Ross and Britni Chehayeb hadn't surrendered to the weight of Christ's call for cheerful generosity. They had surrendered to the weight of student loans.
Shortly after Ross and Britni were married, they pursued a desire to live in obedience and volunteered to become Home Group leaders. But while growing in their new leadership role, the Chehayebs struggled with financial giving. Neither had given a dollar to the church since becoming a Covenant Members years ago.
"For me, [giving] was just not that big of a deal," said Ross. "I was kind of just thinking in my head, I know I should want to or should give, but I’ve got a lot of student loans and when I get to a better place financially, then I’ll give."
Ross and Britni scrapped together an informal budget with a simple goal—to not be poor.
"It wasn't on my radar that any of this belonged to the Lord," said Britni. "We never saw others as part of the equation."
That perspective changed when Ross and Britni sat alongside their fellow Home Group leaders in a December meeting. Church leadership was introducing a plan to possibly transition the Denton campus into an autonomous church.
Matt Chandler had been leading an Acts sermon series, and Home Groups were studying Acts at their weekly gatherings in addition to Sunday mornings. The series painted a picture of a selfless, reproducing, self-sustaining church that only existed because of its members' open-handed approach to day-to-day life.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Acts 2:44-45
The Chehayebs realized how tight their grip had been on their finances.
"That's when it hit me and really convicted me," Ross said of the meeting. "This is my church. I can't depend on other campuses to provide for me. I felt convicted to change."
A week later, Ross signed up for online giving, and Britni slipped her first envelope into the collection box at the back of the sanctuary.
"This is Denton. This is your city and your people," said Britni. "Seeing the building and all the faces, it was like 'Whoa, where have we been?' The people walking alongside us are our family."
This realization brought with it the weight of necessary confession to their Home Group, not just because they hadn’t been giving, but because of what was going on at a deeper level within their hearts.They were being led to sacrifice more than just a portion of their paychecks.
"God showed me how pathetic my excuses were and how self-centered I was being," said Ross.
Britni reflected on a memory as a young girl. Her mother bought her a slushy and later asked for a sip. Britni had thrown a fit and refused.
She realized that she had the same attitude with the gifts God had so generously given her and Ross. "I had to pray and seek out what in my heart was so hostile to the idea that the Lord required more," Britni said. "There had been a veil and an entitlement."
Change was necessary. Ross and Britni became more disciplined with their budget and cut back in several areas, all while trying to remember the true motivation for their giving and obedience.
"It’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to say 'I want to do this now,' and not be able to," Britni said. "You’ve really got to make a change to your life and the way you live."
It got even harder when Ross' job changed, and the couple's income took a hit shortly after deciding to start giving regularly to the church.
"We are by no means a success story. We haven’t been successful at giving to the church at every opportunity since then," Ross said. "It's a lot like growing spiritually. It's a constant struggle."
The Chehayebs’ story reminds us to answer God's call to obedience in all aspects of life and examine what can be learned about our own hearts and the person of Christ through eager submission to His commands.
"When you’ve committed to the Lord, it draws out your obedience," says Britni. "It’s grace. It’s very similar to worship, singing or praying out of joy and sadness."