Respond Faithfully

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Each week I get to sit down and write about something that is on my mind. Usually it has to do with the world occupied by the good folks of FBC St. Pete. More often I get to share general thoughts, insights, encouragements, and challenges that apply to most anyone who peeks in. The audiences and agendas usually overlap. But for the next few weeks, I want to have some family conversations with the people I get to love and lead. We welcome others to stick their heads in the blog room and look in, but I’ll be talking to my people about the life and ministry we share. It is a privilege exceeded only by the relationship, mission, and faith which we share.

For four weeks, I am going to share my heart about ways where we must – yes must – take things to a new level if we are going to embrace the challenge God has placed before us. I am more than thrilled at the heart of our people. I love the team, both ministers and lay leaders, that are joining me and you in that pursuit. We are here in this place and time for a reason, and we don’t want to miss it. Too much is at stake in such a time as this.

In this first of four challenges, let me go ahead and dance where angels fear to tread. When it comes to giving, we need to step it up. Our current stream of tithes and offerings are not sufficient to carry out the ministry before us, and is not representative of our collective call and capacity to be good financial stewards. We are doing the things that God would have us do, beginning with assembling the best staff to lead and serve together. We have a great facility that comes with great upkeep. We are seeking to be a corporate tither as we share in many ministries beyond ourselves. God sees and honors that. Candidly, it is not right for a church to ask its people to do something (tithe) we are not committed to do ourselves. That’s why we doubled the mission budget this year, and as Al Pacino once famously said, “We’re just getting warmed up.”

We have asked God to point us to the ministers that would help lead, and he has. We are now responding to long-deferred needs in the care of this facility. Roof, carpet, parking lots, doors, security systems, paint (lots of paint), and lighting have all gotten attention. Much more is needed. Did you know our utilities alone are well over ten thousand dollars every month? And the more ministries we host, the bigger the bill. The answer is not to cut back, but to step up.

So as your pastor who loves you deeply, I am asking you to do just that. On the whole, our giving muscles are weaker than they should be. So let’s use them. Feel the initial discomfort that is followed by increased capacity and joyful appreciation of the results. August is the typical low point of the church budget year. We have assumed a lot of our expenses and are coming out of the summer slow season. But the time is now to ramp up, step up, catch up, whatever your rip is. I hope and expect we will see our giving increase in short order. It needs to. And we can.

As a pastor, I believe in telling the truth and trusting the people. The truth is we are a faith-based ministry with very real financial needs. And the truth is that we are a blessed and faithful people who love God, this church, each other, and the mission before us. I know I can trust you to take those truths, put them together, and respond faithfully.