A Note from Pastor Barry
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SEPT. 21, 2017

Over the next few weeks it is my hope that we will all read the past posts on this blog, as well as the posts from the next few weeks to come, as a way of helping us prayerfully consider our financial commitment for 2018. It is my prayer that these thoughts will both raise and answer questions. I pray that they begin conversations in our families and around the congregation as we go about our life in community. The spiritual discipline of giving is a life changing experience, both for the church and for the giver.
 
Last Fall, as we made commitments for 2017, we had 215 pledges for $1,063,321. This was an increase in both pledges and total amount pledged. The average pledge amount was $4946. Your faithfulness in making – and paying -these pledges has resulted in a year of growth and excitement at Suncreek. In addition to those who pledge, we also have many faithful givers who contribute generously and consistently to Suncreek without pledging. We have been richly blessed this year, with much more to come in 2018!
 
As we move toward making our commitments for 2018, let us think of the impact it would have in our life together if we could have a 20% increase in the NUMBER of pledges. If we added 43 new pledges while maintaining our current 215, we would come in at 258 total pledges. If we use our average pledge amount of $4946, that would result in an increase of over $200,000 of pledged income. If some current pledgers increase their pledge, as I am confident will happen, the increase only grows larger.
 
You may be wondering why I am sharing this information. I want my church family to see how CLOSE we are to getting where we need to be financially. Sometimes we get overwhelmed when we think of moving our income forward. It seems like such a huge leap. But it isn’t that at all. If the scenario I described above played out in each of the next three years, we would have moved into an entirely new place of abundance for funding ministry at Suncreek. It would change everything in terms of moving ahead with ministry and programming. It would open up new opportunities for helping those in need and suffering from disaster and crisis. In other words, it would make us MORE of who we already are. And after a year and three months as your pastor, I believe that is what this congregation is striving to be.
 
So, if you pledged last year, please do so again for 2018. If possible, consider increasing your pledge as you are able. If you gave, but did not pledge in 2017, consider pledging for 2018. If you are new to our community of faith, having joined us in the past year or so, please jump in and make Suncreek your own by pledging for 2018. If we all do our part, we can count on having enough to accomplish whatever God calls us to do.
 
Hear these words from Ephesians 3.20:  “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”. Let us experience this  powerful promise together as a congregation as we prayerfully move toward making our commitments for 2018.
 
With an expectant heart,
Barry


Giving and Expenses
JUNE 23, 2017

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Your church is like your business or your home – there are set expenses that roll around every month. Sometimes it can feel like they roll around relentlessly! Like those weeks when there has not been even one afternoon that the preacher could set aside for sermon writing, Sunday shows up, right on time, regardless. There will be people in worship, hoping to hear a word of hope and faith and inspiration. Life continues on. Work continues on. The church continues on. Thanks be to God!

Suncreek is a very active and dynamic congregation. As Pastor Milton says, we don’t even have a summer slump! Ministries continue, mission trips and choir tours come and go, Vacation Bible School fills the church for a week straight, mission opportunities abound. We are a congregation of blessed people with friends and family and the ability to travel and enjoy the season. And just like at home or in business, our expenses continue.

For example:

  • Did you know it costs around $39,000 a month for our mortgage, insurance, maintenance, cleaning and utilities?
  • Did you know it costs around $55,000 a month for salaries and benefits?
  • Did you know it costs around $6100 a month for our week to week programming?
  • Did you know it costs around $4,000 a month to run our office operations?
  • Did you know it costs around $10,000 a month to share in our United Methodist General Missionary work?


Isn’t it exciting to know that together we meet all these needs? Isn’t it exciting to know that as we give to God through the offering at Suncreek, we are a part of all this good work? Isn’t it exciting to know that our giving is on the grow, and that in the coming years we will have more resources to use in the service of Christ in our world? This is a cause for celebration in the congregation. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves as we are faithful, and as we grow, in our giving.

If you have missed giving as you intended, please catch up in the days ahead. If you are considering giving at a higher level, take that step with confidence. If you are thinking of giving in a consistent way for the first time, know that your leaders at Suncreek are good and intentional stewards of your giving. I am here to talk and pray with you at any time about the spiritual practice of giving. I would enjoy that opportunity. When we all give, we always have enough. When we all give, we feel a deep ownership in Suncreek. We find our language changing from “that church” or “their church” to “my church” and “our church”. God has much for us to accomplish, so we need to always think, pray and serve from a perspective of abundance instead of a perspective of scarcity. We have all we need to be faithful and obedient.

Giving is its own reward for the disciple.


“I Love to Support a Good Cause”
JUNE 8, 2017

steeple.jpgAt Annual Conference this week, Brett Smith and I had a chance to hear a colleague of mine from the Missouri Annual Conference. He spoke several times across the days at First UMC Richardson, and his last presentation was on Generosity. He shared some wonderful thoughts and ideas. He talked about how different generations of people in our culture approach giving. Today, he said, people support a cause they think is worthwhile and that makes an immediate difference. I think we can all agree that there are many good causes, and most of us probably support a few of them. But he raised this question: How well do we teach our people that the church is the best cause of all?

It is through the church, and only through the church and her various related ministries and programs, that the story of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ is proclaimed. It is through the church that lives are changed through forgiveness and acceptance. It is the church that stands by people when they are hurting and sick. It is the church that speaks hope when people are grieving. It is the church that continues to hold up the way of Jesus as the way of peace and compassion and service. It is the church that teaches children and youth through both study and service. It is the church that provides intergenerational experiences where wisdom is passed down from the mature to the young and energy passed up from the young to the mature.

When we give to our church, we are supporting the cause of causes: the beloved community of all people, bound together in Christ for the purpose of changing lives and transforming the world. Is there any higher cause than this? Every day the church is busy, going about accomplishing this very thing through prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness. Through our relationship with God ,one another and our world, we make immediate differences in lives. And when we give in a disciplined manner, one life that is always changed is our own.

As you think and pray about giving and living a life of generosity, think about the church. The church is the greatest cause of all.


Giving as an Expression of Who We Are 
JUNE 1, 2017

amy-carmichael1.jpgAmy Carmichael was a Protestant missionary to India. She opened a mission point and an orphanage as she served for 55 years without furlough. She ministered to the children who had been forced into prostitution in the temples and provided a safe haven for those who dared to escape. She was known by all with whom she worked by her love. She touched countless lives with the Good News of the Gospel. She wrote many books that still influence people today. But when she died in 1951, she had made love her life’s work.

One of her many famous thoughts is this:

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

She embodied the idea that our giving, our generosity, is an expression of who we are. Loving people give in every way. They give of themselves. They give of their time. Loving people give of the grace they have received from God. They give from a compassionate heart. Loving people give of their resources. They give because that is what loving people do.

When we give to God through our church, it is one way of expressing our love; our love for God, our love of each other and our love of the world. With our giving we love God by acknowledging that all we have comes from God and that we believe God’s love can be trusted. With our giving we love each other, because we provide what each other needs to grow in faith and discipleship through worship, educational opportunities, small groups and pastoral care. With our giving we love the world because through our giving we follow Jesus’ teaching to feed the hungry, refresh the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and care for the sick and imprisoned. None us alone can give enough to do all that, but together we can – and do -make a difference.

Amy Carmichael pushes me to think about who I am and about how my giving expresses my true heart.

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Certainly something to think about.


"What is Tithing?"
MAY 25, 2017

tithe.jpgWhen I was a little boy, I received 50 cents allowance – every two weeks. On the weeks my daddy got paid, I received my windfall. On those Fridays when he came in from work, he would give me a quarter, two dimes and a nickel. Then, on Saturday night, after he inspected my shoe polishing work and quizzed me on my Sunday School lesson for the next morning, he would supervise filling out “the envelope”. I would put my name, then mark the appropriate boxes: present, lesson read, daily Bible reading, attending worship, sharing my faith and giving. I would then fill out the amount of 5 cents and seal my nickel in the envelope. At class I would proudly turn it in.

This was how my parents, and the church of my childhood, taught me to give. From my earliest days I was encouraged to tithe. Tithing is the practice of, as a spiritual discipline, giving 10% of our income back to God through our church. It is not a law we labor under, it is a discipline we choose. That generosity then becomes the foundation for any and all other giving beyond that amount.

Since I started young, it is something that is just a part of my life. Melody and I together make this commitment every year. It is actually very helpful in some practical ways. When we tithe, we always live within our means. We have 90% to work with because 10% is already committed. It is a constant reminder that all we have comes as a gift from God. It is an opportunity to be a part of some really great things God is doing in and through whatever church we are appointed to serve. Tithing is also a gift in that it reminds you how things can change in your life over the years. In high times and not so high times, God provides.

The genius of this ancient religious practice is that it makes us all equal in our giving. 10% is 10%. I am no more faithful now than I was when my tithe was a hard earned nickel. I may not have the means of a person with great wealth and a rich income, but if we both give 10%, we are giving equally. This discipline is a great equalizer for the church and keeps money and congregation in a healthy relationship. Unlike the world, money is not supposed to equate to power in the church. Money in the church is an expression of gratitude and humility; God has blessed us and we can be a blessing because of what God has done. It has often been talked about in this way: “Not equal gifts, but equal Sacrifice”. Tithing is about giving, not to meet a church budget, but to give back to God.

We are not in a campaign at Suncreek. At this moment I am not asking for a commitment for a special project. I am just offering something for us to think about as a community of faith. If you practice this spiritual discipline, you have your own testimony to share. If you are not a tither, could this discipline help you grow to where you wish to be in your spiritual life? If you would like to be a tither, would you look at what you now commit to the church and systematically move toward the goal of 10%? Many have begun tithing by figuring out what percentage of their income they presently give and adding a percentage or two a year over whatever time it takes to reach their goal. I know it would be hard for most of us to jump up drastically in giving in an instant. Remember, tithing is a spiritual discipline, and spiritual disciplines are about how we seek to live as a disciple over time, not in just this instant. It is about the journey. As always, our giving is between ourselves and God. God knows our circumstances and God knows our hearts. And God is always, always gracious.

It is a joy to pastor generous people like the people of Suncreek. I look forward to celebrating the summer with you.

Barry


“Don’t Take your Tithes and Offerings on Vacation!”
MAY 18, 2017

family20vacation1.jpgDon’t take your tithes and offerings on vacation – we need them here! As summer approaches, we know that every week will take many of our families to points near and far for vacation. And this is a good thing; we all need a change of scenery and a rest from time to time. (Even the preacher is going to take a little time off!) But when we are gone, the full ministry and mission of Suncreek continues. So, please take advantage of the many ways to give even when you are not present. You can give in advance if you are going to be out on the week you normally give. You can give by texting from wherever you are. Just text the word “suncreek” to 73256. You will receive a prompt to take you the rest of the way. You can give online anywhere you have internet by logging into “My Suncreek”. Please feel free to call Dr. Ray Patterson, our Business Administrator, with any questions. He would LOVE to help!

We are off to a great start this year in our financial stewardship. You have been faithful in giving. The church leadership has been faithful in their stewardship of the money you have given. We are having the best financial year ever here at our beloved Suncreek. Join me in helping to insure that we have no “summer slump” in giving. Together, we can continue to change our financial culture from scarcity to abundance. Together, we can move forward in making our ministry dreams come true – sooner rather than later.

Thank you in advance.