by Martin Schlomer
The economy is on everyone’s mind these days. It seems like everyone is running for cover and trying to hang onto what they have, because they’re not sure if they will still have it next month. Jobs and discretionary income are scarcer than a deer in hunting season!
This raises the question, “How is Elim handling this financial storm?” The short answer is: better than most churches! However, we have experienced a 6.5% decrease in giving year-to-date over last year. At the end of September 2009 Elim’s income was $213,475. For the same period this year, our income was $199,353.
Have we had to reduce our ministry spending? While we are being very cautious, we have not had to deny any person or ministry the funding that is needed. While our spending is $8,000 under budget, we have spent $12,002 more than we have received so far this year. Gratefully, we have had sufficient reserves to cover these expenses.
Where do we go from here? First, as elders and staff, we will continue to proceed with financial caution. This means we will closely monitor and restrict discretionary spending. In addition, in two weeks the elders and Stewardship Team will propose a budget for 2011 that is approximately $18,000 less than the 2010 budget. This will bring it more into line with our present income reality and projections.
Second, I want to encourage all of us to a life of faith. As followers of Jesus, we are to eagerly embrace His teaching regarding handling wealth and money and use this teaching to shape our financial priorities and stewardship, rather than fear. Scripture calls us to pursue a path of responsible simplicity, not consumerism; joyful, radical generosity, not fear.
Scripture tells us of one group of churches who lived out this joyful and radical generosity in a way that stunned the apostle Paul …
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
All I can say is, Wow!” This is a joyful and radical generosity that is a result of an encounter with Jesus! They loved Jesus, trusted in His provision and pressed forward with overflowing joy even though they were enduring extreme poverty! Nothing—including fear—was going to rob them of the joy of helping out and doing their part. No wonder they rocked Paul’s world! This is what happens when Jesus has our hearts … and our checkbooks.
In these difficult and uncertain times, how is your joyful generosity? Is it crippled by fear and uncertainty, or is empowered by the joyful freedom that comes from confident reliance on Christ? I encourage all of us to follow the example of the Macedonians and give ourselves first to the Lord and then to living in the freedom and joy found in God’s will for us.