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A Letter from the Associate Pastor to Presbytery

Oh no, it’s stewardship time again!
September 22, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the Lord!

I was at the Crestfield Camp & Conference Center presbytery meeting this month when a pastor stopped to talk and get caught up after the “summer down time”.  We exchanged greetings and stories of family members, but then our conversation took an unexpected turn.  “Oh!” the pastor said with a sigh, “in the next two weeks I will be meeting with our elders about our budget for next year.”  The look on the pastor’s face said it all.  “We have some difficult decisions to make,” the pastor said with a slow drawl.  The pastor continued, “We have so many things we want to accomplish for the Lord.  The needs in our community and world are so great, but sometimes the resources seem to be so limiting.”

Every year, pastors and session go through this budgetary dance.  How much do we have?  What are our priorities? What is God calling us to do?  Can we possibly ask more from our members? In a good year, the question is “What can we add?”  In a bad year, the question becomes, “What needs to be cut?”  In many ways the presbytery is going through this same process.

The temptation in such budgetary conversations is to assume we can only do what we can afford. We focus our attention on what we have or don’t have (i.e. seeing only the dollar signs).  We draw in.  We tend to think smaller.  We get scared.  Our mind rushes to the worst possible scenario.  We begin to think of taking care of ourselves first. Trust in an all abundant God is pushed aside to meet the “realities” of life, (or so we say to convince ourselves believing we have no other choice than to give up and give in to financial realities.) I would encourage us to stop and think for a moment.  Is this a faithful response to God’s desired mission for your church? For us together?   Do these actions reveal a trust in God, a belief in God’s abundance and desire to bless? Have we jumped to conclusions before we have gathered everyone together to problem solve, think outside the box and use our creative energies as the Spirit guides to be faithful to God’s call?

The first church I served had three guys in a dark room make up the budget.  They were not in touch with the hopes and dreams of the members.  They were bean counters.  It was then that I learned God’s people will not give generously if they have no investment in how God is going to use their gifts and tithes for ministry. If they don’t sense any lives are being impacted for Christ. Their eyes glaze over when stewardship speakers give a minute for mission (or should I say a guilt ridden speech about what will happen if the church doesn’t pay the light bill.)  Could our financial troubles not only be a dollar and cents issue but a spiritual one as well?  Can we do better?  Could it be that God is calling us to do more ministry, only more effectively with less dollars?  Have we asked God to guide our planning of budgets and set our priorities?  Have we shared with the people of God, what God is calling us to do, so people want to invest in “kingdom building” activities?

May the God of blessing and abundance guide you in your budget planning and giving!
The Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz, Associate Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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