Our annual members meeting is Sunday, January 10, at 5pm in person and online. We'll present a budget for the members to approve. But not unrelated to that, we'll look at last year and make plans for the coming year.
Anytime we talk money, or facilities, or business at all, we're talking mission. And anytime we talk membership, we're talking mission together.
Membership means we're in this together.
Of all the additional meetings we might ask of you, the annual members meeting is the closest we get to "mandatory."
This Sunday night you'll be asked to decide the budget for 2021 (which you'll get by email this week). But more importantly, we are beginning an active discussion about what is and isn't working, and what changes we need to make or avoid.
Even if you haven't officially become a member, if you consider yourself part of SCC's core group (meaning if you care about SCC), you shouldn't miss this. I know it's tempting to just let others attend and then report to you what happened, but that won't be as accurate as you being part of it. It also cheats others out of your perspective.
For that reason, we're making it so that everyone can attend in person or online. If you watch online, the chat feature will be active and we'll have someone in person to give the people on site a sense of the conversation online as needed.
We'll do our best with that. You just show up ready. Deal?
But what is this "conversation" anyway?
The sermons I've been preaching are setting up a very important conversation that we're getting ready to have as a church.
My "2020 Hindsight" sermon from December 27 set it up. This week's sermon, "What's Wrong With The Church," continued it. In both of them I made strong statements.
This coming Sunday morning I'll add to the conversation with a sermon called "What's Wrong With Your Pastor." If you've ever had a grievance with your pastor, this is for you. If you've never had a grievance with your pastor, this is for you. It continues the thought about why we do church like we do, and how I believe God is calling us to do better.
But I want to be clear: While these sermons are addressing and challenging things in the larger Church that need to be corrected, I'm also trying to expose how we've been affected (and sometimes infected) by the same things. And so, this Sunday evening's conversation will build off of all three sermons, and will be frustrating to follow if you haven't come prepared. So make sure that you've heard all three teachings (Dec 27, Jan 3, and Jan 10) before next Sunday night.
I know I didn't answer specifically what this "conversation" is, but if you pay attention to those three teachings, you'll start to get a sense.
Leaving it a bit mysterious.
Just do your homework. :)
Please pray for your overseers and pastors.
The affairs of our congregation are vested in this board of directors that we call the “Board of Overseers.” They provide oversight of our spiritual welfare, as well as the fiduciary, legal and financial affairs of the congregation. And the pastors are are assigned with the ministry of it.
Several months ago, in September, while discussing a year of uncertainties and facing a new year of opportunities, the overseers and pastors decided to "fast" from business meetings for three months and devote ourselves to prayer. Thank you to those who participated.
Tonight we reconvene to look over the budget for 2021. It's about as "businessy" as it gets.
But it's also as "missional" as it gets.
Our budget lives as a description of what we think is the best way to fulfill our mission while living within our means.
Several years ago we started using the actual income and expenses of one year to create the budget for the next. This both creates and relieves tension for me.
Throughout most of my ministry, the budgeting process has been treated as a "visioneering" process, where we're encouraged to dream prayerfully about what we'd like to do. And then from that we create a stretch budget that's within reach if everyone digs a bit deeper. The unspoken assumption of this process is that ministry takes money, so if we want to do more ministry we need more money.
But that has always created tension for me.
The unavoidable truth we all know is that we can be church without spending any money on doing church.
Seriously, if two or three believers meet in a living room, they are church.
So to tie money to ministry and ministry to money, and then to try to get everyone to give a little more money, has always created some tension for me. And the process of simply carrying over actual numbers from one year to the next has relieved that tension.
But it also creates tension because it lends itself to decline, not growth. Things we once valued get dropped for lack of funds. And then they get forgotten for lack of perceived opportunity. It's harder to drop something than to put it back in. Without tension we don't grow.
Scripture clearly says that money should be collected and used for specific things.
If we really take our cue from scripture, it gets pretty radical. Honestly I wonder how many of us would vote for a budget prepared to fulfill the following:
We “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10), holding it “in common” (Acts 2:44) to cover the expenses of fellowship and worship (Deuteronomy 14:22-24), by putting it “at the apostles’ feet” to be “distributed to anyone who has need” (Acts 4:35), so that there are “no needy persons among us" (Acts 4:34), as we "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27), and support those who “direct the affairs of the church” and “especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” so that they “receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18), even supporting missionaries to do the same for others (2 Corinthians 11:8).
How does that hit you?
We're okay financially.
Our expenses were covered for 2020. We'll bring a report on Sunday night. But by all indications, our needs were more than met this year. Hallelujah. Praise God. We're okay financially. And I am encouraged that God has seen fit through your generosity to sustain us. Amen.
And we don't have any big bombs that are waiting to drop. After a year of shaking, we are not facing great failures like some churches are dealing with. We're okay.
But we're not "okay" in other ways. Or maybe we are. It all depends on what we're trying to do and be. In fact, depending on what we decide, we might be way more than just "okay." We may be positioned to do something incredible.
That's what we need to start talking about Sunday night.
And I can't wait.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.