In 2006, Kyle MacDonald had a brilliant idea. He wanted to see how much he could trade up if he started with a small red paper clip. It seemed simple and the paper clip probably didn’t give him much hope for what he might get. Trade after trade, Kyle began his journey with a paper clip and ended up owning a house! You can read the story here.

We are always looking to trade up.

We are always looking to trade up – better phones, longer vacations, extended weekends, better homes, etc. Not to many people want trade for something that doesn’t add to their quality of life.

Before I stepped into full time ministry and even before I left home, for college, I was already watching “how ministry happened” and realized I needed to trade up. Because Jesus lived an antithetical life to everyone else, trading up meant seeing things differently. It meant stepping into things that, at face value, may not “add value” to our lives.

These trades happened because I wanted to take ownership of what was happening in the church. Those who were taking ownership were trading up.

1. I traded more sleep for more relationships 

I noticed people, who took ownership of their church, arrived early to connect with new people. They knew a welcoming church was a church willing trade in more sleep for more relationship. It just wasn’t mere coincidence I saw the same people meeting new people every Sunday.

2. I traded inconsistency for intentionality 

The more I made it a priority, to be at church, the easier it was for me to learn names, faces, and stories. I also realized that this church thing wasn’t just something you did once a week. Admittedly, I grew up in a city that had many high church/liturgical kinds of churches. My friends who attended those churches had a tough time seeing how faith met real life.

When I attended church, inconsistently, I didn’t live with intentionality.

Once I made the trade to be more consistent, I realized I can play an active part in someone’s life and they can make an impact in mine. I began feeling some of that community the Pastor kept talking about.

3. I traded reading the Bible for myself for reading it for my friends. 

Something that was caught, for me, was this idea that reading my Bible was more beneficial with others in mind. Not only was I connected with friends and guests on Sunday morning, I was reading the Scriptures to see what it might say for my friends that might need some encouragement or challenge. This allowed me and gave me permission to invest in others during the week and not wait until the weekend.

4. I traded giving money to the church for generosity. 

I never really thought much about offering when I was younger. I worked a minimum wage job, wanted to hang out with friends, buy nice clothes, cd’s and anything else I thought would help me fit in. Jesus wasn’t going to help with that. Offering, for the longest time, was something of an afterthought.

I think I tipped the waiters more than what I put in the offering plate.

When I traded giving money to the church for generosity, I realized that my dollars were going for life transformation. All of those people I was meeting early in the morning were there because I was stepping into generosity. Something clicked in me:

The more I stepped into generosity, I complained less about how staff was “doing church” and became genuinely happy to see people coming to church and being transformed. The less I gave the more “opinions” I had about how church should be experienced.

5. I traded being awesome for being a servant.

The men and women pouring their lives into others were willing to do whatever to help people take next steps. The more people serve the more influence they had to speak into other’s lives.

I love the story of Kyle MacDonald. It’s the story of the church. Every paper clip is an opportunity to make a trade and step into new realities that strengthen our faith and grow our churches. We may not end up with a house, but we have a kingdom to gain.


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