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By Tony Pappas
WARNING: This article presents graphic material that may not be suitable for all Christians. It is not happy news. If you prefer sweet denial to harsh reality, STOP READING NOW!
In some corners of the globe, I have been told people survive by eating other persons.
Some of our churches are engaged in a parallel enterprise, by consuming themselves.
It happens like this: A church becomes too small, conflicted, or unfaithful in giving, to meet their operational expenses. This initial problem is "solved" by covering the deficit from accumulated funds from past overages. First, they eat up their bank account.
But when the deficits continue, as they most always do, they turn to the pastoral compensation, mission giving, or other "non-essential" expenses. So secondly, they start chewing up a large part of their very reason for being!
This typically accelerates rather than slows down the annual deficits. So the third part of themselves to get consumed is their endowments. Blasting through the interest, then onto the capital, first the unrestricted and then the restricted (although this is immoral and illegal) funds.
One note: The sequence may vary from congregation to congregation, but the final result is invariably the same!
Next, after liquid assets are gone or reduced to their bare minimum, the congregation turns on its fixed assets. What auxiliary buildings, land or even portions of the sanctuary can be liquidated to feed the insatiable appetite of the congregation's expectations? (Think I'm exaggerating? Think again! It has come to my attention during the last month of two congregations that are trying to sell off parts of themselves in the cause of survival, as they define survival.)
The final result of self-consumption is death. Although painful in the short run, the result of obedience in the face of hard realities is a "Well, done thou good and faithful servant."
The choice is ours.
If your church has started down this path, here are 3 things you can do:
1. Call in Richard Wolf (email@example.com, 978-448-5763, ext. 203) for a financial analysis. He won't "solve" the situation, but he will give a clearer read on consequences!
2. Call in Tony Pappas or Marlene Gil or your association's Coordinator (contact information), to lead you in a process to discern God's CURRENT call on your congregation!
3. Sign up for the workshop Budget Deficit Disorder at Leadership Development Day on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at GrotonWood.
Actually, I would suggest all three, in exactly that order!
Tony Pappas is the executive minister of The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org