By Melanie Tucker of The Daily Times Staff
What would happen if you bought a tank of gas for a stranger instead of a pair of shoes for yourself?
What if contentment and joy were deemed more valuable by society than sizable bank accounts and social status?
Kevin Cross, a certified public accountant from south Florida, will ask one congregation in Townsend to ponder these questions when he speaks there on Sunday and again on Aug. 16. He knows a little about accumulating wealth and the dangers of greed. He stole from his employer, was caught and jailed, and spent four years paying it all back. Now, his is a message of removing the burdens of debt by reducing the stuff in our lives and following God’s financial plan.
The congregants at Church of the Cove in Townsend where Cross will deliver his message are familiar with Cross and his ministry. But even they will probably be a little shocked at his upcoming request. When the offering plate is passed around, no one will be asked to open their wallets and give. This Sunday will be a reverse offering where everyone will be told to take an envelope of money from the plate.
There will be 250 envelopes with $5, $10 or $20 in cash inside — from the church’s pocket — along with some $25 American Express gift cards from Cross’ ministry. Close to $3,000 may be given out.The least are first
The challenge to those receiving the money is this: take the cash and do something good with it.
The money could be used to help a stranded motorist along the side of the road or given to a single mother in the grocery line whose bill exceeded what she can pay. Cross said he has done this at other churches where he has spoken. Lives are changed.
At one church after the reverse offering, a young mother who received one of the monetary gifts came and brought her friends to see what the church was all about.
“What a heart change, over $5,” Cross said. “Something that is really insignificant. It is not fair the return on this investment.”
Cross started his own non-profit, called account417.com, based on Philippians 4:17: “Not that I seek the gifts, but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit.” He spends a great deal of his time speaking at churches across the country and at retreats, delivering the message that what we amass in material things here on this earth can’t produce the joy and peace that comes from loving and helping others and establishing a close relationship with God.
Trust and faith
Darren Wigington, pastor at Church of the Cove, said he has known Cross for about four years, and each time he comes forward with a plan, Wigington listens and trusts. He said the reverse offering is certainly something his church hasn’t done before. “We don’t contradict The Word, but we do tiptoe on the edge of what traditional worshippers are used to.”
Church of the Cove has been in existence since 2003 and average attendance on Sunday is about 250. They have managed to keep afloat in this dismal economy while others haven’t. The money being given away Sunday could be used to further their own plans, but Wigington and Cross believe God’s plan is sufficient.
“This church gets it,” Cross said. “They understand margin and meaning whether they are making $100 a week or $1,000 a week.”
In addition to his reverse offering challenge, Cross said he will be providing tips on how to accomplish what his book, “Building Your Financial Fortress in 52 Days” teaches. It is based on the biblical story of Nehemiah.
Some may have seen Cross on CNN or on the front page of the Miami Hearld. He leads seminars he calls Margin and Meaning, with the purpose of encouraging people to take that first step toward financial freedom. He helps people cut up their credit cards and said while the strategy seems like a publicity gimmick, people are responding and getting their hearts in the right places.
To further spread the word, Cross has developed an armband in the fashion of the popular LiveStrong bracelets of Lance Armstrong. Cross’ says simply LiveOriginal.
The message here, he said, is to not blend in with everyone else or buy into the consumption way of life. The bracelet even has a barcode engraved on the side to add emphasis.
This motivational speaker, financial advisor and follower of Christ said he is working on a second book, “Embezzlement,” that will chronicle his transformation from embezzler to true believer.
What’s missing in a lot of people’s lives is hope, Cross said. That includes Christians and non-Christians. At the end of the day, that is what people seek, he said.
“If we give them hope, they don’t just survive in the difficult times, they thrive,” he said. “My message is not about surviving. It’s about thriving.”