In an era when the culture is already changing more rapidly than ever before, it’s amazing how quickly a virus can turn the whole world upside down in a matter of weeks. It has all happened so fast that we are still in the shock of reacting as best we can.
However, at night in the dark, as we struggle to sleep while our minds race forward to what must be done tomorrow, the deeper fears surface. Of course, we are deeply concerned with the direct impact this virus will have on the health of our family, friends, and community. But those of us who bear the mantle of responsibility for our churches also begin to anticipate, with growing anxiety, the potentially devastating impact this disease will wreak on the global economy. Right now, that affect seems to be distant. However, like the virus itself, it will come with impact to our doorstep, greater and sooner than we can imagine.
I still recall the sudden impact 9/11 had. Four coordinated attacks on a single day that changed how we as a country would think and act from that day forward. If possible, the significant recession of 2008 had an even more immediate and lasting impact on the local church in which I served. It was really hard to have to cut positions of beloved teammates, just because we didn’t have the resources to keep them. The budget impact lingered for years afterward. What in the world (literally!) will this new challenge bring, which seems to be a “wave” more broad and deep than anything we have seen before.
There are so many implications we need to be considering in the weeks and months ahead, but for this blog I will focus on one— our financial needs.
Let’s boil it down to two questions: 1. Will God Provide? and 2. What do I need to do?
The first one is easy. Will God provide? Of course He will!
But our heads need to remind our own hearts, as well as our people, of that reality. Romans 8:32 (ESV) “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The context of this verse is our salvation and the resulting spiritual blessings, but surely it also includes what we need from day to day. (Cf. Matthew 6:33) 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV) “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
Despite the challenges before us, let there be no doubt that God will provide for our needs in such a way that they will overflow for the benefit of our friends and neighbors so that they will be blessed, spiritual fruit will result, and God will be glorified. Now is not the time for hoarding, but for helping!
So, what do I, and we (as servant-leaders in our church bodies), need to do?
Remember when Peter got out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus? It suddenly dawned on him where he was. He looked at the wind, which had troubled the water, became frightened and began to sink, crying out, “Lord, save me!” He had the right instincts but the wrong focus. Let’s lead by example by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in the midst of this turmoil, and let’s encourage one another to do the same. He will calm our hearts and strengthen our faith.
Accurately. Regularly. Without apology or manipulation.
What kind of needs do I mean? The needs in your church family as well as the community to which you sense God is calling your church to respond. Consider a special offering for your benevolence fund. Don’t choose to do nothing just because you can’t do everything. Do something! God will multiply our efforts as we take seriously the needs around us. Be creative and intentional in learning what they are. Seek the input of those ministries and even secular agencies who are more familiar with doing such things.
We can learn from them how to help in the ways that are actually most helpful. In addition, don’t neglect to share what is needed to continue to keep your church functioning effectively during this time. Even though our staff compensation is a part of that need, it is not inappropriate to let your people know where things stand financially in a factual, objective way. It is our responsibility to share what is needed. It is God’s responsibility to work in the hearts of our people to respond.
3. LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY
We are blessed to live in an age when communication is more robust than ever to connect dispersed communities, and to facilitate financial transactions, including giving. Check out this guide to help you enhance what you are doing: Leading Your Church Online… For those who have not done this before, reach out to an EFCA church in your area that is more experienced. They would love to help you. Or, let us know and we’ll seek to connect you.
4. LIVE WITHIN THE RESOURCES GOD PROVIDES
Since we know God provides what we need, we know the resources He provides are sufficient to meet the needs He has called us to fulfill. There will always be more needs than resources. So we must prayerfully discern which needs He is assigning to us. This is often the hardest part. To what will we say “yes” and to what will we say “no.”
The civil authorities around us are having to make some very tough decisions about which businesses are life sustaining and which are not. We have an undesired but excellent opportunity to do the same with the programs of our churches. Taking a prayerful hard look, which ones are spiritually fruitful, and which ones are draining resources, but only exist because they “always have” and people like them. Let us not miss this opportunity to be honest with ourselves and our churches, and to courageously trim less fruitful programs so that scarce resources may be allocated where they will do the most good.
Brothers and sisters in our EDA Move family, your District Staff Team is in this with you. Let us know how we can help you more!