"... But first be concerned about God's kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be provided for you as well" (Matthew 6: 33).
"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house..." (Malachi 3: 10)
Two of the Societies that I am responsible for have been experiencing severe financial difficulties for some time, and my presence is the result of such Societies no longer being in a financial position to be able to afford an ordained minister.
The departure of their ordained minister last year has caused a degree of trauma; however, they have a history of financial struggle. While poverty does play a role, attitudes towards giving, coupled with cultural practices around giving that are not in line with Scripture, have been largely responsible. A history of conflict has also added to the malaise.
Coming into this situation, I was quite overwhelmed at first - after all, what difference can one make in a year? I therefore took the decision not to try to be a hero, but to reinforce the fact that (a) I am not their "ideal" minister in terms of continuity, since Phase Ones move on after their first year; (b) there is a lingering hurt (and possibly embarrasment as well) concerning the departure of their previous minister, which needs to be recognised; (c) the itinerant nature of ministry within the MCSA means that ministers come and go but the community remains; and (d) God raised up a previous community to establish a work in these areas, and the continued existence of that work is largely in the hands of the present community.
In the first quarter of 2009, I felt that the finances had completely fallen out of bed, particularly since the Circuit has assumed control thereof (which in itself has caused a great deal of unhappiness). But in the last month or two, I have sensed a quiet and gradual change, as though the message of "we must move forward" is finally beginning to hit home.
And so I was extremely encouraged at the vast improvement in the level of giving over the past two weeks. For the first time this year, it looks as though we will not only make our full Circuit assessment for the month, but begin to make inroads into the arrears as well.
It's early days yet, and my Superintendent has warned me that such "spurts" have been experienced before. But with the stewardship campaign only due to get into full swing this coming weekend, the initial signs are very encouraging indeed...
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