I didn’t post this version of “From the Vicarage” at the time of writing. Here it is, just in case God moves a reader to help us here in West Bromwich:
For the first time in recent years we face the need as a church to review our church family finances. Since 2009 we’ve enjoyed a small surplus each year in the church accounts. Our church budget for 2012 was around £54,000 with half of this coming from the regular giving of the congregation including the church staff. This is quite a small budget compared to most other parishes in the Church of England. However, we ran up a deficit of around £2,500 for the year and face the same deficit or more for 2013. Of course, we need to remember that the British economy has been in trouble for the last five years, and so it is a sign of God’s faithfulness that we have not had any budget shortfall until now.
If you would like to see where the money goes, there is a leaflet in church called “Money Matters: Your guide to supporting gospel work at Holy Trinity”. The PCC spends the resources we receive carefully but costs have gone up and giving dipped slightly last year for various reasons. God’s faithfulness in the past means we can look forward with confidence to the future, as God draws people to faith in Christ and then to mission focused generosity. Even so, we are responsible for looking after the finances carefully and encouraging one another to generosity.
Lots of Christians don’t like talking about money, it does not seem spiritual, yet it was a subject which Jesus spent lots of his time teaching about. For example, Jesus gives us a really healthy perspective on our possessions:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Here, Jesus reminds us that the money and possessions which God has given us will not last forever but we can still make an investment which will have eternal value. Where we use our money and possessions for the good of others, which is ultimately their salvation, we’ll have an eternal treasure in heaven.
This attitude towards possession and mission was obvious in the early church. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2:
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
This is a strange mathematical formula which only the gospel of Jesus Christ makes possible:
Severe trial + overflowing joy + extreme poverty = rich generosity
We meet and serve in one of the poorest parishes in Britain. There is real poverty in West Bromwich (though if we have clothes, food and a roof over our head we are rich compared to almost 1 billion of the world’s poorest people) and yet there is generosity. We sometimes encounter trials (though not like those brothers and sisters who are imprisoned for their faith in Christ) and yet there is generosity. Where does that generosity come from? It comes from an overflow of joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, we must always stay focused on him in worship, prayer and adoration.
This term, we’re going to hear afresh the teaching of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. On Sunday 30th June we will cover the theme of mission and money from 1 Corinthians chapter 9. Please pray that as we think again about mission, God will increase our generosity. Pray that through trials and great poverty our joy in Christ will overflow in rich generosity so that many others will hear the good news of great joy which is ours in Christ.