The Race for a Finish Line
Hi, my name is Kealan. My brother, Cody, and I founded the Finish Line Pledge together and cohost the Finish Line Podcast. You may or may not have heard of the idea of a financial finish line, but it has made all the difference in our lives.
When I was in college, I felt like a “real Christian” should go into the mission field or become a pastor. Despite my desire to radically serve Christ, I felt drawn to my career in medicine as it fit my skills and passions well.
But I questioned if I was making a mistake.
I knew I would eventually have the potential for a pretty comfortable lifestyle while some of my friends would be sacrificing their comfort and time to share the gospel.
As the year progressed, I read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Few books besides the Bible have been as impactful on my worldview.
Chan wrote with an urgency and conviction that we are called to more. The more I read, the more I wanted to be a part of the story he was talking about: God’s story.
Crazy Love was the beginning of my call to generosity.
Laying a Foundation
After college, I married my wonderful wife, Alison. We knew we wanted to be able to give generously as God had been leading us, but we didn’t really have the framework for it yet.
It took quite a bit of trial and error, but we felt a responsibility to keep our spending to just what we needed. We were happy! We felt content.
During that first year of our marriage, I read another book called Revolution in World Missions by KP Yohannan, which deeply convicted me about excess.
Soon after finishing the book, Alison and I began supporting native missionaries in Asia. Even though we were not on the mission field ourselves, we finally felt like we had some skin in the game – like we had finally entered the Greater Story.
A Bold Request
Year two of our marriage marked the beginning of med school for me, and we had some important decisions to make.
We ultimately decided that it didn’t make sense to take out med school loans to sustain our current level of giving, so we scaled back to our essential commitments and our tithe.
Even though we couldn’t see any path besides taking out loans, we started praying that God would move in the impossible: for us to make it through the next four years without any debt so that we could return to the giving we had started before med school.
God Answers Prayers
During that first semester, we ruthlessly cut back our spending to the absolute bare minimum. We never knew how far we would get; we simply kept praying that God would pave the way.
Before we knew it, through random blessings, Alison’s previous job and photography success, we had enough to cover that second semester...And then the third.
As we neared the end of my fourth year, just weeks before our final payment, God provided the final funds we needed which totaled over $220,000 in 4 years, all while I didn't have a job!
At some point, I stopped being able to reason through how we were doing it. There was just no other explanation except for God's provision.
The Hunt for a Benchmark
Over those four years, God deeply emboldened and humbled us as we watched Him work. We experienced supernatural contentment and we felt even more strongly about getting back to our giving.
Nearing the end of med school, we started to look at the next phases of my medical career.
We knew we were happy already and didn’t want to rapidly expand our lifestyle as our income increased. We began to more deeply consider the question “How much do we really need?”
Thus began our search for some sort of a guardrail – what we later came to call our “financial finish line.”
We went through a number of iterations, but they all centered around the idea of the median – trying to be somewhere right in the middle of what everyone else was doing.
Eventually, we created the system we use now at the Finish Line Pledge, based on the U.S. census data and adjusting for family size.
Life with a Finish Line
As we continued through my residency training, we put it into practice.
We chose the 50th percentile as our financial finish line, which was already lower than our combined income (though we know people who have picked all sorts of finish lines). We began to give away the rest!
We were able to restart commitments we were already passionate about such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups, child sponsorship, and campus ministry.
But with the excess that God continued to grow, we started to expand to other things as God laid them on our hearts or dropped right into our laps.
All of these changes have given us a deep sense of purpose in our relationships, our city, and in bringing Christ to all peoples, nations, and tongues.
Most importantly, it doesn’t rely on us constantly deciding to actively take money out of our budget to give.
We spend the same amount on ourselves each month, and everything else is given away, as God leads.
What About You?
We have been deeply moved by the ways God has sustained us, the ways He has reoriented our hearts, and the story that He has invited us into.
But the invitation isn’t just for my family. It’s for all of us. Have you ever considered what a financial finish line might look like in your life?
If not, I’d encourage you to try it for three to six months and see what God might do.
If you want to learn more about finish lines, you can check out our website at www.finishlinepledge.com or listen to our podcast, the Finish Line Podcast where we interview a wide variety of people about similar topics.
Most of all, talk about it with your Creator. He has much better credentials than us!
Kealan is a resident physician in Pennsylvania. He and his wonderful wife Alison are parents to four beautiful girls. Kealan and Alison set a finish line for their spending around 2016 and have been giving everything over that line away since then.