From the Shepherds

November 2023 | Jim Martin

Good morning church family!

As many of you know, the Shepherds and our ministry leaders have been looking at different ways that we can communicate more effectively and more efficiently with the church family, and the use of these short videos is one that we are making an effort to use, and I hope you will get a great benefit from us this morning.

I want to talk to you in a very frank way this morning. I want to talk to you about our budget. I want to talk to you about the strategies and plans that we have in place, and I want to talk to you about the contribution pattern that we continue to follow.

First, I want to share with you that our budget, which is about $1.4 million a year, is done very carefully, very thoughtfully, and very prayerfully. We begin the process actually the year before. We have different groups begin to look at what they perceive as possible needs, possible new objectives or strategies, they may want to utilize in that next year. And then toward the end of the year we meet with the ministers and the ministry leaders who have given us what they feel like they will need for the following year. And then they also tell us if there are any special projects that they would like to consider. And then our finance committee meets and develops a budget. They present that to the Eldership and then the Elders, or Shepherds, then make decisions about how the budget will be completed. This is the way we’ve done it for many, many years and it seems to have worked very effectively.

As you also know there are things that may come up in the course of time that were not in the budget, that we were not sure whether to put something in or not, and that’s where we have trusted God through the work of the Holy Spirit to make sure that things were done. We did not have in our budget that we would try to pay off the church building. We did not have in our budget that we would try to to finish the adult wing upstairs. We did not have in our budget that we would look for an associate youth minister. These are all things that came about at a time where we recognized how important to our overall Vision this would be.

And so, we’ve had some special contributions. We’ve had special members of the church family who have said that they were financially blessed, and they used the spiritual gift of generosity and giving. As you know know our building is completely paid for; we’re debt-free. We have almost completely paid for the additional adult wing that will be upstairs. We also have already in pocket the first year of a new associate youth minister, and work continues to go searching for that particular person.

But we’ve had other wonderful things. We have had our missionaries in São Luís that have been so successful. I can tell you today that we fully expect this church to be self-sufficient and on its own within the next three to four years. What a marvelous gift that will be, not just to us, but to the Christians who live in Brazil as well.

We’ve also had some ministries down into Mexico and into Central America where we’ve been allowed to show our members, and especially our youth, what it means to be a missionary, what it means to serve and to give. We want to be able to continue those as well.

We also have seen very much of an increased use of our wonderful church building. It’s used almost all the time now, not just with members of our family but also the community as well. And we’re grateful that it is seen in that way.

But if you look at our budget you’ll notice that our contributions and budget do not match very well. I’ve talked to people in other churches especially the Churches of Christ and they all indicate that this is a pattern that they see—that we have a budget, contributions lag behind, and then right at year end, almost miraculously, certain members will make contributions that will bring us back into an aligned budget. This last year, we finished with $88,000 in the black. So we’ve been very fortunate in always being able to have our budget met and balanced at the end of the year.

The problem with that is that, when people give irregularly, we will go through part of the year and not have money in the bank to do any special things, any special ideas that come up. And so we have to tell people we don’t have the money to do this, and they have to wait until next year when it had originally been in the budget.

The second thing is that we have depended very much on the spiritual gift of generosity, and we pray that that will continue forever, but we don’t know that. We don’t know what kind of financial situation some of these members will be in, and so we cannot take that for granted. What I would like to ask the church family this year to do is to sit down together and decide how you want to make your commitment in terms of financial contribution to the church family.

When I was growing up, every single service where there was a contribution, whether it was attached to communion or by itself. One of the old men in our church would stand up and say, “Let us give as we have been prospered.” I don’t think that’s in the Bible, but it certainly connects a little bit with where I hope we are.

Family, there is an expectation for you to give, each individual family to give. As you’re prospered is totally up to you, what’s in your heart, what the Spirit tells you. But we ask that each of you sit down in the course of the next couple of months and make a decision. I am a member of this church family, and it’s not just my thoughts and prayers that belong here, but my financial commitment to this family as well. If we contribute properly, and if we hit the budget the way we should, there are so many things that we can get accomplished here early and throughout this next year, and I ask you to do that.

One of the questions I’ve asked over the last few years is why our church moved to Encino Rio. God has a plan for us, and for the most part we have embraced that very much with the recognition that we need to be the city that’s on the side of a hill that is so bright that it can’t can’t be hidden, that we are the light that can’t be obscured. We want our church family to be recognized as givers of the Gospel, a place where people can come where there is love and acceptance, where we can serve each other and serve our community, and we can reflect Jesus Christ to those around us.

Please prayerfully consider your financial contribution so that we can continue to accomplish being the light to this world.

Jim Martin
From the Shepherds