Monday, March 12, 2012

What to do with God's Abundance

When we surrender every area of our lives--including our finances--to God, then we are free to trust Him to meet our needs. But if we would rather hold tightly to those things that we possess, then we find ourselves in bondage to those very things. ~Larry Burkett

I am sadden this day. I feel this weekend's church board meeting may have been one of those spiritual pivotal points for my church. There is a history, as there is with any church. This one is between my church and the district. There are hard feelings, understandably because the district once closed another church in the area where some of our current members went. The story goes that there was no warning; the district came for a visit one Sunday service and gave the announcement that it was to be closed effective that day.

Our church had some cushion money, but that was used up over a year ago. Since then the church has been making it month-to-month. It has not been making its monthly budget, but it has been paying all the bills and the pastor's salary. We had even been paying our obligations towards missions, colleges, and the district itself, but it has been a struggle just to keep going. Last fall the district asked for all churches to increase the amount they give to the district. Most of the increase was for travel expenses for the two district leaders as I understand it and, although there were protests, it passed when put to the vote.

There are three other concerns. First, the district has not helped us even when we asked for it, not even when we were looking for a pastor yet took credit for the one we found, adding to the bad feelings already present. Second, at the last district conference other church pastors shared how to "fudge" numbers so they could pay the district less money, at least that is how it was viewed by the pastor and others who attended. We have taken our obligation to the district seriously and have been a 100% church, but hearing from larger churches how they pay nothing or little really did not help the attitude in my church toward the district, who allows it. Third, there are questions about a loan of district money to the district leader. (Personally, I do not have any history with the district so I can have a more uninvolved, third-party attitude as I observe people working through all these things.)

A few months ago, in protest to the above issues, our board decided to withhold paying the district. We planned to pay our obligation in full eventually, but there is no requirement in the manual that it must be paid monthly, as we were doing. The board planned to withhold the funds until the district leader made a point to contact us and discussion these issues. However, our following Sunday School lesson was about tithing and government, so in an impromptu meeting with just a few board members, perhaps three of them, it was decided to pay the district half and still hold the other half aside to pay in full later. The district did send a letter reminding us to send the increased amount, but not even a phone call asking us if there was a problem.

The last church board meeting it was decided that the money building in the account meant for the district would be a nice cushion for our own expenses. Now, my husband, a board member, was in favor of withholding 100% to get the district's attention and was away when decision was made to change it to 50%. This time he was against the idea that we would give 100% to missions and colleges, but only give half to the district from now on. He felt that we should pay 100% with the same priority as a person would pay a tithe and the only reason he was in favor of withholding was because there was questionable financial issues within the district.

I have just finished the book The Promise of Provision: Living and Giving From God's Abundant Supply reviewed in my last post--quite timely, I would say considering the circumstances. I feel that tithing should not be something tied with one's feelings about the church. Tithing should be something that we commit to do in honor of our Lord. He provides all and we have the privilege to give what He has placed on our hearts to give back and use the rest for our needs. The thing is that often we get caught up with thinking we need more than we really do.

My husband began making only 60% of his former salary about four years ago with another decrease in pay and no raises for two years. It was a serious pinch and then we felt called to double our tithe for six months during that! When my husband first proposed that idea, I thought he had loss his senses completely, but when I prayed about it, the Lord confirmed it to me also. Still, it probably was the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do by my Lord.

You have to understand that in giving 20% at that time, we were not giving just beyond our budget, but beyond our expenses and what little cushion we had would be depleted completely; we would be flat broke at the end of that six months. I did not understand then that we were giving from God's abundance, but towards the end of that period I marveled how we never paid one bill late. We did have things break that would not get fixed until later, but we got by without the dishwasher for some months and the other little things too. Not only that but in the fifth month my husband was offered a new job out of the blue, since he was not looking, that was an over 30% increase in pay. At that point, we knew that anything over what he had been making for the last two years was an abundance, so we prayed about what God would like us to pay in tithe money and it was 15%, which equaled the same amount in funds as the 20% previously. We believe firmly we were given an abundance, because we obeyed and we wanted to be sure we kept on obeying.

Now here is my church, to which we give tithes, not being a good example of faith with the tithe. I have felt that God was showing us what we can get by on, so that when He did bless us with more members and money that we would use it more wisely. However, now the church is not paying its share to the district. Maybe people saw money building up in the account for the first time in well over a year and it tempted them. Maybe they just are letting their feelings about the district justify keeping it. I do not know, but it feels quite unsettling in my spirit and my husband did not feel it had been a decision from the Lord sought after in prayer.

I can definitely understand how trusting the Lord to meet our needs each month is difficult, but I also have seen the blessing that comes from doing that, in God's time. I cannot help but think that this latest decision is a very poor example for our members and children. Are we to tithe based on our feelings or services? Should we withhold 50% of our tithes to the church to protest its actions? If we were an independent church, this would not be a problem, because there would not be a district to which we would have an obligation. However, since our church is in this structure, I feel it should abide in it accordingly. I have seen and believe that my church has been promised more from the Lord, but I am not sure that it is being obedient and perhaps the Lord is allowing us to be tested. Anyway, I am truly concerned about how God will deal with our church because of this and asking for prayers that we follow His will.

~ My Lord, please help the members of my church hear You clearly and obey Your will in all areas of our lives, but particularly with personal and church finances. ~

2 comments:

  1. Seeking: Ouch. The whole *truth* thing is touching all quarters of your life, isn't it. I believe we give because we are asked to. The responsibility for how the money is then handled rests with the leadership & they are accountable before God for that. Corruption or no corruption I think your church is required to give so they are not in sin themselves. Icky.

    We are on a disability pension ~ which is breadline money. My husband supplements that with his small business but he can only work when he is well enough so steady income it is not! I began the year with thousands in debt as all our bills came in at once. They are now all cleared thanks to the Lord's provision. I always say I don't know how He makes our money go round because we know there is just not enough!

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you. Giving is something we should do and leave the rest to God.

      We are finally making serious headway on our debt now and should only owe the mortgage before the end of this year, if all continues as it is.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.