Four years ago, The Rev. Matthew Harrison took office as the President of our church body here in the US, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. One of the things that he made his first priority was to offer as much transparency as he could, especially when it came to the Synod’s use of contributions. As a result, each year a sort of “State of Synod” issue is published through our church’s official magazine, The Lutheran Witness. It includes everything that is going on from mission work to education to ministry support to finance.
Over the last several months, our own Finance Committee along with the Church Council have been trying to become even more transparent about things here at St. John’s, especially in the area of Finance. Thus, you may have noticed that things like Simply Giving have been pushed a little more, the reporting of weekly attendance and contributions numbers have changed a bit in the bulletin to include our weekly need, and we are getting better information to our Council so that they can make good decisions regarding the health of our congregation.
Last spring, it was announced that we were in a bit of a financial jam…cash on hand was in short supply. We have a lot of assets, but our liquid assets were depleting. Expenses were higher than our contributions on a regular basis, and many of you watched in the bulletin as our need-to-date and our receipts-to-date got further and further apart. As a result, our Finance Committee has been hard at work this summer to find some solutions to this problem, some of which involved changing the way we do things and recasting some things to help bring our monthly expenses down to a more manageable level. If you have been away for a while, you will find upon your return other changes that are more tangible and noticeable from the pew, not the least of which is the absence of a vicar. Granted, we knew this was coming. Historically, attendance and contributions go down over the summer, but this summer was especially difficult. To be completely honest, our Finance Committee and bookkeeper have been figuring out which bills to pay and which ones to let go delinquent, and there was concern a couple of times whether we would even have the ability to make payroll for our staff. Summer is also a time when we try and work on various maintenance projects around the church, but this year, due to a lack of funds, we have done none of them. To say that we have all been holding our collective breath for September to arrive would be an understatement. We will come into Rally Day not just limping, but riding a wheelchair, sucking wind, and praying for a positive rebound.
So there it is…the shock value is real and intended to help you see what we deal with in the office. Things at St. John’s do not go on hold when summer hits. We still have things we do, and need, in order for the ministry and mission of our congregation to carry on as it should even while many or making less use of our resources. It is a painful thing, and something that worries us each year once June rolls around.
All of that said though, I am not including this information in my article this month because I want to chastise you for not being here, or not giving when you are not here. You have heard that said before, I am sure, and in the back of your mind you even know it is true. I don’t want to focus upon that aspect of it because to do so would be to simply speak the law to you: you need to be here; you need to give regularly; you need to do something to help us. Instead, I do not want to tell you to give more so that we can meet our budget. What I want to do is help you take a look at your life in Christ and then consider how that dirty word, Stewardship, fits in with that life. I want to speak to you in the way of the Gospel and enable you to see what is meant by Christian Stewardship and how it applies to your daily life.
Over the next few months, you will see articles in the Good News about this subject, and over the next several weeks there will be a number of bulletin inserts which will serve as take-home studies and reflections on the Biblical principles of stewardship. We will also try and make these studies and articles available in other ways if you happen to miss a week and miss things. This is an important part of our life in Christ, and admittedly it is something that is not talked about very often around here. I take the blame for that. So now, I am going to be more intentional about speaking about it, and encouraging you to think about it, not for the sake of St. John’s, although it will help us too, but for your sake, for stewardship is part of our life in Christ and the Bible has much to say about it, and failure to consider it would be nothing short of sinful. So please stay tuned to what is coming up in the weeks and months ahead, and please make every effort to participate in all that will be coming your way. As I have indicated before, if we can think clearly on this with God’s help, our discussions will begin to center not on whether we have the means to pay the light bill, but on how we can best use all of our excess resources to further the work of the Gospel in Sayville, New York, and around the world. St. John’s used to be on the leading edge of such activity, and by God’s grace, I’d like to see us pursue this more intentionally as the body of Christ today.
I will leave you this month with something to consider, and I will tackle this more in the inserts in September and in October’s newsletter. What is stewardship? What does that mean to you? How do you think it is practiced, and how do you think it is practiced faithfully? How would you describe your own stewardship in light of what you think stewardship is? Are you faithful to what you think…do you lack in some area…or do you go above and beyond? Consider these things, and look out for more to come! By our Lord’s work, we will all grow in our faith and understanding of this important part of our Christian life.
Gracious God, You send great blessings New each morning, all our days.
For Your mercies never ending, For Your love we offer praise.
Lord, we pray that we, Your people Who Your gifts un-numbered claim,
Through the sharing of Your blessings May bring glory to Your name (LSB 782, st. 1).
~ Pastor Noack