Most gracious God, we praise you that you have ever fulfilled your promises and that your bounty shall not cease. With our thanksgiving for these blessings, accept our praise, O God. AMEN
Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth to encourage their generosity. They were very productive, competitive, striving, and achieving people who wanted to “be the best” at everything. They often find themselves in conflict because of their pride and competition. Paul has already written to them about these as areas of growth to become mature Christians. He is encouraging them to grow in their generosity as well. Let’s read the scripture.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Verse 6 is obvious wisdom – sowing sparingly results in a sparce crop – sowing richly results in an abundant crop. All gardeners / farmers know this. Being generous works in the same way. But extends beyond simply more being realized for all to have and share but also to spiritual growth and realizing a bounty of God’s grace for those who give and receive. In fact, as others witness generosity, they return blessings for the first generosity and all realize increased blessings.
The reward for generosity is that others are encouraged to be generous as well. Hope abounds and possibilities are realized that were once thought only a distant dream. Generosity generates a FAITH response in all who participate and that is the blessing. As disciples of Jesus, we have placed our faith in the love and grace of Jesus. Our generosity enhances our faith experience of Jesus’ love and grace for all of us. Generosity is our opportunity. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Grant, O Lord, that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and that what we believe in our hearts we may practice in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
FINACIAL SUMMARY of 2023
2023 was a year of great financial stress for us all. Hurricane Ian literally “blew away” the futures that many of us imagined. Homes that were not lost had to be repaired and rebuilt. No one’s insurance was sufficient because repair cost increases and appraisers decreases left many with unplanned gaps in coverage which were a huge burden to cover. Insurance premiums increased greatly in the coming year as well. Then the national inflation crisis hit everyone as food prices increased greatly. All of these pressures absorbed our discretionary funds from which many support the church.
I believe this is the heart of the problem. Many give to the church from the “leftovers,” not the first fruits. We prioritize the payment of our “bills” to keep a roof over our heads and food in the refrigerator. We will pay the essentials before pay the “optionals.” After we have “paid the bills” then we see what is available to give to the church or spend in other ways. We take care of ourselves, then take care of the rest.
What if giving to the church was seen as an essential part of “Care for ourselves”? Is Good Shepherd Church optional or essential? Is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, serving the lost and alone optional or essential? Is serving in the name of Jesus optional or essential? Is worship and fellowship with other disciples of Jesus optional or essential? Is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in a broken and cruel world optional or essential?
I am not advocating for poverty or foolish financial practices. I am advocating for discipleship which puts Jesus Christ at the center of our lives rather than as an accessory. If God is first, then everything else will fall into its proper place. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Please bring a completed COMMITMENT CARD to worship on Feb 2 & 3, 2024. We will bless and collect them during worship. “15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
These are the numbers.
2023 ended with 221 members [Full / Associate / Affiliate] (- 31).
27 people joined Good Shepherd in 2023. (6 Adult Professions of Faith)
43 Withdrew or were removed by Charge Conference as they had left the area.
152 Average INPERSON Worship Attendance (+ 16). 139 Average ONLINE Worship Attendance (+22).
291 Average Total Worship Attendance All Venues.
254 Constituent Attenders (- 173). Moved from area after Covid or Hurricane.
$ 459,705.24 Total Income. Including $51,000 in Grant Aid from the Florida Conference and groups.
$ 441,633.44 Total Expenses. Mortgage & insurance are paid. Apportionments were partially paid.
$ 18,071.80 TOTAL Positive Cash Flow 2023.
$ 187,312.14 Operating Assets (Includes Grants from Conference.)
$ 76,615.14 Invested Assets (Includes all Dedicated, Trash and Treasure, and Memorial Funds.)
$ 81,096.15 Emergency / Disaster Fund
$ 525,239.05 Mortgage Balance Remaining
2024 Operating Budget is $452,729. This is a reduction of $42,648 (9%) from 2023. This reduction reflects cutting a staff position and using $48,000 in grant funds to fund vital ministry in 2024. A second staff position may be lost at the close of 2024 when grant funds run out. Property Insurance Premiums continue to rise (+25%) while utility costs are stable. The Finance Team meets monthly to review our financial position and offer guidance to the church Leadership Team and Staff. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Bart DeGraaf – Finance Team Chairperson or Sandy Hedge – Treasurer.
All Finance Meetings are open and all financial information is available for review.
To continue to invite, welcome, extend hospitality, and serve our community is the path to health and vitality for Good Shepherd as a community of faith. We cannot cut programs and retreat into a “scarcity mentality.” We have much to share and much to offer to our community. We must invite others to join us and share with us. This is our future. These are momentary difficult times, but we believe that God is faithful and will lead us through. Let’s work together and faithfully support our church.