Let us talk about money.
I know I know, it isn't considered a proper topic for polite company. But then some would say religion is also not a topic for polite company and the church talks about it all the time.
On the 14th of September I shared a dream. I shared my dream that we would one day be able to use the “Christmas Miracle”, the large upsurge of givings that happens in most churches in November and December not to balance the budget for the year but for special projects, new ministry. The only way that dream comes to reality is because givings (and other revenues) for the whole year keep up with expenses. On September 21st there was an insert in the bulletin that let people know that the year-to-date deficit as of August 31 was $30 000.
What was I thinking?
I knew we were running a deficit for the year (but had no idea what size it was). But the thing is I truly believe that my dream is achievable. Honestly I do. I have that much faith in this congregation.
It is hard to take my dream seriously with the numbers in the bulletin this week. It would be easy to start to worry. After all, we are more in the red this year than we were last year at this time and last year we burned up most or all of our accumulated surplus. But I choose to be a person of hope. I honestly believe that if this congregation chooses we can not only overcome our current deficit but we can start to expand our ministry possibilities. But only if that is what we choose.
For me a deficit is always a symptom, never the problem. Certainly it looks like the problem. It is right there in black and white (or black and yellow given the colour of the bulletin inserts). But it is really a symptom of some deeper cause.
At one level the cure is easy. We need more money. Which means the same number of people giving more each, or more people giving, or (preferably to be honest) both of those things. And I truly believe both those things are possible to a greater or lesser degree.
But there is something deeper. How do we invite and encourage folks to commit themselves to the church with their money and their time (remembering that we have some committees that exist in name only)? What is that we are doing which intersects with the passions and needs of the people in our congregation and with Grande Prairie at large? How are we changing the lives of each other and our neighbours? How is God working through and in us as we share the vision, the passion, the hope of Jesus?
You see I think those questions are the deeper ones. I think if we live out our faith, if we can then share the difference made by committing time and energy and money to the church then my dream will come true. We will never balance our budget or fill our committees by making presentations on the need in worship, though that is part of it – we need to let people know what it takes to live out our shared ministry. We will balance our budget, fill our committees, and more, when we catch the fire of the Spirit and hold the torch high. When we live out our faith and our ministry, when we carry ourselves and our understanding of Christ to the world we can set fire to other Spirits.
Yes we balance our budget, we share in Christ's ministry in the world, by sharing the gifts we have been given. But more important is that this is how we live out our faith. And that is the more important part. The work of God is not about a balanced budget. The work of the church is about allowing God to transform the world through us.
Let's do that. I believe it will change the budget picture, but even if it doesn't, we will be more faithful to those who have gone before us by burning brightly than by spending all our effort keeping the fire burning.
Are you in it with me?