In this letter I will be addressing my upcoming medical leave, giving an update regarding our January First Fruits offering, as well as offering a pastoral perspective concerning our ongoing giving practice as a church. Please remember House Church tonight, our work project at the Chapel/property on Saturday, and the Mother's Day breakfast on Sunday. Thank you.
Beginning this Monday, May 9, I will be taking a medical leave of absence. Surgery is scheduled for Friday, May 13 but I need a few days to accomplish some things that I will not be able to do for a few months. The surgeon and his team informed me that I can expect to be “off work” for at least 6 weeks. I do not really know what to expect or what I will “feel” like doing. I will return to the gatherings and to pastoral and personal ministry as soon as I am able.
Pastor Taylor will be available and functioning as acting pastor of PCF during this period. He will be at Asbury for a week of classes immediately following my surgery. That week will end the semester for him. Pastor Claude Robold will be speaking here on Sunday, May 15 and Pastor Gary Powell will be sharing on Sunday, May 22. Thank you for supporting them as well as Pastor Taylor who will be leading the gatherings.
Thank you for your understanding and for praying. Let’s continue believing for a miracle that will be evident to the surgeon on Friday morning, May 13. God hears and answers prayer even when it is not in the way we anticipate. He is faithful and true to His Word.
First Fruits Giving Review
The Lord helped us bring over $27,000 to the storehouse in the first weeks of 2022. That is an amazing offering. The Elders, Pastor Taylor, and Sondra have worked with me in prayer, discussion, and strategic planning to allocate some of the funds. In addition to that which relates to our ministry needs and obligations we will be sowing into some Kingdom ministries connected to those who are in covenant relationship with us.
We will be sending funds to the ministry of Phyllis Newby in
Haiti. She has a substantial ministry that includes hundreds of churches and
schools who look to her for leadership and provision. In addition, her ministry
includes an orphanage, a conference center, and a hospital that continues to
develop and serve a greater area of that part of Haiti.
Hunger in Haiti is an ever-present need. Starvation, the likes of which we do not see in this nation is a daily reality there. Phyllis secures and distributes over $40,000 dollars in rice every few months. Hand To The Plow Ministries, led by Pastor Steve Coder, is the primary conduit for raising and supplying the needed funds on an ongoing basis. We will be making a contribution in a few days to help with the upcoming distribution.
There is a similar need in Cuba. Rev. Eduardo Gonzalez leads a ministry that feeds the elderly in Havana. Molly and I were there a few years ago to witness this caring ministry. They not only feed but love and minister to people in communities who would otherwise not have food to eat. We will be sending funds to our brother in the next few days.
Phyllis Newby, Pastor Steve Coder, and Eduardo Gonzalez and all trusted and committed servants of the Lord. They have all partnered with us in ministry for years. They pray for us. When I placed a call to the Hand to the Plow office yesterday, I found out that Phyllis continues to pray for me and has the pastors in Haiti doing so as well.
There are a few other places into which we may be sowing “First Fruit” funds but we are waiting for clearer direction confirmation.
Ongoing giving at Plainfield Christ Fellowship
Statistics and analysis are not, in themselves, motivating or inspirational. However, I think you would agree that facts matter. Recently, I asked Sondra to provide me with an anonymous, arm’s length analysis of our current picture of congregational giving because I was seeing some concerning trends. Her ministry in the finance of the church is significant and done in consistent excellence. For that, we are all thankful. We have a great team consisting of Sondra, Natalie Mahlan, and Taylor.
Here are some realities of our current congregational giving profile.
- Nearly 50% of our congregation gives consistently.
- A little less than that percentage give at a level that would suggest tithing or similar.
- A few give occasionally and sometimes substantially, yet unpredictably.
- Some do not give at all and a few who used to give have ceased doing so.
- There are a few who have never given to the ministry.
- Others are growing in the grace of giving.
I am thankful for everyone, whether you give or not. I choose not to know because I am only human and I do not want the knowledge of giving in my mind as I engage in ministry. Jesus said that the woman who gave two mites was the “biggest giver”. The number of zeros at the end does not impress Jesus. I want to be like that.
As a family, I think it is important that you know the general picture of how we are doing. I’m not sure how we compare to other congregations. I only care about what the Lord sees and how it might have an impact upon our spiritual life and health.
Here are some things of which I am confident with regard to giving from the Word of God.
- The father gave all. He bankrupted Heaven for me and you. Jesus left everything to come to earth to again, pay everything for me and you. How can we not be givers?
- God loves givers who are really happy about their own giving.
- The Word of God teaches the spiritual principle of “first fruits” giving. We give to Him first. Sometimes people are not able to do that because their finances are not in order. There are ways to straighten that out. Obedience does not occur in a vacuum.
- God blesses faithful giving. He always has and always will.
- We are not to become a “special interest” giving people. That is the way the world gives. It shows you an image of a starving child or a disaster area. People are motivated emotionally or by self-interest. We are to give by faith according to where we are placed. In addition to that, we give as the Holy Spirit leads, not according to stirred passions but by the mind of Christ. He may have us give without knowledge of need.
- Our hearts will be attached to our giving.
Finally, here are some thoughts relevant to our spiritual community.
- It is our desire to keep our financial expense footprint as conservative as possible. Even once we begin developing our property, we want to remain modest and conservative and yet proceed with excellence. It is not necessary to have the best of everything but it is pleasing to God to take care of that with which He has entrusted us.
- We want to move beyond existing “hand to mouth” as a ministry. As we all bring our tithes and offerings into the storehouse, we will be able to sow greater amounts into our mission and into the mission of others with whom we partner. With less than half of the congregation tithing, we tend to either just keep expenses met or worse, have an ongoing deficit situation. We currently have a deficit trend developing again.
- Individuals or individual families need to have surplus finance so that it is possible to obey the Holy Spirit at any time. The same applies to the church. Faithful giving makes that possible.
Thank you for taking time to read and consider these thoughts. I submit them in hopes that we will continue to grow and prosper in spiritual health.
Please continue to pray for one another.