We had our annual congregational meeting last Sunday. We are experiencing what most faith communities are: a decreasing membership which, in turn, means decreased giving, which in turn means, we can't pay the bills. For my entire church-life, we have always passed a deficit budget. How that can even be presented as a viable option, I have no idea. Anyhow, this year proved to be no different. However, the very shocking thing was that $5,000 in unpaid 2010 bills were included. Again, how that can even be presented as a viable option, I have no idea. Something is wrong. Seriously wrong. And the leadership does not/refuses to acknowledge this fact. Needless to say, I opposed the passing of the budget.
So, because I am who I am, I raise the question..."What is the plan? How are we going to meet this budget?" The response I received was less than adequate. Our pastor related all of the things that we have been doing, i.e., continuing our mission, praying, reaching out to others. So, here I sit in another congregational meeting with still no answer. Fortunately, one of my former youth group kids spoke up and called them on not answering the question. Again, avoidance.
Speed up to the "open house" portion of the agenda. I calmly asked, again, what the plan was to increase our membership and to pay our bills. I made my point very clearly and precisely. All to no avail. I was met with, "God will provide." "God will be working through us to increase the membership." "We can do more." At this point, something stirred in me that I was not prepared for. Out it came. I voiced my concern that we have been talking about the same things for 3 years now and we have not had any movement. I must have been speaking Greek because no one in leadership could give me a straight answer. So, after asking the question, "What is it about our congregation, our ministries, our building that makes people not come back?" I was asked, "Would you like to research that?" To which I replied, "no, you don't want me to do that. I can rattle off 10 things right now and it wouldn't be good." (side note: we did that a year ago and nothing came of it) And the response, "Maybe you should take a break and come back refreshed and renewed." That did it. Out the door I went.
I fully understand that God will provide. I get it. I have been a recipient of that deep faith. What I don't understand is how someone can blatantly ignore what is going on around them and have no clue that in order for us to actually receive those provisions from God, we must be prepared. We aren't. That's my point. The line from Faith to Stubbornness has been crossed. Faith is believing in what you can't see. That doesn't mean that you ignore reality and what's going on around you. It doesn't mean that you can't make a plan. It means that you must be prepared for whatever you will be given so that you can use those gifts to their fullest potential. Stubbornness has come to live in our congregation. The refusal to acknowledge the financial crisis we are in, the refusal to acknowledge the decreasing membership, and the refusal to acknowledge that a plan is needed are all examples. We need to push Stubbornness back out the door and restore Faith.
With God all things are possible...or are they?