I hate it when these things happen. Maybe it’s never happened to you, but occasionally it happens to me. What happens is I get down right .... I get stirred up. My usual gentle demeanor gets disturbed. It happened last night.
First, let me give credit where credit is due. The source of my irritation, my agitated state is my good friend Gary. He’s a big church preacher a couple hundred miles from where I hang out. I don’t know what possessed Gary to do what he did, but he did it. Personally, I’m too busy trying to iron out the wrinkles in this little congregation I serve to indulge in such things; but Gary is, as I say, a big church pastor and has a staff to do his work. As a consequence he has recently been entertaining himself by using the internet to spy on the accomplishments of our brothers and sisters of the cloth in our conference. He called me to share this information with me and gave me a quick tutorial on how to navigate about the episcopal area’s website in order to view the source of my irritation for myself.
As a consequence, I’ve discovered that with the inserting of the proper URL address to be followed by a few flips and clicks of the mouse I can view the contributions of every church in the area toward their denominational asking. Viewing the information has left me perplexed, shocked, and downright stirred up.
I know we’re in severe economic times. I know that the giving among church goers has decreased considerably. I know one can expect a downturn in contributions. But I never expected to see listed on that site all the churches that are blessed with fortune giving less than half the amount they were asked. And frankly fellow pastor (and all of you know who you are) if my church’s contributions toward the asking was less than ten percent I’d haul my ass down to the conference treasurer’s office and write a personal check just to demonstrate I was committed.
I can’t but wonder if seeing a church giving one or two percent of the asking is more offensive than giving none at all. A zero contribution, it seems to me, is an acknowledgement that one is not with the program. A contribution of one or two percent is an acknowledgement of the program’s existence but the pastor’s “I don’t give a shit.” attitude. (That’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.)
I’m wondering if any of those pastors whose church paid less than they were asked turned down any increase in pay or asked that their pay be reduced. Do you suppose there’s one who did?
Now let me wave a flag of triumph here. The little rural church I serve managed to pay 100% of what they were asked. In addition, they clothed a substantial number of indigent children, provided lice treatment for impoverished children who need such in an extremely financially disadvantaged school, provided a substantial portion of the needed funds for a missionary in Peru, operated a weekly soup kitchen where a wide variety of meals, not all of which were soup, were provided free, financed one half of the funding for a transitional housing ministry, as well as several other ministries. We did this by cutting expenses. We no longer mail out a newsletter; when something breaks we fix it ourselves rather than buy a new one; we economize to have money for ministry and to pay all the denominational asking (which, by the way, is ridiculously high).
Speaking of economizing, I’m a little tired of hearing from my denominational supervisors that the preachers need to push the people to get the asking in. I’m tired of it because I don’t see any economizing on their part. They still drive, one person to a car, to their meetings. Apparently they have no idea of internet-enhanced meetings. They still find reason to go to a sea side resort to decide which pastor is going to be moved where. There has been no trimming of staff on the denominational level. I could go on and on here, but I won’t. One or two of them actually read this.
So here’s the end of the rant: To all you pastors and churches who are not doing your job, who have decided to thumb your nose at the connection by doing the least possible, and to all you denominational executives who have done nothing to trim costs and practice real stewardship, this country parson who has encouraged his church to pay out 100% and to do even more than that:
Get a calling; get a ministry; get some gumption; get a sense of purpose because we’re sick and tired of carrying you on our back.
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