The Way of Generosity: Receiving Hope and Giving Hope

July 14, 2020
An interview with Danny Stokes of Crosstimbers Church.  

Recently, GenerousChurch writer, Lou Huesmann, interviewed Pastor Danny Stokes, Pastor at Crosstimbers Church in Argyle, Texas, about their “out of the box” thinking on ministry outreach and whole-life generosity during the pandemic.

Watch this long-form interview and hear how they have tried to follow the Lord’s direction and pivot to new ways of reaching people for Jesus Christ:

Here's an edited transcript from the interview: 

The history of Crosstimbers Church in Argyle, Texas was launched in 1999 in the Li’l Dudes Ranch and Resort—a local bar—in an effort to reach people who would never attend a traditional Sunday church service. Recently, when faced with the national shutdown experienced by churches, God led them to make a significant and creative pivot as a church. As a result, they are blessing thousands with hope and generosity. Pastor Danny Stokes was interviewed to describe this recent chapter of ministry.

Tell me about this recent pivot you’ve made as a church.

Danny: We’ve had a dream for the last year to have a ministry center where we are meeting practical needs in the community in the name of Christ. We’ve had that at the back of our minds for a while. When the pandemic hit, we converted all our Sunday type ministry at the Argyle campus to a digital platform and turned our Denton campus to The Hope Center.

What was involved in that conversion of Denton into the Hope Center?

Danny: Let me back up and tell you about what happened with the pandemic because that will give you a little more of the story. About two or three days in—when we realized what would be happening out in the community because of the pandemic—the lead pastor [Toby Slough] said, “Man, I feel like I have as clear a vision for this as I’ve ever had for any ministry we’ve ever done. We’re not going to just hold on until we can open the doors again and hope everything works out. God just made it crystal clear to me that the church is never going to go back to the way it was before. We are going to see this as an opportunity instead of a distraction or something we have to hold onto.”  He read Romans 15:13 to us:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

He then said, “Here’s what we are going to be about: we’re going to be about receiving hope and giving hope.” And that has become our new strategy. It all comes out of this verse – that we are going to get so full of hope in Christ that it then overflows into our lives and everything else we do. So we built a strategy around that.

How has that worked itself out in practice?

Danny: For the first half of the day—say from 7:00 AM until noon—we do the receiving hope part through an online platform. We pour into our people in various formats in the morning.

Toby does a devotional every morning to bring hope to people. Sometimes we do a worship set, or a teaching, or interviews with counselors at our healing ministry on how to handle depression and anxiety in this pandemic. Because I’m responsible for generosity and stewardship, I’ve done interviews with finance people on what to do when you’re losing hours or have lost your job.

Then—in the afternoon—we shift and say, “Now that you’ve received hope all morning, we’re now asking you to turn it into offering hope to the people and community you’re in contact with.”

We have a Difference-Maker mission where we challenge people, for example, to make a yard sign to bless people in your neighborhood or send your neighbor an online digital gift card to Chili’s. Every day there is a different mission to bring hope to their neighborhood, to not see this as “Hey, I’m stuck in my house all day,” but rather as a way for people to pastor their neighborhood.

What does it look like for people to pastor their neighborhood?

Danny: There’s story after story from people like Jerry, who is doing church in his driveway once or twice a week. There was a guy in his neighborhood who had terminal cancer and he was able to walk with him through the remaining days of his life. He has another neighbor who has diabetes and she can’t travel to get her medicine. He goes to Walmart to get her medicine and deliver it to her. We’ve done yard sign contests. We’ve done gift cards. For Father’s Day at the Argyle campus we’re putting together Father’s Day packets for people to just drive through and pick up. It includes communion cups for dads to lead their families through communion, along with a devotional, a movie gift card for their family, and some free resources to encourage them.

Our lead pastor, Toby, has a passion for smoking meats. He’s perfected the process and has turned it into a cooking show on Facebook and YouTube called “Cooking with Tob”. He cooks outside the front of our Hope Center and the message he’s giving is “God has wired us with all kinds of passions. Don’t see the pandemic as a limitation. Look at me – I’m taking my passion for smoking meat and we’ll pass this meat out to people who don’t have meals in our community.”  Every evening you can drive through our campus and get a meal. On Thursday nights we have smoked meat!

We’ve also done Feed the City where 15 teams are in a rib-smoking contest. You agree to smoke four extra racks to help feed the city on Saturday. They smoke the ribs all day long and we end up with 500-600 racks of ribs. The next day the serve-team volunteers cut up those ribs, and put them in bags with coleslaw and chips. We’ve given out probably 2000 meals to our community.

On Wednesdays we have Heroes for Heroes. Serve teams come to the Hope Center to provide a free lunch to people involved in essential services. We take meals to hospital staff, government buildings, and to teachers.

These are the initiatives coming out of the Hope Center right now. We’re the busiest we’ve ever been. And we’re building relationships with tons of people in our communities.

It’s obvious that this kind of clarity has really inspired your people. It’s simple, it’s clear, and it becomes very tangible for people. How might this also be sustainable?

Danny: As we look in the future, we see three opportunities for people to engage in “church” with us. One way is in the traditional Sunday format. If you’re used to coming to church on Sunday, then when we reopen the doors, it’s going to look like a traditional service just as it always has.  

The second opportunity is to engage with us digitally – you don’t have to show up to a building anymore. We’ve converted everything to an online digital experience and you can watch on YouTube, Facebook, or on Church Online. That particular content is not going to be the same as what you would get at the traditional Sunday service. It’s going to be more tailored for an online type of experience. Things will move a little more quickly, the message will be fifteen minutes instead of thirty, and there will be discussion questions for engaging in a live setting with pastors.

Our third opportunity is designed to reach a lot of people who would never step foot in a church building but who might be really interested in engaging in our mission. We’re hoping to see many people join us in this mission at the Hope Center. And we are going to consider that “church.” We’re telling people, “If you roll up your sleeves and serve through Feed the City, Cooking with Tob, or the weeknight food distribution, you’re going to get to know people and that’s going to be your church experience.”

So, we’re seeing the possibility of sustainability in three ways: traditional church, online church and the Hope Center.

How do you see this dovetailing into your desire to disciple people into whole life-generosity?

Danny: People are seeing the kind of ministry that we’re doing through the Hope Center, Feed the City and the distribution of meal packs. As we highlight that online, people are getting excited about it and giving because they’re seeing a direct result of their giving.

Your people are really catching a vision for embodied generosity, not just the financial element. Is that something that’s new or is that the culmination of a lot of previous work that you’ve done in that area?

Danny: When we started consulting with GenerousChurch a few years ago, we really had our eyes opened to that idea of whole-life generosity. We were doing it but not in any kind of systematic way. We had people leading small groups and serving in the community but everyone wasn’t on the same page. The GenerousChurch consulting process helped us see generosity holistically. While that set the stage several years ago, the pandemic has really pushed us forward. For example, the 15 guys who smoked meat all day saw that as their ministry. We would never have been able to tap into that target audience if we didn’t have this opportunity in the pandemic to feed people. We’re finding all kinds of new ways to engage people in ministry that go beyond simply giving money.

One last question – what is your track record in working with other churches in your area?

Danny: I’m so glad you asked that question. On Saturday, we were in the middle of our Feed the City event and had hundreds of people driving through to get these meals. There were some people coming through from a local church of color. They started asking us a lot of questions about what we were doing. We explained this is what we feel called to do—to receive hope and give hope. The more we talked, the more excited they got. They asked us to tell them how to do an event like this at their church. We said we’d do better than that—we’d come do our next event at their church! On July 11th, we’ll drive across town and do our Feed the City event at this other church.

What better picture of kingdom work than doing this event together and letting people see the church doing our best to work against all the negativity in our community right now with all the stuff that happened with George Floyd. Our posture has been this: it’s not enough to not be a racist; you have to be a reconciler. This is what it looks like for us: we are going to go build bridges. We’ll take our people and everything we’ve learned over the past few months, and we’ll drive across town and serve a completely different demographic—not for Crosstimbers, but for Jesus. Hopefully that will be something positive in the community.

For all those people reading or watching this interview on GenerousChurch, what final word would you have for them?

Danny: I’ve had my mind blown during this pandemic, seeing God use this particular thing in so many positive ways. I would just ask people to spend some time with God and ask, “What do I need to be doing during this time of social upheaval? How have you gifted me to receive the hope you’ve given me and turn it into hope for somebody else?”

I believe he is a good enough God to make that clear to people. I think the bigger question is, “Will you be obedient to what he tells you to go do?” Because that could make you really uncomfortable. If he tells you to do it then he will be in it and it will be something positive for the kingdom.
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