Dear St. Luke’s Family,
I am writing this at 3:00 a.m. I seem to be awake a great deal at this time, not just since battling what I affectionately call “STUPID” (I quit using the “C” word before surgery in an act of rebellion). But here’s what I’ve learned, thanks to the advent of social media – I’m not the only one awake. In my circle there are three groups of people I can usually talk with around 3:00 a.m.
- College students. That’s an obvious one – they are all diligently studying, I’m sure.
- Cancer warriors or others dealing with illness. There’s a great circle of support– many from this very church.
- Church staff. In fact I know three of us are awake right now – working, praying, worrying.
While I have not been physically present, I’ve been with you in spirit and in mind. I’ve been watching the sermons, reading the updates, and this week I’ve been checking email (sometimes I need the mental work out). I know the budget message you have been receiving. We’ve been serious about our messaging regarding the deficit and the voluntary retirement plan, and we all know there’s more trimming of the budget to be done in order to live within our means in 2015.
This is what keeps staff and pastors awake at night:
- How do we continue to offer excellent ministry at the rate of growth that matches dreams and vision, but doesn’t match stewardship?
- How do you continue to offer ministry that helps family grow (for example, free childcare during studies, and when people are volunteering) when our revenue is stuck?
- How do we serve the community when we can’t take care of ourselves?
- How do you grow disciples and stewardship during times when people feel stretched?
- How do you preach the powerful, life-changing, disciple-mandated message of stewardship as a spiritual discipline found in the Bible (the Bible talks more about money and possessions than salvation) when increasingly people think the church as a whole, is all about money and greed?
The staff is awake, worried about how to again, think about things differently in their ministry. They now have the added weight of knowing that we have cut so much from our ministry expenses that the largest piece of the pie left is our staffing – whether through benefits or time or reductions. This staff is the best I’ve ever worked with in my 16 years of pastoral ministry AND in my 12 years before that of Lay staff ministry. This is hard. But something has to give.
There’s that word again… Give…
Andy Stanley has been bringing a different voice to the table for us. My dad was in worship last week. As you know, he’s a life long Methodist and a retired UM pastor. He came home last week and said to me “he didn’t say anything we haven’t said for decades, but he sure said it in a way that got me thinking differently.”
Stanley has reminded our family that we are indeed rich. We may not have a great deal of “margin” as Stanley says (the difference between our revenue and our expenses) right now, but we are rich. We’ve talked about this a great deal in my home lately. Facing STUPID makes you really rethink life, richness, blessings, and all of the first-world, or as Stanley says “rich people” problems that consume our time.
The truth is, the timing of all of this – the budget, Andy Stanley’s book, and STUPID has changed us in many ways. It’s like the perfect storm of discipleship training. One of the biggest “take-aways” is that we want to grow our margin – but not to make us safe from harm. We know now more than ever – you are never safe from harm. STUPID things can come at you from any direction and no amount of margin, or wealth can truly keep you safe from life.
We want to be rich well to give more to things that make a difference in the Kingdom of God. I’m tired of wasting God’s resources on upgrades, and things this fleeting world tells me to worry about. None of it matters. Trust me, none of it makes a difference when the world gets turned upside down.
What does make the difference – is the community of faith, changing lives, being a part of lasting significance in people’s lives, and leaving a legacy. This healing time has shown us what’s important in tangible ways.
John and I want to have the margin not only to help our kids become that difference in the world, but also to up our percentage, pre-planned giving so this staff can be awake not out of worry, but because the old testament prophecy spoken at Pentecost has come to St. Luke’s…
Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.
I want the staff and laity of this amazing church to dream dreams and see visions and not have to worry about the resources to do it. John and I have realized that there is never a tomorrow that is stable enough or guaranteed- so it’s time to start being about Kingdom of God dreams right now, today.
I know this has been long, I hope you are still with me, because John and I can’t do it alone. Forgive my preaching (I can’t be with you in person, but I still have to use my call somehow) but don’t you want to be rich well too – in order that this incredible church can be rich well also?
This week Pastor Jad, Pastor Corey, and our Finance Chair, Jeff Winn, will lead you in worship. They will bring the message of being rich to us all and you and I will have the opportunity to respond to God and promise to give out of such richness. You can click here to read Sunday’s scripture passages in preparation for worship. I have never been so excited to up my percentage and preplan my promise to God’s church. I have so much to thank God for and I am so rich in blessing. Because even though it’s still dark out – I’m awake, I’m alive, and I am blessed to be one of your leaders!
By next week I will have my latest treatment plan to share with you, but until then thank you for your care and love during this time. Your outpouring of love and care for myself and my family is a testament to the richness of this church family, and the difference you want to make in the world. I am forever grateful, and changed by your love.
Grace and peace,
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