I have this quote on my wall. I can't remember exactly where it comes from originally. I think it may be from Don Carson's book on prayer, which, if memory serves, is called Transforming Prayer. The book is a great expositional read of Paul's prayers.
Anyway, the quote sits on my wall and acts as a regular reminder that frustration will not solve the problems or address the issues. Last night one of our core leaders expressed a sense of frustration as he shared his concerns about the busyness of church and the time it steals from us all, hijacking our availability to be involved with the community. He spoke passionately about his own personal lack of connection with unchurched folk. I was moved.
His second concern was for the poor and how we serve the poor, not only in our community but in the world at large.
I hear his cry. It's my cry too. As a minister I find myself easily cut-off from the world outside the church. I have to make the effort to connect. And I too wonder about the effectiveness of my efforts.
My fellow leader said he was thinking of volunteering for our village care scheme. That's a great idea. Serving the local community is one of the things I feel the church should be best at. We also talked about how we use our money as a local church. I've posted before about my idea for an upside-down thermometer (the idea of setting aside some of our budget to give to the community as grants for small projects etc), but there's more. We tithe our church income and I'd like to see us being very clear about what proportion of that goes to relieving poverty and oppression wherever it might be. I'd like to see us move towards giving away a greater percentage of our income too.
What fascinates me is that earlier this year it looked like we were going to have a large hole in our finances. So we prayed and we gave and we more than closed that gap. Now, closer to our year-end, it's becoming clear that we've underspent and although we've under-given compared to what we said we would give, we don't look as if the hole is going to be there as we thought.
So God blessed us with a challenge, and he blessed us as we gave. We could just take the gift day money and add it to our building fund for the improvements we want to make. But I think we should ask God what we should do now. Perhaps he's done this because there is something really creative and lavish he wants us to do now we know we're safe. And even if we were not "safe" finanicially, we're a people of faith. If God calls us to give then should we not respond by giving?
I hope, and pray, that God will reveal this to us, and that we will be willing to listen.