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Budget Vision

An exciting post about church budgets…

People get nervous when preachers talk about money. These thoughts aren’t about giving, but about the stewardship of how a church uses what is given.
A church budget is a vision document. It tells the story, financially, of the dreams, priorities and expectations of a church. Every line item reflects a belief that investing or spending these resources in this way will magnify the gospel, raise disciples, meet needs, and bring to life the unique ministry God has called this local body of believers to accomplish together.

A financial gift to your church will be used in one of three ways.

PEOPLE – To employ the people who oversee, manage, equip, and work alongside others to accomplish the work of the ministry.
STUFF – To pay for the campus, resources and materials used by the church to accomplish ministry.
SUBSIDY – to assist people in need and offset the cost of ministry events to participants.

As we consider how to allocate the resources entrusted to the church we should consider several things.

The church is not a business that produces a product. It’s more like a service industry. It has similarities to a school in that many of its tasks are educational. It’s related to the hospitality industry in that it hosts people and events much like a conference center might host a convention. Because these organizations are people-centered and service oriented their budgets are personnel heavy. Even though a church is not a school or a convention center a church budget will share this similarity. Think of it this way…

STUFF makes ministry nice.
PEOPLE make ministry happen.

Purchasing more books or paying utilities on a larger facility doesn’t accomplish ministry. These are the tools that extend ministry beyond the moment or become the stadium where ministry takes place. They help and are often necessary. Whatever the expense, stuff makes ministry nice. People make ministry happen.

A church budget is also used to subsidize ministry. When someone has a financial need the church often helps meet that need. Our purpose isn’t to solve the problem of poverty, but we can do for one what we wish we could do for everyone. We can partner people who have things with people who need things while sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.

Additionally, as a church plans events designed to engage people with the gospel, employ volunteers in ministry and deepen the faith of Believers it has the opportunity to ask the question, “How much, if anything, should a participant be asked pay.”
For the core ministries of the church, like worship services and weekly small group Bible studies, the answer is nothing. We want these services to be free to all who attend. But other activities in church life are “value added”. For example, the church will accomplish its mission with or without a summer camp for students or a trip to Branson for senior adults. These activities are value added. For these kinds of activities the participant may be asked to pay to attend. In order to encourage participation a church may choose to offset that cost. For example, a church may decide camp is so important that they want to keep the cost to the participant low. They use a portion of their budget to reduce the cost to the participant. When a church does this it’s important to evaluate the purpose and effect. By creating this kind of subsidy the church is essentially saying, “This event is so important that everyone who gives to the church should pay a percentage of the cost whether or not that person receives a direct benefit from the event.” In other words, the senior adult who gives regularly is paying a small part of a students way to camp even though that senior adult won’t go to camp themselves. When we think of it this way programming budgets become easier to evaluate. We can ask the question,”Is it appropriate to ask the church to pay for a direct benefit only a small percentage of the church will receive?” The answer to this question is influenced by vision and purpose. It’s why a church might subsidize camp but tell a Small Group class they should pay for their class fellowship.

Many churches also use part of their budget to support other, like-minded ministry organizations or missionaries. This too is a people, stuff or subsidy expense. The difference is that these dollars are released from the influence of the church and entrusted into the individuals or organizations they choose to support.

When you give to a church you empower the vision of that church to employ the people who make ministry happen, purchase the stuff that makes ministry nice and subsidize the ministry that enables others to benefit from your gift.

When you attend without giving you are the beneficiary of the generosity of others.

A church budget is an expression of vision. May we be good stewards of that vision.

Who Will Encourage You – Who Will You Encourage?

1 Thessalonians 3

Who has God placed in your life to encourage your faith?

For me, the list is long. It starts with my parents and grandparents. It continues with Sunday School teachers. Mike Taylor, Mike Compton and Rodney Salmon are like my fathers in ministry. James Lankford believed in me and gave me an opportunity to grow in ways I never imagined possible. And then there are pastors, Paul Box, Bobby Boyles, Walter Mullican, Dan Campbell, Roger Ferguson, & Chris Wall. Each in their own way helped me take my next step of faith.

There are friends I don’t get to spend as much time with as I would like because we live so far apart – Brian Waddell, Dustin Whitten, Eric Rogers, John McGee, Chris Mayfield, Johnny Baxter, Earl Donor, the Swans.

There are friends I’m honored to serve with everyday – Brent Andrews, Brad Aylor, Keith Davis, Joe McKeen, Kolby King, Ryan Hulseberg, Susan Helm & the rest of the staff at FBCO.

There are people I attend church with – these are too numerous to count.

Who has God placed in your life to encourage your faith?

Paul sent Timothy to the church at Thessalonica for two reasons. He wanted Timothy to encourage them in their faith. Paul wanted to be encouraged by their faith. And that’s exactly what happened. Timothy stepped into the lives of the Thessalonians. He encouraged their faith. He delivered the letter from Paul. He spoke words of life.

And the Thessalonians did the same.

I meet a lot of people who say they like Jesus but they don’t like the church. These people miss out on so much. God gave us one another. The church is filled with people I want to grow with, be accountable to and partner with in ministry. We encourage one another in our faith. We support one another in times of crisis. We serve together to accomplish our mission. Their strengths complement my weaknesses and my weaknesses complement their strengths. We’re far from perfect. We don’t always get along. Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes we argue and fight. Sometimes things get a little weird, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because having these friendships is better than not having them. It’s worth it because they see things in our world I don’t see. They know things about God I don’t know. They have resources I’ll never have. And the same is true for me. When we come together, to share what we know, do what we do and use what we have something remarkable happens.

We become something more.

Your church and your friends are the family you choose. They should encourage and challenge your faith. You should encourage and challenge theirs. You should pray for one another something similar to what Paul prayed for the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, “May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.”

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my parents and grandparents, my friends, mentors, teachers, coworkers & the churches you’ve placed in my life. My faith is strong because of their influence. My life is better because of them. Whatever the circumstance, Father, you’ve used these people in my life for my good. May you encourage them in their faith. I pray that today each of them would know your favor. I pray for them what Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, “May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us together very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.”

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

A Prayer for You

2 Thessalonians

SCRIPTURE

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

This is Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica. In the U.S. Wall Street in New York City is recognized as the economic center of our nation. Chicago is a close second with the Chicago Board of Trade. Thessalonica is to Greece what Chicago is to the U.S. It is a city that still stands today. It’s population is roughly equivalent to Tulsa and the surrounding area.

The book begins with an encouragement I hope can be said of me, “…your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” He challenges them to stand fim in the face of persecution and assures them that God knows, cares and will one day bring justice. He ends with a prayer. It’s a prayer I pray for me, my family, friends, church and others.

APPLICATION

I want to live a life worthy of God’s call. That doesn’t mean I’ll always get it right. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to earn God’s favor. But by God’s power and because of God’s grace I can do better. I can become more than I imagined possible on my own. I want to live in a way that honors God. These verses say that living that way will bring you honor too.

God leads us where he wants us to go. Paul’s prayer covers that, “May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”

What has your faith prompted you to do today? God has given you the power to accomplish it. What holds you back? What’s your excuse? None is sufficient. It is God working in you and through you to accomplish what your faith has prompted you to do. There’s no need to wait any longer. Become the answer to the prayer I’ll pray today and do all that your faith prompts you to do.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us everything we need for life and godliness. Today I pray the same thing Paul prayed. I pray this for myself, my family, my friends, the people of my church and for those who are reading this – I ask God, “…to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Thank you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Every Great Relationship…

Introduce YourselfYou’re probably like me. If you attend church regularly I’ll bet you sit in basically the same place every week. It’s a pattern I’ve followed since I was a kid. Welcoming guests during a worship service is also a typical feature in the churches I’ve attended. We’ll break the rhythm of the service to welcome one another and give the congregation time to introduce themselves to people sitting nearby.

Because I usually sit in the same place I often greet the same people every week. This was true when I was in college too. Every week come in, sing a little, pray together, turn around and shake a hand. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Then came the day I turned around to shake a hand and saw someone I’d not seen before. There wasn’t a lot of time, but I knew this was someone I needed to meet. I made my way past a few familiar folks and extended a hand, “Hey, I’m Chad. It’s good to see you. I’m glad you’re here.” It was a typical, nonchalant, church service ‘welcome-of-guests’ kind of greeting. She smiled, looked me in the eyes, took my hand and said, “I’m Londa. Nice to meet you.” In that moment, my world changed.

It wasn’t like the movies. There were no fireworks. I didn’t imagine the two of us running toward one another, arms open, on a beach. Time didn’t stand still. But there was something.

What began as an introduction became a relationship. More than 16 years and 4 kids later I’m married to the woman of my dreams!

It reminds of something. Every great relationship starts with an introduction.

  • What opportunities will you have tomorrow because of people you meet today?
  • What possibilities will you miss simply because you didn’t take the time to get to know someone’s name?
  • Is it possible someone is waiting for you to introduce them to someone else who will change their life forever?

That’s what happend in John 1:35-51. It’s a series of introductions. John the Baptist introduces Andrew and John (who becomes the apostle) to Jesus. They introduce Jesus to Andrew’s brother, Peter. They all go together to get Philip who introduces them to Nathaniel. One by one Jesus is introduced to the men who become His 12 Disciples. Certainly he called them, but that call started with an introduction. What happens next changes the history of our world forever.

Every great relationship starts with an introduction. Who will you introduce today?

Hate Religion; Love Jesus

This video has been floating around Facebook lately. Give it a spin, read my comments, then make some of your own.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY

Well produced and well said.

Scripturally, he’s right about self-righteousness. Politically, Jesus isn’t a Democrat either. Culturally, he clearly articulates why so many people are disenfranchised by religion.

I’ve heard people say, “I like Jesus, but don’t like the church.” If what they mean is religion, I’m right there with them. Religion is a fish out of water trying to teach a drowning man to breath.

There is a difference between the Church and religion. By Church I don’t mean a denomination, building or system of organization. I mean the Church described in the Bible. That Church is the body and bride of Christ. Saying, “I like Jesus, but don’t like the church,” is like telling your friend,  “You’re great, but your wife is hideous!” It’s like telling someone, “I find you attractive. You don’t sweat much for a fat boy.”

The Church is what forms when Believers come together. It has a universal expression because of our unity in Christ. It’s why I can go to an underground church in China without being able to speak the language and still experience sweet fellowship with complete strangers as we worship together in spirit and truth.

The Church also has a local expression. When Believers assemble on the local level they are committing to God and one another. They are saying, “This is the place and these are the people I want to grow with, be accountable to, and partner with in ministry.” Anytime people come together there has to be some level of organization. Where and when will we meet? What will we do while we’re together? How will we decide what to do when we disagree? And the most important question of all, who’s making coffee!?

Like people, each of these local bodies of Believers has a personality. Some churches are very formal in their organization, others more free. Some are focused in their mission and methods while others try everything under the sun. None of these organizational expressions is Biblically superior to the other. The Bible gives remarkably few details about the day-to-day operations of the local church. However, the Bible speaks clearly about how Believers are to relate to one another and to people outside their fellowship. It’s almost like Scripture tells us, “How you do what you do is more important than the structures you use to do it.”

The reason churches, and people, fall into religion is because we value our structures and systems, our own opinions, more than our relationships. We choose to walk in self righteousness rather than risk getting too deeply involved in the glorious mess that is people. We ignore the Scriptures that command us to relate to one another in a spirit of mutual submission out of mutual respect. We forget the language of repentance and forgiveness with one another and refuse to recognize the one truth that  ties us all together – we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Anytime people get together mistakes will be made. People will fail. It’s not a question of, ‘if’, but ‘when’, and how bad it will be. How we handle those moments defines the difference between dead religion and a living relationship with Christ and one another.

Religion – or the church – are easy targets. We blame the nameless, faceless, ‘they’ and ‘them’ for all the reasons why we don’t participate with other Believers. When will we recognize that the church is not ‘they’.

The church is me, with you, learning how we can honor God together.

Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Pruning

John 15:2 says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Churches – and people – go through times of pruning. During the pruning dead branches are removed while healthy wood is reshaped. Both acts of pruning are God’s way to make room for new growth.

Pruning is rarely easy but necessary.

Unlike a real vine people have a voice. We aren’t content to sit idly by while God does the pruning, but feel compelled to comment on His work. At best our comments reveal our ignorance of His plan, at worst they reveal our self-righteousness.

I have been in and walked alongside churches and friends who have gone through times of pruning. No one was able to accurately predict God’s intended outcome. Those who tried revealed their foolishness.

My encouragement for when you face a time of pruning – remain faithful to God. Focus on the mission and ministry He has entrusted to you. Follow Him, wherever He leads and get ready – “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

A Comfortable Scandal – Transitions

The world loves a good scandal. “You’ve gotta see this! They’re some of the funniest pictures I’ve seen. Of course you know them. That’s what makes the pics so funny! Can you believe they would do that in front of a camera!?” One ‘friend’s’ quick moves with a camera-phone turns into another friend’s most embarrassing moment captured for all time and digitally duplicated all over the internet for the world to see. What will mom think!?

Scandalous new travels fast!

There’s a comfortable scandal that takes place everyday in the hearts of Believers. There’s a subtle line of obedience we simply aren’t willing to cross. We hear what Jesus has to say. We agree in spirit and nod our heads in affirmation until we realize He’s talking about us. That’s where the scandal lies. We follow Jesus until He asks us to do something seemingly difficult, counter-cultural, or just plain inconvenient. This isn’t new. John 6:66 tells us it happened during Jesus time as well. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” They came to the line they simply weren’t willing to cross. Scandalous…

There are 4 reasons why we walk away. And 4 ways to take the leap of faith Jesus asks us to make when He challenges us to do the difficult, impractical or inconvenient. Most everyone has drawn a line that says, “Jesus, I’m willing to follow you this far, but no farther.” I wonder, as you consider these 4 things how you might redraw the limits of your life.

4 Scandalous Distractions that Set the Limits of Our Faith

  1. Introduction – read more >
  2. Temptation – read more >
  3. Trials – read more >
  4. Teaching – read more >
  5. Transitions

Today – let’s focus on Transitions.

TRANSITIONS – Our church is going through a time of transition. Last year our pastor moved to another church. This year three more Associate Pastors and two Support Team Leaders stepped into ministries in other places. A few short years ago we had a ministerial staff of ten. Today, it’s four.

Changes like these in a church, a business or in your personal life produce natural, on-going effects. Transitions change momentum. Transitions create questions and instigate evaluation. Transitions are God’s way of putting all the right people in all the right places to accomplish His purpose here and around the world.

But let’s be honest, transitions are tough. Of all the things that trip us up in our walk of faith, nothing is quite so difficult to navigate as transitions. With temptation, there’s a definite wrong to overcome. With trials, there’s a clear pressure to endure. With teaching, there’s a well defined principle to obey. But that’s not how transitions work. You can do everything right and still find yourself in the middle of a difficult transition.

That’s how I would characterize what’s taking place right now in the church I serve. Those who are moving on are going where God leads to fulfill the ministry He’s entrusted to them. It’s good for them and will ultimately be good for the church – but in the middle of the transition sometimes the ‘goodness’ of things can be hard to see. With all these changes in staff we’ve said, “God moves the troops around. He’s putting all the right people in all the right places to accomplish His purpose here and around the world.” It’s true, but knowing this doesn’t make facing the transition any easier.

What does Scripture say?

John 15:1-2 says God prunes every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. That makes sense – get rid of the dead wood to make room for something that can bring life – but those leaders who have left our church are certainly not dead wood. Everyone of them were friends who have had a significant influence in my life. These transitions aren’t exactly what I had in mind or part of my ‘plan’ for ministry. Then I take a closer look at John 15:1-2. It also says, “…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Did you catch that? Because the tree bears fruit God prunes it back so that it will be ready to bear even more fruit than ever before.

The key to following God through times of transition is FAITHFULNESS.

Like a car slowing down to turn a corner, transitions in our life or organization always change momentum. It’s a necessary change. Accelerate through the turn too much and the car flips over. Take your foot off the gas and once the turn is complete you’ll slow down even more. Faithfulness is remaining true to your calling. It’s finishing what you’ve started. It’s letting your ‘yes’, be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. It’s following God, wherever He may lead, in the integrity of your heart. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure as you keep your foot on the gas through the turn.

Momentum is an interesting thing. While on Earth you may have to slow down to turn a corner NASA has discovered that in the heavens you can use a change in direction along with the gravity from something like the moon to slingshot a satellite to it’s destination. For NASA, turning the corner of transition doesn’t always slow things down – it accelerates their plans and allows them to accomplish their mission.

Every transition you face can be just like this. It can be the transition that slows your walk to a crawl. It can be the transition that derails the direction of your plans. Or it can be the transition that accelerates you into the next exciting chapter of your life.

Don’t let transitions keep you from following God. Instead, remain faithful. Transitions are God’s way of placing you and those around you in just the right place to accomplish His mission. They are His way of preparing you for the road ahead.

Bold Statements

I like bold statements. I like swagger. I like the confidence that comes from knowing you’re right and believing you have the skill and resources necessary to win the day. When I watch football there’s something about seeing my favorite running back push through a pile of thousand pound giants into the end zone to score a touchdown that makes me want to jump up and spike my TV remote!

There’s something special about bold statements and the will to achieve them. I serve at First Baptist Church Owasso. We’ve made some bold statements.

  • We will not be the church that prays small prayers. We will ask God to do the impossible and recognize that if God doesn’t come through, all is lost.
  • We will be the church that goes out of its way to reach people with the love of Jesus. We will go places we’ve never been before and do things we’ve never done before in order to share the gospel with people we’ve not yet met.
  • We will be a generous church. We will give more than we think we can afford and trust God to provide. We will recognize that we are tremendously blessed and that because we have been given much we can give much. We will not shy away from trying to meet the needs of as many people as God entrusts to us. We will be the church that serves people and serves other churches.
  • We will be the church that beats the odds. We will value our relationships more than our own rights or opinions. We will be quick to repent and quick to forgive. Like John 13:35, the world will know we are His disciples because of our love.
Those are some bold statements. Before the ‘we’ is the ‘I’ – before ‘we’ are the church that becomes these things ‘I’ must be the one to do these things.
  • Our church will see answers to impossible prayers when I begin to call on God for impossible things.
  • Our church will connect people with the gospel when I connect with people and love them like Jesus does.
  • Our church will be a generous church when I give generously to the church and to others.
  • Our church will beat the marriage and relationship odds when I value my relationships more than my own rights or opinions.
Bold statements + bold actions = the epic stories we love to hear.