Hunker down … or take a risk?

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By Larry Short

I recently read a very interesting article in the Washington Post on the fear that causes us to “hunker down,” which in itself adds to the negative aspects of the economic cycle which afflicts us.

Because of a pessimistic sense of where our economy will be in the future, for instance, people might put off making a significant purchase such as a new car or home. Instead of sending their children to an expensive academic institution, they might opt for a less expensive public college or even delay education altogether and ask their child to flip burgers at MacDonald’s until the economy lightens up a bit.

Each of these things, of course, actually contributes to the negative cycle and makes it worse. Hunkering down has the opposite effect (corporately speaking) as the one we are hoping for.

This article made me think about my faith, and about how many of the same dynamics hold true. If I am feeling somewhat pessimistic about my life, my church, and my faith, I might have a tendency to “hunker down.” Rather than stretching myself in faith, to serve others, to take risks, to share Christ with my neighbor, to give more generously of my time and money, I have a tendency to clam up, to become more stingy, to focus my time and effort on things I think will benefit me personally, rather than others.

In faith, as in the economy, this may create a vicious cycle. People I fellowship with are more withdrawn and self-centered, so I might conclude “They don’t really care about me; they are just a bunch of hypocrites,” not realizing, of course, I myself am doing the very thing I accuse them of, and contributing to a vicious cycle of faithlessness.

I think the answer for us as Christians, in breaking this cycle, is the same as the answer for our economy. We must be willing to stretch, to have faith, to express our confidence through taking risks. We must open up, be vulnerable, reach out, share God’s love with others. It only takes a small group of faithful risk-takers (spiritually speaking) to get the steamroller rolling and to help create an environment of “spiritual recovery,” with God’s help.

So, I probably won’t go out anytime soon and buy a car, or a new house. (I don’t need one, anyway!) But I would ask you to pray for me as I seek to take some spiritual risks, to “give my life away” in ever larger ways, for the sake of a spiritual recovery in God’s Kingdom!

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Growth: Embracing the challenges and the opportunities

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by Martin Schlomer

If you hang around on Sunday mornings for very long, it won’t take long to notice that this group of God’s people is rapidly changing and growing. There are a lot of new people representing all generations and backgrounds!

Growth always raises new opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges we currently face is financial. Let me assure you, finances have remained stable even in the midst of a very difficult economy. As of last Sunday, September 18, our giving is only $300 behind budget! Considering that we are just coming out of the summer months, this is incredible! Thank you for your faithfulness!!! However, even though our spending is only $1,800 over budget as of August 31, the pressures on spending are mounting. These pressures are due to expanding ministry demands — which are to be expected with the growth — as well as numerous property issues.

This summer, we built a new shed to replace the one that was literally falling down. We also poured a larger porch on the north entrance to help keep people from falling off the smaller one that was there. We replaced the roof on the annex to avoid the kind of major leaks we had last year.

There are several property issues that we still need to address.

  • We need to repair the septic system at the Youth House which is currently inoperable. The cost will be $1800.
  • We need to replace the stove in the kitchen to accommodate Freezing Nights, KidReach and various other ministries. The estimated cost will be $1100.
  • We are starting a food pantry over in the Youth House to accommodate the needs of Freezing Nights and MOPS which means we needs shelves to store the supplies on. In addition, MOPS would like to have a sink and counter space in the Youth House to prepare snacks for their meetings. The estimated cost is $1000.
  • We are in need of a projector screen for the front of the sanctuary to make it easier for people to see the words for the music and sermon notes. This has become more evident as we seat people further back into the fellowship area. The estimated cost is $800.

These are exciting times at Elim, but how will we meet these needs? On October 2, we will receive a special offering following Communion. Our goal is to raise $5000 over and above our normal offering to cover these needs.

We realize that these are difficult economic times for most. Please seek the Lord regarding how He would have you contribute, and please continue to pray for the health and growth of Christ’s body. My goal, along with the Elders’, is to make sure we glorify Christ in our leadership of this church and in the shepherding of your lives. This is of the utmost importance!

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Why tithe by electronic billpay?

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By Larry Short

Ever since we started attending Elim 15 years ago, Darlene and I have given our tithe by electronic billpay. I realize this may be a little unusual, but it is getting less so in our current day and age. So Dan asked me if I would write a quick Last Word explaining why we do this, and how you can too.

First of all, what is electronic billpay? If you have an account at a bank (and most of us do), electronic billpay simply is a service where you can schedule your “bills” (any recurring payments) to be paid automatically, either by direct transfer from your bank account to someone else’s, or else by having your bank automatically create and send a check on your behalf. For a number of years we have used a service called CheckFree to do this with all our bills. They charge us less than $10 a month for this service and we find that we can barely live without the convenience.

But you don’t have to use CheckFree, and nowadays you may be able to do bill-pay for free through your bank. But first let’s ask, why should you?

There are three key reasons why we use electronic billpay: It is strategic, it is consistent, and it is convenient.

Strategic: At least once each year, Darlene and I sit down and review our current financial situation. How has the Lord blessed us during the past year? What do we, in faith, want to do in order to show our gratitude and to be obedient to His command? We pray, decide on an amount, and then log onto our secure billpay site and make a simple change instruction. CheckFree then sends a check to Elim, every single week rain or shine, in the amount that we have specified. They also provide all the accounting to help us track our giving. And then, on the occasion that we want to give a special gift above and beyond, we simply write a paper check.

Consistent: I don’t know about you, but I lead a busy and complicated life and it’s too easy for me to forget even the important things. With automatic billpay, I don’t worry that if I go on vacation or camping in the summer and miss a weekend worship service, the church will be left holding the bag without my tithe. (To do so, even once, I feel would be unfaithful.) The hard, cold truth is that church giving always dips — sometimes significantly — during the summer months. Why? If people aren’t there (and attendance is lower in the summer), they forget to tithe. Automatic billpay helps me to be more faithful, and blesses Elim as a result.

Convenient: I don’t have to worry about bringing my checkbook with me to church each week, just my Bible. One less thing to carry!

Are there any drawbacks to using automatic billpay for my tithe? I think I’ve only found one: I sometimes feel a little awkward letting the offering plate slide on by me, without putting anything in it! I wonder if people think, “Tsk, tsk. He’s an elder and he doesn’t even give!”

But then, I catch myself. We’re not supposed to be tithing for the sake of being seen doing it by others, right? So, who cares what they think? My giving is just between me and the Lord. Hence, in reality, I think this (somewhat humbling) experience is probably, in reality, good for me!

Please consider setting up automatic billpay for your tithe. I think that, like me, you’ll be glad you did! If you have any questions about how to get started, let’s chat. Thanks for reading!

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