You want to talk about WHAT?!?
This past Sunday a few notable things happened at The Bridge that you should know about EVEN If you spent this gorgeous long-weekend somewhere else.
The first notable event was the release of the Q1 treasurers letter. As we have been transitioning from Tim’s leadership of the office of treasurer to Pastor Jenn’s, we have been reviewing the giving trends with an aim toward identifying what is happening in the church, and how we can help people grow in their giving and stewardship of God’s resources. Not only have we been looking at the bottom line numbers for the church as a whole – but the specific numbers that each household has contributed to the end of April, and how that lines up with a commitment to the spiritual discipline of giving.
Our financial team has been reviewing those figures and have identified households that we believe are struggling in this spiritual discipline. Those households have been broken into two categories internally - those who are giving nothing, and we can’t understand why (especially if you are a member and have made commitments to live differently in this regard), and those who are giving less than expected based upon what we know about you and perhaps need an encouragement, or some help. This in itself is a departure from the more birds-eye view of the numbers that we have more recently engaged with, but that information gathering piece was not the only notable event.
The second notable event is what we have done with that information. While not sharing anyone’s specific financial information with anyone outside of the financial team, we did append Year-To-Date interim giving statements to those letters to let you know how you’re doing, and if you found your way onto one of those two lists we have also notified your flock elder that you were on a list and have asked them to follow up with you about how you’re doing in this important spiritual discipline.
This past Tuesday, the elders underwent training on how to have coaching conversations about stewardship so that we can first and foremost help you to reframe your relationship with your God-given resources in a way that edifying and practically helpful to you. Over the next few weeks you might be surprised (or not surprised as the case may be) to get a call from your flock elder asking for a conversation on this issue, and I would urge you to start preparing yourselves for these conversations to eliminate ahead of time any awkwardness that might stem from talking about an issue that is culturally (but by no means biblically) taboo.
Those of you who have been around The Bridge for more than a few years will likely remember that this sort of spiritual accountability is not new to our congregation, even if it is being done in a new sort of way. In the past we used to ask you to fill out pathway assessments a couple of times each year where you would do a type of self-evaluation on the fruit of spiritual maturity in your life. On that assessment every six-months we asked you a very direct question: “Are you currently tithing (10% of income) to The Bridge?” If you answered “no” to that question, you could have expected a phone call from Pastor Jenn to talk to you about the importance of the spiritual discipline of giving. It’s been a few years since we’ve done those sorts of assessments (for a number of reasons) but the priority of helping you grow in spiritual disciplines has not waned.
In recent months we have talked to some of you about the importance of regular church attendance as a mark of spiritual maturity and commitment to the body. We have preached on, and celebrated baptisms as an important spiritual marker and milestone. Currently, in our family ministries time, our children are learning about the doctrines of the Four-Fold Gospel (you should ask your kids if you want to learn more!). In each of these instances we are trying to live out our core values as a congregation so that we don’t let destructive patterns of behaviour to fly under the radar because it is too uncomfortable to confront. This is just one more instance of the same commitment to the value of discipleship through transparency that we try to embody in all of our church practices. And as a way of demonstrating how committed we are to this personally, this past Tuesday evening I sat down with the members of MY flock (your elders) and we all shared with each other the specifics of our household finances and giving practices, and we have all committed to each other that we can be held accountable for those disciplines and are prepared to likewise be transparent with you if it can in any way help you toward spiritual maturity.
All of that is to say that we do these things not to pester you, or to bully you, but to help you. In this particular instance we do it because we believe what Jesus says about wealth and its effect on us. We believe him when he says in Matthew 6:21 that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” and we want your heart to be fully submitted to Christ. We believe Jesus when he says in Luke 16:13 that, “no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” And we want you to live lives devoted to serving God. As your spiritual shepherds we love you too much to let you continue on in destructive practices and we want you to be better!
And so, I want you to be aware of what is happening and why it is happening and then be prepared for it to happen. This will be as new an experience for many of your elders as it might be for you, but I am confident that it will be a positive experience nonetheless. I also believe that for some of you this might be a turning point in your walk with the Lord. As I told the elders at our meeting this week, there are few better indicators in our current cultural climate of a person’s devotion to Christ than what they do with their resources, and we want to be known as a people who are fully-devoted to Christ. So, I’ll leave you with this final exhortation from the book of Hebrews and then invite you to ask me any questions you might have about this. I’m always willing to dialogue, and happy to explain things further if you would like. Remember: we do this because we love you too much not to do it.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
Until next time,