We are all very aware of the increasing financial challenges in this country. Everything seems to cost more and more. Our food, cars, homes are all competing for the money in our pockets. Individuals, families, and businesses are all being challenged in ways we have not known for a generation. And the church is not exempt from the increase in costs. We are facing our own challenges to finance the work that God has called us to.
I will talk more about those challenges later, but first I want to share and encourage you with some Biblical keys that can shape a healthy understanding of how we handle our money.
Firstly, we worship a God of abundance. The Bible describes him as a generous father who loves to give good gifts to his children. When thinking about financial provision, we should ask ourselves ‘where are we placing our security?’. Is it in our bank balance, our jobs, a pension pot, our possessions – or is it in God? Psalm 31 was written by King David in a time of great pressure and challenge, but in the midst of difficulty he celebrated God’s abundant goodness, his presence and protection. David put his trust and confidence in an abundant and faithful God.
Secondly, our finances always stretch further when we put God first. This is the reality of tithing – that when we give God the first portion of our finance, he blesses what remains. For Anna and I that means giving the first 10% of our income into the church – that’s 10% before taxes and other deductions. Our testimony is that the remaining 90% has always stretched to cover our needs. That story is true for countless others in this church and elsewhere who have chosen to honour God first.
When money is tight it can be very tempting to think differently about our tithe. We start to wonder whether we can still afford it. I would always suggest the opposite – that we can’t afford not to tithe! In Malachi 3 the people of God had given in to the temptation to hold back their giving and God gave them a challenge and promise – keep giving your tithe and watch how I will pour out blessing on the whole community. I have always seen my tithe as a way in which I honour and worship God, but also as a gateway to great blessing. My prayer is that through faithfully tithing we all enjoy the same great blessing.
The third key I want to encourage today is that of generosity – that’s giving beyond our tithe. Generosity flows from the heart of God and as God’s people our desire should be to imitate him. Generosity is not defined by how much we give, but by the size and openness of our hearts to others. Anna and I have been specifically challenged in this season to be more generous. Why? Because, as things get tighter, God wants our hearts to remain soft and open – just like his.
These three keys – security in God, faithfulness in tithing, and being generous – are applicable to each of us personally and to us as a church.
As I mentioned earlier, our church finances are coming under increasing pressure. Like everyone else we are finding the cost of living increasing rapidly. We anticipated that this year would cost more than last year, and we budgeted that increase at around £35,000. We are past the halfway mark of our financial year (September 2021 to August 2022) and we are anticipating that figure being nearer £70,000. This is money we are in faith to receive to cover our costs.
There is inevitably a lot of detail that could be gone in to, but here are some headlines for you now:
Over the last 4 years we have seen a consistent increase in our tithes and offerings. For this we are incredibly grateful to God, and to you for your faithfulness in giving. This financial year we have seen only a very slight growth in our income, meaning that we are now drawing on some of our bank reserves to cover monthly costs.
Following a two year pause due to Covid, most of our ministries have restarted and needed to replenish equipment and resources. In fact, for the last two years we had built up a bit of surplus due to the lower cost of online operation. That surplus is now used up.
The cost of managing our buildings has significantly increased. Although we are protected through fixed rate contracts from alarming rises in our utility bills, we are experiencing rising costs in nearly every other area. The cost of labour, materials and replacement parts are all increased. The two buildings that we operate – The Oakwood Centre and The Shack in Ragworth – are both busier than ever, and as a result costing more than ever. All these costs are being reviewed to ensure that we are spending only what we need to and getting the best value for money. But the reality is, just maintaining what we have is increasingly expensive.
Whilst our expenses in those areas have increased, we have not sought to recoup anything through a reduction in our giving. We are blessed to be able to give 10% of our tithe and offering income to ministry outside of the Tees Valley – this is us tithing our income. We give to church plants in York and Sunderland, to overseas ministries in a variety of countries, and of course we are supporting friends and churches in Ukraine. None of this will be reduced as we seek to be generous to others.
In this context of static income and increasing costs I am asking you for a couple of responses:
- Firstly, would you join the eldership team in praying and fasting about this situation? Although practical action is being taken, I believe that this issue is primarily spiritual. Satan would love nothing more than to block or distract us from the work of the kingdom. We must combat this in faith through prayer together. The miraculous God who is each week bringing salvation into people’s lives, is the same miraculous God who can provide all that we need.
- Secondly, will you ask God about your personal response to this situation? Maybe you are provoked to review your giving or to commit to increased generosity? Some of you will want to help directly through increased financial gifts. Those of you that do, can go to our giving page for full details.
In the coming months and years, I expect that many of us will find an increasing revelation of him being Jehovah Jireh – the God who provides. My prayer is that even in these challenging circumstances we will keep our eyes fixed on him. If we do, then I am confident that we will encounter his abundant faithfulness, generosity, and provision.
12 Apr 2022