An Open Letter to My Church

My church is encountering a unique situation. While many organizations, ministries, businesses, as well as state and local governments find themselves in dire financial straights, my church is coming off a healthy year end surplus and entering this new year with an offer for a section of our land (that we don't use anyway) that would pay off our mortgage and put us another $200,000 or so in the black, not to mention another $2,400 a month in freed up payments that can now be directed elsewhere. They've asked us to think and pray about what we might do with the money. So this is my open letter to the diverse group of people I've grown to love and relate to, people who have loved me so thoroughly.

For those of you who don't attend my church, feel free to read but know there are details that I assume the readers of this letter know.

Maple City Chapel,

We were born out of struggle, hard labor and sacrifice by people who dared to love violent teens, who made their way out of comfy church walls and dared to love difficult to love people. We've heard stories of faith, failure, pain, joy, and ultimately of God's faithfulness through it all. We aren't all that perfect, nor will we be on this side of eternity, but I am grateful to join into the story that God is telling through our little gathering.

We face down a wonderful decision, "What should we do with a couple hundred thousand dollars." In once sense it's a practical question, a question of stewardship, responsibility, covering our debts, but as Dave Ramsey so often says, money is a behavioral issue just as much as a numbers issue. What we do with our resources both reveals and determines where our treasure is, what we really value. As Gary put it so well, every action of faith goes on our resume. Te decision to follow God today opens doors for following Him in greater things tomorrow.

I don't know every line of our budget, though I do know that we've bought a hippo and the hippo eats quite a bit, and looks like it might need knee surgery in the coming years. (Note: This is only meant to say that maintenance on such a thing has some overhead, not that we should necessarily ditch the building. How we got the building in the first place was through quite miraculous circumstance.) I won't be angry or stage a coup if we use the money to replace air conditioners, repave a lot, or a dozen other items that make sense. But we have an opportunity to be prophetic, to ourselves, to our children, even to the broader church. We have the chance to move from what makes sense to what Gary again so well put this Sunday, seems foolish.

So here's what I propose. After immediately paying off the remaining mortgage lets take time to consider needs in our community, in our country, even in our world.

-If we are a pro-life church, lets redirect most of that money to programs in Michiana like RETA. 48% of abortions are performed on women under the poverty line, many of those being single mothers. Reta works with mothers who are facing economic hell, as well as birthing a child into that hell. Reta works to care about children before and after the womb. I've heard many say it's the church's job to care for the down and outs, not the government. Well here's a chance to address big needs in a big way.

-If we care about children around the world, which seems to be the case as we have adopted quite a few children in the last year, we have the opportunity to back groups like Compassion international that lift children out of poverty, taking education, food, medicine, and Jesus to those who are buried by famine, corruption, injustice, social stigmas and an ongoing list of realities many of us are fortunate to have missed out on in our own lives.

-If we care about reaching our community with Jesus, Pit-Road ministry has been (in my opinion) the largest outreach to the world around us, to single mothers and many others who have had their world transformed by an alternator or new tires.

You might have your own ideas about ways we could express and determine what matters and what will matter in the future, wether through our church or through an outside organization I'd love to hear them below. But whatever it is, I think we have a great opportunity to do something a bit foolish, especially in a culture that largely serves the dollar. Just as some brave people planted a seed forty years ago that grew into a giant maple, we have an opportunity to plant another seed, an act of faith that just might transform our church today and 40 years from now.

To the leadership team, I know you have difficult decisions to make, I don't envy the stress of the role you have to play. But I dare, I beg you, to inspire us.

And, as always:

May He guide you through the wilderness May He protect you through the storm May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you.