Rector's Rhetoric - November 2014
This will be my last address about financial stewardship for 2015. Even though I’ve talked about tithing as the biblical standard for Christian giving, (and incremental giving as a means of getting there) on a number of occasions, our approach through a pledge drive has always been a pretty non-aggressive one. Jesus never twisted arms, and neither will we. But then again, Jesus never minced words either. He told his disciples what was expected of them right along with the Pharisees.
From a spiritual standpoint, there was nothing that Jesus talked about more than money. The story of the rich man and Lazarus, the Widow’s Mite, the farmer who built bigger barns, etc…, he knew how touchy a subject it was, how hard it was to make sacrifices for the good of the soul. And with Jesus, the issue was always a matter of trust. To what extent are we willing to step out and trust God with everything that we are and everything that we’ve been given? Generous giving is the mark of a healthy and grateful soul, and that’s the truth.
I was asked a few weeks ago why we didn’t provide a 2015 budget with the stewardship material that we sent to our members. We’ll certainly do that at the Annual Meeting (if not before), and if you really are interested, I can tell you what the practical aspects of a budget will demand in the coming year: Our 2014 budget was right at $270,000. You can expect our budget (without any salary raises for personnel) to be somewhere around $275,000 for 2015. As large as that might seem, investigating the line items will tell you that we’re only spending what we need to in order to be a viable ministry and witness in the Ada community and beyond. I use the word “viable” to indicate that our budget is workable, but there’s no fat in it at all. The simple truth is that ministry costs money, and your church needs money to continue to minister in ways that make a difference. I used to think that budgets weren’t a necessary part of what we ought to consider when thinking about personal stewardship, but that’s not necessarily so when we think of each church as a whole. Budgets can be an indicator of a parishes’ overall spiritual health, and one of the first things that I would want to see, if interviewing for a church position, is their budget. If that church has line items for outreach needs, children’s ministries, and evangelism, a budget can be a very positive indicator of their thankfulness, their love for God, and their commitment to Christ’s mission. But if they think that budgets are more about utilities, insurance, and taking care of themselves, then they’ve got some growing to do.
Financial giving is truly a soul-searching effort, whether you’re considering a tithe, how much of your life to put in God’s hands, or how thankful you are for what you have. All of those things should be prayed over before signing on the dotted line. Upon greeting friends, John Wesley would invariably ask the question, “How is it with your soul?” That’s a fair question for each of us to ask as we conclude this season of stewardship.