and living unto Christ in each nook and cranny of outward service and inward spiritual development.
Can you explain what you mean when you say, “But individual aspects of Christ’s philanthropy – especially when they are professionalized and lifted out of the context of a community that is being fully formed in Christ – reflects Christ about as well as the shards of a shattered mirror.”? (p. 16)
The first and most important truth about The Whole Life Offering is that God first loved us. He did good to us when we were his enemies. He shared his bread with us when we had none. He opened his home to us and created this earth to live in--and even a new earth to come. So before we even had the thought to love God or neighbor, God loved us.
When we commit our lives to Christ, we become "mirrors" of that love, showing others how God loved us by loving them in those same ways. We do good to our enemies so that people can learn of the God who does good to his enemies. We share our bread with others so they can come to know of the God who shares his bread with others. In this way we unite the "hearing of the Word," or the internal spiritual disciplines by which we come to know God, with the "doing of the Word," or the ways we mirror God's love to the world. Paul puts it this way in Romans 12:1: "Therefore...present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." This word "worship" in the Greek is latreia, which means worship-as-service or service-as-worship--either way works. Taken together, the point is clear: whatever we've been given by God is what we pass on to others, as a reflection God’s love into the world.
So, when we fail to mirror into the world the fullness of what God has given us, the image of God that we reflect into the world is a distorted one. Whatever it looks like, it isn't the same love that was shown to us.
I’ve heard if I start giving my money to God, he will bless me with more. Is that true?
Well, you’ll be wasting his less, that’s for sure! The apostle Paul says part of God’s curriculum is learning to be content with a lot and learning to be content with a little. Money is neither the great good nor the focus. The focus is on Christ’s whole life offering to us, and on our whole life offering to others. The lilies of the field know that their father will give them the right mix of soil and sunshine and water. They don’t worry about stockpiling one more than the other. They just render their lily lives as their reasonable worship to him, and he always comes through in the end.
We always need to remember this: When we undertake an activity in order to secure eternal rewards or avoid eternal punishments, we are acting out of self-preservation. This is the very root that Christ intends to pluck up and discard. As he says in Luke 9:24, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (NIV).
Should I give to a beggar who comes up to me on the street and asks for money?
We can only ever give ourselves. Money given in Jesus’ name is just the token and pledge that the Christian will withhold no good thing from the one to whom the money is given. So if you are giving money to the beggar to make him go away, you have actually robbed him. God expects us to give the beggar far more because that’s what He does with beggars like us. He gives himself. Having received Him, then, our calling is to give ourselves back to Him on the altar of the world. That’s our reasonable worship. So offer the beggar Christ’s friendship-love, of which your financial giving is gloriously but the smallest part.
What inspired you to write this book? Did you experience this fragmented love yourself?
Did I ever! In my first pastorate twenty-some-odd years ago, I was serving as associate pastor of a large church. One of my responsibilities was overseeing youth. It was easy to see two kinds of kids in the group: one loved Christian music and Bible studies and Christian t-shirts and talking about their faith, but they were wary about putting their faith into action in the world. The other was all about service projects down to the rescue mission and doing home construction, but Bible study and worship just left them uncomfortable or disinterested. And I could see how these two groups grew up into adult Christians who were the same way!
At first I thought, "Well, maybe different people are just wired differently," but as I studied the Bible I found there were no grounds for that kind of dichotomy. Instead, I saw Jesus' words in Matthew 7:24: "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Hear and do! I came to see how those who hear the Word but don't do the Word lack impact, while those who do the Word without having heard it lack power. And my focus (not my calling! My calling--and the calling of every Christian--is to receive fully the love of Christ and to mirror fully that love into the world) has been to help Christians unite the hearing and doing of the Word. That's why I wrote The Whole Life Offering. It lays out a one-year plan for growing closer to fullness in Christ by growing in the ten ways the Bible calls us to love our neighbor (that's the doing of the Word), grounded in the seven ways the Bible calls us to grow in our love for God (that's the hearing of the Word). It's about connecting power and impact in Christ, which are two characteristics often separated today.
What do you hope to accomplish through this book?
We need to call the church back to the biblical vision that each of our callings is to fullness in Christ, not to a particular specialized ministry. My hope is that, by God's grace, ordinary Christians will be reawakened to the fact that not only has God called us to become like Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and the mentoring of mature saints; he has equipped us for this high calling as well. And that's the normal process of discipleship! Full maturity in Christ is the gloriously typical outcome of hearing and doing the Word, by the grace of God and the guidance of our older brothers and sisters. Full maturity in Christ is not a once-in-a-blue-moon "A saint is born" experience! We are each called to it, and we can each experience it. What we need is an intentional process to undertake it, and The Whole Life Offering suggests one such process. By undertaking an intentional, strategic process to make growth to full Christ-likeness normative in our lives, we can expect to see others drawn to Christ by seeing his reflection in us, in our words and deeds, just as we were drawn to Christ by seeing his reflection in others, in their words and deeds. And we can expect to see the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control - become noticeably present in the life of average Christians.
And at the end of the day, I think we'll find that becoming like Christ isn't so mystical after all.