Kevin (Pastor at Eucharist) writing here with a quick testimony to God's Goodness and, I suspect, the Way the World Actually Works. It comes out of some reflections with a friend:
Our church upped our budget this year by nearly $30,000 to hire a second pastor. It was a big, scary move, especially given the fact we are pretty DIY and grassroots. But we felt very strongly this was the wise thing to do, and even that God had pushed us to this place.
We were way behind the budget through the fall, which was pretty scary. We started thinking about whether or not we should shift the role to fit a budget or how we could solve this challenge.
At the same time this was happening we had a team of people from our church bring forward a proposal to raise $15,000 to sponsor a refugee family.
I squirmed a bit.
I mean, there is clearly nothing more Jesus-like than caring for those who have been victimized and pushed to the margins. But could we really do it while STILL trying to meet our own budget?
We announced the sponsorship initiative "Extending the Table" in January, and asked people to raise and give money towards the $15,000.
And here's the weirdest thing: When we added the additional sponsorship project we started MEETING OUR BUDGET for the first time all year. Our giving shot up, from December to January, by 75%.
SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT! People pay coaches to try and get that kind of increase!
In fact people have continued to give even more generously without us ever bugging them, and quite frankly, despite our really poor communication about our congregations financial budget!
And all the while we marched towards raising AN ADDITIONAL $15,000 for sponsorship (we're currently $43 short of the goal, and you can give the difference!).
WHAT IN THE WORLD DO YOU MAKE OF THAT?
How can increasing our budget for this refugee initiative lead to us meeting our original budget for the first time?
Here's what I suspect: there are two ways to look at the world (overstatement but roll with me here).
1) Scarcity - there is barely enough to go around and so we better focus on what we have, cling to it tight, and make sure that we get ours before anyone else gets anything.
2) Abundance - there is more than enough to go around, God's a God of provision, and when we loosen our grip on what we have, we find we are given more than we ever could have grasped.
Now I don't say all this to brag on our congregation. MANY MANY churches have raised way more than us to help people around the world and in our own backyard. We aren't the best church at this.
I share it because I am so often tempted to live in a scarcity mindset. I often feel that someone else's success is my failure, that someone else's provision is my lack. I am tempted to give in to the narratives of fear that tell us new arrivals will steal our jobs or social health care. That's a powerful narrative of fear.
But you know what is an even better story? There is a Benevolent Power of Love at the centre of all things, and that Love wants to free us up from fear, and teach us how to love. When we give we will receive. There is more than enough for everyone: God is a God of Abundance, and so is the world he made.
In the book of Exodus, God's people had left slavery and had to rely on God for provision. Every morning there was food called manna that had fallen from the sky and settled on the land. When they saw it they wondered what to do, so:
So Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat. And these are God’s instructions: ‘Gather enough for each person, about two quarts per person; gather enough for everyone in your tent.’”
The People of Israel went to work and started gathering, some more, some less, but when they measured out what they had gathered, those who gathered more had no extra and those who gathered less weren’t short—each person had gathered as much as was needed. (Exodus 16)
May it be so, brothers and sisters. May we live in abundance!