Facing Goliath

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Facing Goliath

Greetings friends, members, and supporters of LCC!
I’m sending this note out this week to share some disheartening news, and there’s no “nice” way to put it other than to say we don’t have enough money to continue paying our staff.
Many of you know that I’m a perpetual optimist, but my optimism has been really struggling since June. I have full confidence that God has a plan for all of us in the midst of this weird time, and I have full confidence that my own personal ministry isn’t done yet, and I also still have confidence that the ministry work of LCC isn’t finished, but the bare truth is that we are facing the biggest Goliath we have ever faced as a church.
David’s words to the giant are interesting:

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” — 1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV

I have no idea how hard it was for little David to stand in front of that behemoth and say, “You come at me with a sword, but I come at you with a name.” The weapons, the optics, the everything about the situation proved how hopeless David was in that battle, but David had one thing Goliath didn’t have… God.
God hadn’t given David a vision.
God hadn’t sent David a message from a prophet.
The only thing David had was the knowledge that the giant had disrespected his God and that someone had to oppose it. So he did. And he didn’t even bother to take credit for the victory he expected.
“The battle is the LORD’s!” he said.
Those are the words I’m hanging onto these days.
The battle is the LORD’s. Our job is to fight our fights, run our races, but his job is to win… in his time… in his way.

Where Things Stand Now

So I want you to fully know where things stand right with our church right now so you can be praying with me about all this.
As you can see from our Financials Chart, our total giving in August was only around $9700, and even though July’s $16000 seems pretty strong, that number was inflated by two factors. One, a family in the church gave their September and October tithe early, and two, we received a grant of $5000 from the Center for Congregations for technology purchases. That means the normal July giving was down near $8000.
So, with monthly giving below $10000 for the past two months, we can’t reasonably expect income greater than that for the upcoming months either.
Additionally, as you can see from the bottom of the chart, our total cash assets right now are about $7451 but in a week our mortgage (interest-only) payment will clear… and that check will be $7451… I kid you not. What we owe for July and August interest is exactly the same amount as how much cash we have available. (Well, it’s actually off by 51 cents).
We literally have no money.

How’d We Get Here

There certainly are a lot of factors in play, but I want you to be confident in our transparency, so that’s why I’m reiterating the fact that our financial records are fully open to anyone who wants to see them. In fact, to see every transaction we have made this year, you can view our current full financial report here.
The simple fact is that June, July, and August offerings have been roughly half of what we need for normal operations, and we have been spending down our reserves hoping for an upturn, but the reserves are depleted, so we’re making the hard decisions.

Moving Forward

It can feel terrible giving money to an organization seemingly on the decline, and I bet many of you are wondering if it’s time for you to jump ship or to redirect your giving for a time, so I want to give you all the reassurance I can by sharing with you our plan to move forward, hang on through the end of the pandemic, and reclaim our vision on the other side of it.
Therefore, here is our short-term plan:

  • First, we expect giving to remain steady at around $9000/mo.
  • Second, we expect to continue setting aside 10% of our income to go to causes outside our church. This church has always practiced tithing, and we aren’t going to stop now.
  • Third, we expect to continue making payments for our buildings and utilities.
  • Fourth, we will be ending all staff compensation for the time being. Many of us will continue to offer our time to the church, but sadly that means Pastor Reggie will need to begin charging for his counseling services while possibly even pursuing other employment and I (Pastor Jeff) will likely need to find some additional income myself.
  • Fifth, my wife Jen has a great job, our family is deeply embedded in Lafayette, and we truly love all of you, so I’m not going anywhere, and I still feel incredibly blessed to be your pastor even now.

I know all this sounds pretty terrible, and I myself have a lot of concerns about what this means for my family, the other staff members, and for our church as a whole, but a friend of mine once told me a story from the Bible that has stuck with me to this day. It’s at the end of Matthew 17.
Jesus is facing a question from some antagonists who are asking whether he pays the temple tax or not. He makes a point about how he doesn’t need to worry about the tax because he has a personal relationship to the Father anyway, but he also tells Peter to go catch a fish. When Peter does, he finds a coin in the mouth of the fish! Enough to pay the tax for Jesus and for Peter himself. It’s a weird story that can apply to our lives in a lot of ways, but my friend, who was a pastor, made the observation that tax is a responsibility and fishing was in Peter’s nature. Fishing came natural to him. Therefore, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “Here we have a situation where we are feeling pressure to do something we don’t think we can, but don’t worry, God can take care of us. Just go and do what you were made to do, and watch how God provides.”
I’m feeling like I’m in that place right now.
I bet you are with me in that same place of uncertainty and confusion.
But, I think we can trust God still.
Let us just do what we were made to do and watch how God provides… in his time… in his way.

What it Means for You and for LCC

For many churches, letters like this end with an impassioned plea for the readers to “step it up” and “dig deep” and “give till it hurts” for the sake of the church, but I hope by now you know that I’m not going to do that since I’ve never been one for cajoling people to give like that.
My approach to money is still the same as it has always been.
God gives me 10% more than he wants me to have. In gratitude, I return that extra amount to him with joy, and I pray for wisdom to wisely use the remaining 90%.
That’s why we only talk about money at the church once a month.
That’s why we call it Gratitude Sunday.
If you are grateful for God’s provision, return to him the portion he has claimed for himself. If you have been blessed by the work of LCC, and if you are committed to partnering with us in this work, then we would love to receive your gift of gratitude each month, and we will trust that whatever God brings into our church will be even more than what he wants us to have.
We have always been a church that operates on those principles regarding money, and I don’t intend for us to change that any time soon.

Don’t Lose Heart

Finally, as I taught through 2 Corinthians last year, I repeatedly encountered in Paul’s words something that encouraged me greatly:

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. — 2 Corinthians 4:1 NIV

The ministry we have in this world is by God’s grace and mercy. Why would I ever lose heart as long as I’m pressing on with his work?!
For you, that means we are going to continue being as much of the church as we can.
This month will continue to be a month of service for us… I’ll be announcing some service projects this Sunday.
This month will see an increase in small group opportunities… be watching for those.
This month will also have us getting together for an outdoor worship experience at the end of the month… I’m excited about that!
And, this month God will be with you and with me just the same as he always has been.
And, for this month and beyond, Jen and I are still here for you, Megan and Joe are still here for you, and even Pastor Reggie will take your call too! To prove it, I’m putting phone numbers here for you if you need them.

 
We love you.
Grace and Peace,
 
Pastor Jeff