Pay It Forward

District Fellowship News

September, October 2007

National youth convention is over. Twelve thousand teens and leaders swarmed into Indianapolis for the Fine Arts Festival, AIM Outreach and of course, the Convention services. On the last afternoon as everyone was preparing to go home Jeanne Mayo reminded us of a phrase taken from the movie of the same name—”Pay It Forward” , and then she proceeded to challenge us to do just that—pay it forward. I don’t want to recap her whole message, but I did want to share a couple of thoughts that were brought to mind during the service. For those of you who may not be familiar with the book or movie, the concept basically revolved around a twelve year old boy whose teacher challenged each student in his class to come up with an idea that would change the world and present it as a class project. This young boy’s idea involved finding three people that you would get to know enough to find something you could do for them that would help them. Once you helped them, instead of paying you back for the “favor” you did, they were supposed to find three others who they would help thus paying it forward. Each person would not look for what they could gain by doing someone a favor and expecting to get something in return, but instead they would give freely and only ask that the recipient of their favor would share with someone else.

Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Wow, if you find three people to help, and they each find three people, and then they find three people, the pyramid that would be built would soon involve hundreds and then thousands of people and would increase geometrically with each new level. Of course if this was followed through to the end it would change the world. But the unfortunate part of this whole concept is that really it describes the process that Jesus taught his disciples in sharing their lives with others. Those who should be best at paying it forward are the followers of Christ because it should be in their DNA. Just look for a moment at the plan of salvation. Jesus wasn’t looking for you to pay him back for his sacrifice. As a matter of fact you could never pay him back, but you could pay it forward. Jesus actually designed it that way. He said you will be my witnesses, you will share the good news, you will be my representatives, my ambassadors on earth. You first receive God’s salvation and then you share that with others. You don’t get anything back for sharing with others the way to salvation. There have been some who have tried to profit from God’s gift, asking for payment to guarantee salvation, trying to collect some benefit for themselves, but that is not God’s plan. He shared with you, you share with others.

This doesn’t just apply to salvation. It applies to possessions and treasures. It applies to wisdom and knowledge. It is a basic principle of God’s economy. God gives to you, and you share with others. And when you share you don’t expect return, you expect the recipient to invest in others. I know it is hard sometimes to wrap our minds around God’s principles but we must be intentional about searching for His way and ignoring many of the ideas and concepts we see in the world. Selfishness doesn’t really have a place in God’s Kingdom. We don’t try to hold unto salvation just for ourselves, we don’t make a mystery out of God’s truth that only a few can ever know, and we don’t hoard things unto ourselves so that we thrive and others barely survive. Look for someone to share with, someone that you can be a Christian example to, someone you don’t expect to receive payback from, and my suggestion might be to start by looking at your family and moving out from there.

When students and adults left Indianapolis after General Council and National Youth Convention they were challenged to pay it forward, not because of a movie, but because it fits God’s parameters. Don’t look for what others can do for you (or what they’ll do for you after you do something for them) but just look for what others need and how you can meet that need. The first thing that everyone needs is to hear the truth about a living God who came to give His life for them, and then you can go on from there. If every student who is now home from National Youth Convention shared his or her faith to just three other students and then they shared with three others and they shared with three others and they shared with three more that would total over 1,000,000 students and adults who would have heard the good news. Now that would impact the nation. How about you? Are you looking for what you get back or are you looking for others to “pay it forward”?