|I am particularly glad to see the end of January and our church’s Annual Meeting because it means the end of a year of constant financial concerns for FCC. I do not believe I have ever had a year in which I fretted more about church finances. Although many people stepped up to the plate and enabled us to end the year in relatively good shape, it was a year of constant concern. |
My greatest frustration, however, was answering the question “Why?” The American economy continues to be tenuous at best, yet I am not aware of scores of people in the church who are without jobs. Also, I have been a pastor long enough to know that dissatisfaction in a church usually manifests itself in a loss of dollars, but ministries, programs, and activities at FCC did not evince the normal drop in attendance and enthusiasm indicative of such dis-content.
Part of the problem, as it turns out, was a bookkeeping snafu that kept the right hand from not knowing what the left hand was doing. We also had not done a good job of keeping the congregation informed about the situation, and I am grateful to the Ministry of Stewardship for making sure everyone knew what was at stake.
But I have come to the conclusion that the question of “Why?” is not nearly as important as the question of “What now?”
|As I prayed this year and repeatedly asked God to pull us out of the crisis I also asked, “Is there something you want us to learn from this? Is there a message we need to hear?” I believe the answer is yes on a couple of fronts. First, we must learn how to be frugal without short-circuiting our reason for being here. Consequently, this year’s budget holds the line on salaries and programs and moves us in the financial direction we need to go. |
But I think there is a deeper lesson to be learned. Writing about the current Great Recession, Jim Wallis says we need to replace the question “When will this crisis end?” with the question “How will this crisis change us?” I think the same could be said of us at FCC. Instead of worrying about factors beyond our control, and seeking whom to blame for the trouble, this year can teach us to stop seeing a budget as an end in itself but rather as a means to an end.
We must give up financial thinking that goes no farther than keeping the heat on, the staff paid, and the doors open, and move to financial planning that enables us to do what we are called here to do: Seek God’s truth, practice Christ’s teachings, and love others unconditionally. If we truly believe God has called us to that purpose, our giving should reflect it and our budget should embody it. Jesus did not call us to be good capitalists, smart businesspeople, shrewd managers, or fiscal experts. Jesus called us to be his disciples — nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.