THE STATE OF THE RESOLVED
Pastor Duane Smets
May 14, 2017
I. Our Church Story
II. Our Generous God
III. Our Opportunity
Good morning. Happy Mother’s day to all the mamas out there. Mother’s Day is a sweet opportunity to express our gratitude for mom and to honor motherhood.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river…like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.’” – Isaiah 66:12-13
So let’s give a hand to all the mothers and to God thanking Him for His care for us.
Alright, so you’ll notice there’s a stool here and a little music stand instead of our normal wood podium. That’s because I’m gonna sit, not because I’m tired or anything but because we need to have a little family chat.
One of the many ways God describes what the church is - is a family. And there are times, at least in our home, when we have to have a church family meeting. And today is one of those days. So it felt more fitting to sit and have a family chat, then to stand and preach today.
Here’s what’s up. Last Sunday Pastor Dave preached a sermon from James 1 about trials we go through as Christians.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” – James 1:2-3
There’s a counterpart verse like it in the book of 1 Peter which says,
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13
I know Pastor Dave preached on trials because he's faced some trials. What we didn’t know was that his sermon seems to have been providential for us as an entire church, for a trial that hit us the very next day.
On Monday morning, the very next day, all 6 of our church pastors received an email from our finance team letting us know that our church is in a very critical place financially.
So on Wednesday evening, our pastors met with our finance team, which by the way does an astounding job. They are some of the sharpest guys. Mike LaNier is a CPA, Carson Kvaternik is our finance deacon and does financial investments for a living, both Dennis Frey and Gary Warkentin have run schools and churches before with multi-million dollar budgets. So we really do have a top team and publicly, I want to say thank you to them.
The level of seriousness about the place our church is in financially is so critical I contacted the other pastors, who gave me the go ahead to forgo moving into the next section in our study of Luke today for the sermon and instead to give a family chat about where we are and what our plan is.
If you’re new to our church, either today for the first time or new within the last few months or whatever I can totally understand how this might feel and seem a little awkward. It is. But it’s actually kind of cool.
My wife and I had a couple over for dinner the other week who recently started coming and one of the things they said was they had never seen a church who so openly talked about the finances like we do in our monthly mission report, like we did last week. They said at first it was a little weird but the more they thought about it, they liked it because everything is open and honest and on the table.
So if you’re new, this is a little different Sunday, but what you’re getting is a little glimpse into real church life. Church isn’t just a show you attend once a week. It’s a body of people who partner together for the sake of God’s work in a city.
So I’m glad you’re here. I hope you feel welcome and have a good experience today. My name is Duane and I’m the lead preaching pastor here. I love my job. I love this church. I love our city. And it’s my joy to lead us today in talking through some difficult things.
Here’s what I want to do. Three things. One, I want to walk through Our Church’s Story and the story of our finances. Two, I want to talk about our view of how money is meant to function in church, which really has to do with God being a generous God. And then three, I want to talk about the opportunity we have before us and what our vision as a church is for what is ahead. Cool?
I. Our Church Story
This church started first as a dream God put on my heart to start a brand new church in my favorite city, where I spent the best years of my childhood. I was captured by a vision of reaching people for Jesus who didn’t really know and understand Him and His goodness. And I knew starting a new church is the best and most effective way to reach people for Jesus.
I had been a youth pastor here and then a college pastor and all the while going to school to be a pastor. Once I was all done with all the school, I knew it was time to begin.
I didn’t have any money, at all. I knew guys who started churches who would do all this fundraising and stuff and then launch their church but I just kind of figured I’d start preaching from the Bible, people would become Christians and the money would just come.
So my wife and I just got jobs. I worked at this used record store in PB, my wife worked at a hair salon and in 2005 I filed religious non-profit papers with the state and federal 501(c)3 papers and we officially started The Resolved Church in our little apartment in Pacific Beach.
We met on Sunday night and just invited anyone and everyone who would come. I taught from the book of Romans, then we’d have communion and then we’d throw a party, grilling on our patio. In the beginning most the people that came were not Christians at all. They’d come for the party afterward, but slowly more and more started showing up early for church and a few became Christians.
Pretty soon our apartment was full with nearly 30 people and we needed a real place to meet, so my wife and I just drove around looking at buildings and wondering if there was space inside to have a service. We found this Musicians Union rehearsal hall, just down on Morena Street, who let us meet there for $50 a service, $200 a month.
It wasn’t much, but between that and the equipment needed to actually have a service, it started to add up. So I started trying to fundraise, asking friends and family members to send money and the few people who were coming to start giving. And people did. People gave.
More and more people started coming and people both inside and outside the church gave. We even had this one check God blessed us with from the dad of one of the gals who had been coming to our church. Her dad sent a check for $20k because he was so stoked to see the change in her life.
That $20k and me and my wife working full-time got us through the first five years of the church. I worked all kinds of jobs. At the record store, at a marketing firm, at a group foster home, I did whatever it took to fund this church working in the day, preparing sermons and meeting with people in the evenings or early in the morning.
Then in 2010, our church was finally able to pay me as a pastor. We stayed in that small musician's rehearsal hall for another three years and in that time we grew to three services, with a total of about 150 people and we had saved up $80k in the bank from being good financial stewards of what God blessed us with.
We were filling that building up and knew we needed a bigger space and that’s when we found the place we are in now and that we’ve been in the last three years. It was a big jump for us. We put about $20K into renovating this place and went from paying $1500 a month to $11K a month. But we had the money to do it and God blessed us.
In our time in this space, God has continued to give to us and bless us. More and more people have come to know Jesus and join our church to the point where a year ago at Easter we were at 587 people. We’ve had to grow and shift with that, learning to be a mid-size church which requires more staffing and structures than just being a small solely church powered by me.
So for the last two years, we’ve steadily and consistently run a monthly budget of $55k a year and we’ve done well. But here’s what’s happened. Two big things.
One, we planted a church last year! Which is great. Servant Church in Barrio Logan, who we partner with in their reading and parenting program is doing wonderfully. I spent time with Pastor Chris last week, who we sent out with 56 of some of our best people, and they are doing great!
Two, we also let our worship leader go last year. There were some unhealthy things in his life that we wanted him to give time and space to address and we had been increasingly moving to a multiple band model, so our all of our church leadership unanimously agreed it was the right decision.
The effects of that decision have been both good and challenging. The positive result in our staff and leadership team has been phenomenal. There has been more unity and growth and teamwork that we’ve ever experienced before.
Some of the challenging results of making our leadership health a priority is there’s been a fair number of people who couldn’t make that turn with us and disagreed with our decision. The effect took a number of months, but in the end, by November, we lost a couple of community groups and about 100 people, including some of our largest financial givers.
So in total, from our investment in the gospel in our city by planting a church and our investment in the gospel in our hearts of our leaders has cost about 150 people and $10k a month in financial giving.
We had a great financial month in this last December as we always do. But both in January and February we barely brought in half our monthly budget and we haven’t hit budget once this year.
And herein lies the crisis we’re in. We had about a month’s worth of savings in the bank. We were working and wanting to get that up to three months running room, but when we haven’t hit budget we’ve had to dip into our savings reserves and what our finance team informed us of on Wednesday night, is that all of our saving is now completely depleted and in order to safely make both rent and payroll at the beginning of June we need to either cut $10K or bring in that much more this month.
So it’s a pretty serious situation we’re in. And that’s why we’re having this family chat today.
Now what I want to do before I share with you what our plan is, is to talk about our God. Which is what we should do anytime we face any trial of any kind. In crisis, it’s easy to panic and jump to solutions, but the best thing to do is to look up and turn to our heavenly Father for help.
So let’s just talk for a little bit about the God we believe in as a church and how we see money in relation to Him. We believe our God is a generous God.
II. Our Generous God
Here’s the amazing thing. This is the first time in the entire 12 year history of our church that we’ve ever faced any financial crisis! That’s wonderful. God has been so good to us.
Here’s a fact. Every family and every church at one point or another has financial trouble. There are lean seasons and lean years when you have buckle down and make some cuts to save money. It’s amazing to me that it’s taken twelve years to get to this point as a church.
Earlier we read from the Bible about not being surprised at trials and considering them joy. I know this might sound kind of sick and twisted but I’m excited about what’s happened and what God will do in and through us.
We’ve made a concerted effort as a church to become a more healthy and mature church and I believe this “crisis” we’re in is God’s goodness to us to help us become more healthy and more maturity in the way we function financially as a church. I really do.
To be honest, if there is such thing as pastoral intuition I feel like I’ve been sensing that we’ve been needing something like this for awhile. We are going to grow closer together as a church and we’re going to marvel and rejoice at what God does.
This is just normal church life. You hear about it all over the book of Acts in the Bible which chronicles the life of the early church. There are times of financial need that hit like in Acts 4:34-35 where it says, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet.”
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet.”
My wife and I were talking just the other night that maybe we could sell our trailer to help the church out.
In the book of Philippians Paul talks about financial struggle and how God moved on people to give and provide for the work of the gospel.
“You Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.” – Philippians 4:15-20
So you see, hitting times of financial need is just normal church life. What we’re going through is normal. This is God pushing us to grow up as a church.
Part of my job as a pastor Jesus said is to teach you all that He commanded. So let me teach you what the Bible says about money and how it functions.
First, money is spiritual. We believe God our Father owns all the money and is the one who ultimately gives to each and every one of us as a generous God.
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.” – 1 Chronicles 29:11-13
You see this? God ultimately owns everything. It’s all His. And He is generous. Extremely generous.
God has given us life and breath. Every day we wake up is a gift from Him. God gives us hands and feet to work, enabling us to make money with the unique gifts and talents He also gives to us.
God has given us His Son Jesus for our salvation. He sent His one and only Son into the world to be born and live the life we’ve failed and then to give that life away on the cross to pay for all our faults, failures, fears and shame.
It’s probably the most famous verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son.” – John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son.” – John 3:16
And it’s not just a one-time thing. He continues to give and give to us, forgiving us over and over again. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”
And not only does God forgives us but He gives to us His very Sprit whose presence dwells within all Christians at all times, reassuring us of His love, power, and grace.
You see friends, God is very generous God who gives and gives and gives. What happens when you’re in relationship with this God is it turns your heart to be a giving person. You just start to see yourself and your stuff and your money as tool to give to others so that they might know and experience the giving God.
That’s why when anyone asks to borrow anything, my response is sure, it’s God’s anyway. That’s why I love paying for food or drinks for people. It’s why I love to give my time away, spending time with others so they might know God’s love. You just really can’t really be a Christian in real relationship with the giving God and not be a giving person.
So God expects us of this, to be giving in all of life and one of the things He specifically expects and instructs us to do is to give to the organism of His work. In the Old Testament it was His house called the “temple” and in the New Testament, it’s His house the church.
In the book of Malachi, God got upset at one church for them not giving. Here’s what it says
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions… Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” – Malachi 3:8,10
So a few things here.
One, kind of gnarly but you need to know, not giving when God has given to you is sin. It doesn’t make God happy.
Two, the rule of thumb precedent the Old Testament makes clear here is how much God expects to give. When it says “tithe” that means tenth. So it’s 10% of your household’s income.
Three, it’s not about paying dues or taxes. It’s about experiencing the blessing of God. There is a joy that results in giving. One of the things that makes me most happy is in January when the church sends out the tax deductible receipt of how much my family was able to give in the previous year. Just by faithfully giving each month it adds up and it makes me so happy when I get to see that number!
It’s the same thing Paul said in that Philippians 4 passage I read earlier. He says in verse 17, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”
That doesn’t mean some pyramid scheme like you give and then God will give you back more. Sometimes that does happen, but the fruit really is the spiritual fruit in your heart and life that it reaps.
Now let’s go New Testament. 2 Corinthians 9:5-7, 11
“I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver… You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” – Malachi 3:8, 10
Just a few things from this passage.
One, it’s “arranged in advance.” So that means you budget for it. You should know how to do a monthly budget with fixed expenses and variable expenses. And if you don’t know how to do that, then let us know. On the connect card (can do online right now), put on there that you’re interested in our finance class that our Finance Deacon teaches.
Two, “each one must give as he has decided in his heart.” That’s why here at our church we do not demand 10% giving from our members but encourage each person to evaluate what they give on their own before God. It’s not important how much you give but that you give.
Three, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerful, yes means joyful, not reluctant or begrudging but the word also in the original means ridiculous or hilarious. Like it’s way more than anyone would expect. It uses that word because lots of people in the time of the New Testament church, would just give the tenth tithe but more because they could and they loved to give.
And that’s it. Just a brief theology of finances in how God views it and means for it to function in His church. God is generous. He means for us to be generous like Him. And part of our generosity is joyfully and regularly giving 10% or more of what we make to the church.
That’s why I’m responsible to God to teach as your pastor. And I wanna do a good job at my job. Alright, now let’s transition and talk about the opportunity in front of us in what our vision and plan is regarding the financial trial God has brought our way to help us, grow us and bless us as a church.
III. Our Opportunity
So far 2017 has been an incredible year.
We had so many new people join in. We have new people coming each week. We’ve got a full round of our Theo 101 class just finishing up, with new members that we’ll be covenanting in a couple weeks.
We baptized a number of people on Easter. So far, just this year we’ve added five new community groups! We’re partnering with our church plant Servant Church in their tutoring and reading program at Burbank Elementary where they meet.
We’re developing a ministry to address human trafficking, with our first demand reduction center starting in a few weeks. We had our first event this year and over a hundred people come out from our city. And that event has already been making waves among the city officials who’ve commented about our church’s desire and effort to care for the impoverished and vulnerable communities here in San Diego.
On Tuesday nights we feed the homeless and do our best to help them however we can. Dave Christman, our City Engagement Director and I spent some time with Scott this week who came by the church to get help with his PayPal account as he’s trying to get work to get off the streets.
There’s a number of couples we’ve been able to provide pastoral counsel and help as they are working through difficult things in their life and marriage. We’ve begun to look into practical things we might be able to do to bring racial healing and reconciliation in our city and how to engage the sexual identity issues.
There is so much evidence of God’s good hand at work among us. We are so excited about what God is doing as we engage our city. All money is, is simply one of the vehicles that makes the mission happen. Money helps us move the mission forward.
What I envision is not just meeting our budget but far exceeding it. And the more money we have the more we can do. And I’m excited about that!
So here’s our plan and what how we want to lead regarding the current state of our church finances. Our plan essentially boils down to two approaches: an air approach, and ground approach.
Our air approach is this sermon, making the opportunity to really join in on the mission financially more public. In addition, it’s also mass communication. If you’re an official member here you received a letter from me on behalf of the elders explaining much of what you’ve heard today.
The ground approach is more intimate. We don’t just want to send letters and talk from the stage. All of life flows out of relationship, so within the next couple of weeks our church pastors have decided to divide up our member list and call everyone, just to connect, share our hearts and open ourselves up to any questions you may have.
And here’s what we’re calling you to.
Number one, prayer. Please pray for us and with us.
Pray for our church pastors. We’ll be meeting this Thursday to see where we are at and to potentially make some of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to, which could include cutting salaries or laying off some staff and probably canceling the men’s and women’s retreat and maybe things like coffee and whatnot on Sundays for awhile. Pray that God would guide us and give us great wisdom. Pray for our church’s finances in your community groups.
Please pray our church’s finances with your families. And pray daily with us that our God who has promised to provide will bless us as we call on Him!
Number two, in addition to prayer, we want to ask, as gently as possible for you to look at your own personal finances and see what you can do.
If you’ve just come today and are new, this isn’t for you. You are our guest. Just close your ears.
For members, if you are a member who has generously and faithfully given to our church we want to sincerely thank you. It shows your faith and commitment to God, His Word, and His work. The church belongs to Jesus and He allows those He welcomes as members to share in that ownership. So thank you for caring for your church so well.
We want to ask you our members, to prayerfully look at your financial giving to see if there is any headroom in your budget that would enable you to possibly give more to the church. My wife and I were doing that the other night, just asking how much we could cut if we really tried.
I’d also ask you to examine your heart to see if your giving lines up with the biblical principles we talked about earlier. If you’re a two-income family and you give $20 a month, and feel like you’re being faithful and generous I’d ask you to ask yourself if that’s really true. And if you’re a member who has income but is not giving, honestly you need to repent. That’s not right.
The the last thing I’ll say is even if you are not an official member but you’ve been coming and you think this is the church for you, you don’t have to wait to become a member to start giving. We only need 30 new givers giving $300 a month to meet our goal, which we believe is a very achievable one.
For all of us, what I want to call us to is to join us in a 90 day giving challenge to see what God would do. Times like this provide an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves.
What it’s about is trust. Are you willing to trust God with your possessions? That’s what it’s really about. It’s about trusting Him. How are you going to challenge yourself with your possessions?
Maybe if you don’t give anything of what God has given you of your money or your possessions, maybe your first step is to just give something and be committed to it for the next 90 days, three months and watch how your heart changes what God does with it. Watch what God does in your life.
Maybe you’re already giving something but you haven’t been giving at least 10%. Why don’t you challenge yourself to do that, and see what God does? This isn’t about a gimmick, it’s about trust God.
Maybe you do give 10%, then challenge yourself to do more.
I believe if we do this as a church, then we have any financial issues at all…we’ll have an abundance. 90-day giving challenge. Let’s do this.
Alright. Let’s conclude and prepare ourselves to meet with God at the table of Jesus body and blood in the bread and wine. We do this each week as a means of grace where we remember and receive God’s greatest gift of all, His generous giving to us as His Son.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? - Romans 8:32
I’ll conclude by reading a passage from a Scottish pastor from the 1800’s, Robert M’Cheyne found in Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice and then I’ll pray and we’ll respond.
“Dear Christians…we must be like Jesus in giving. “Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor”… Objection 1. “My money is my own.” Answer: Christ might have said, “my blood is my own, my life is my own”… then where should we have been? Objection 2: “The poor are undeserving.” Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels… shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, He left the ninety-nine and came for the lost. He gave His blood for the undeserving. Objection 3. “The poor may abuse it.” Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample His blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet He gave His own blood. Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and the poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember His own word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Let’s go to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who gave everything for us.