Through the month of January we will be discussing the topics of Work and Wealth in a number of different ways. Matt will be doing a sermon series with this title. We will also be hosting a personal finance seminar on the 24th, which you should sign up for. In addition, we will be having our quarterly church meeting on January 25th which will include some discussion of the church finances.
How we perform our jobs, and even more so, how we manage our money are both very taboo subjects in our society today. This is largely due to the fact that we tend to define ourselves through both of these things. We know that we could be doing better in both of these areas. And when Matt stands up and confirms our own worst thoughts about ourselves, our instinct is to become defensive. In addition, all this talk about money tends to bring on suspicion. Why are we talking about money so much? Are we in trouble? Does the pastor need a raise? What is really going on here, do these guys want more of my money?
In light of both of these natural reactions, I wanted to take a moment to address some of these concerns up front. First, why are we talking about money for 2 out of 4 weeks this month, isn’t that a little excessive? I think that Greg Laurie address this topic nicely in this snippet from an article of his:
It is worth noting that money is such an important topic in the Bible that it is the main subject of nearly half of the parables Jesus told. In addition, one in every seven verses in the New Testament deals with this topic. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, and more than 2,000 verses on money.
In fact, 15 percent of everything Jesus ever taught was on the topic of money and possessions-more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined.
In light of this, the real question should be why aren’t we talking more about money? How we spend our money and our time are the best indicators of what we value. By intentionally addressing the topic of work and wealth, we are taking on the difficult task of applying Christian values to real life.
Our basic premise about money and wealth is that we are called to live generously, and live wisely. We avoid both a “Prosperity Gospel” or “Poverty Gospel” perspective. We see numerous examples of Godly men who are both wealthy and powerful, king Solomon a chief example. And yet, the teaching concerning the dangers of riches and money are predominate throughout the scriptures, most famously in Timothy 6:10 stating “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” So where does that leave us? Regardless of our individual financial situation, God calls all of us to live generously with one another, and live wisely with the money entrusted to us. We will be getting into more details on how to do this through this sermons series, and our personal finance seminar.
As for specific concerns about our church finances. Are we trying to get more of your money? Do our pastors want more of your money? Is the church in financial trouble? The simple answer is No, but this simplicity hides a lot of the important details. Over the past 4 years giving to our general fund has ranged in the $215,000 to $240,000 mark, with this past year being a very average $225,000. Given these numbers, we are striving to put together a budget that assumes we will continue to receive this same amount of money, with no increase in giving. This is the wise way to manage our money for this coming year.
However, although we believe that we can continue to be effective with our current budget, it is clear that a budget of this size does imposes some limits on what we are able to do as a church. While we strive to pay our pastors well, it cannot be said that we are being overly generous to those who have devoted themselves to serving our church. In addition, we are unable to increase the number of staff we can support. Currently we are only able to support 1.5 ministers. While we have been blessed over the past year and a half to have a team of pastors who are able and willing to make this work, we are unable to offer 2 full time positions to our pastors if this becomes necessary. In addition, we do not have a regular budget for any of our ministries, nor are we able to even discuss with any seriousness the idea of moving into a building of our own. We are striving to set aside money for our external ministry, because we believe it is very important, but the amount we are able to set aside is limited.
In order to to move closer to a position in which we are able to fund some of these objectives, we have discussed the need to increase our annual giving numbers. We will be presenting more details about this at our meeting on the 25th. But this is not something we feel can be done through a sermon series, or a hard sell for more giving. We have no interest in presenting an image of desperation, or exacerbate the already overwhelming sense of guilt many of us already feel about our finances, just to get an unsustainable increase in temporary, unjoyful giving. Instead, our objective has been, and continues to be, to help one another follow Jesus, including with money. And in so doing, we believe that we will see, as the natural fruit of Godly living, an increase in giving from our current members, as we learn how to better managed what God has entrusted to us. And growth in our community, as those around us seek to join a community that is filled with true joy and generosity.
Therefore, the purpose of this January’s focus on Work and Wealth is to help one another better understand our relationships with our jobs and our money, and how they relate to our spirituality. And through a better understanding of these relationships, we want to be able to move from a position of fear and anxiousness, to a position of peace and joy that naturally exudes generosity.
I hope that we are able to serve you well in this. If you have any concerns with this series, with the church finances, or with your own finances, please get in touch with myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Matt Adair (email@example.com).