Commitment: Abundance. Simplicity. Sincerity

Commitment May series art.JPG

This Sunday we’ll kick off our long-scheduled Spring giving campaign.

Turns out it is right on time.

Here’s the deal, friends:

We are facing a significant budget challenge. We need to make up $2000 each month to carry the basic needs of our community. And truth be told, we are actually $3500 a month short on our ambitious 2019 budget. (You can see our budget here)

Thankfully we have savings: currently at a little over $20,000 - but at the start of the year that was a little over $31,000. With our shortfall these past three months we’re eating into reserves. These reserves are helpful for lean times, but my hope was that these reserves that we worked so hard on raising would be a launching pad for a Capital Campaign to do something grand.

CCP 2019 budget chart.jpeg

Our budget is simple and driven for mission. It pays for staff that are 100% devoted to extending our mission in the world reflecting our ethos of Equality, Inclusion, Relationships, Hope and Perseverance. Our budget pays for help in our nursery on Sunday. And our remaining budget goes to all the things that go into churching like rent, administrative details, marketing and promotion, and ways to help me and the team get smarter through professional development.

What’s going on? Our board members and I worked hard to craft a budget for 2019 based on our giving numbers and predictions for the year ahead based on trajectory and trends of the last two years. It was an exciting revelation that we were bucking national trends - especially for congregations our size, age, and persuasion.

But some folks who gave have moved, some have decided to move on, and some have changed their patterns of giving. It makes it tough to do the work I truly believe we’re all called to do.

Here’s what I know:

  • Our church matters. We’re on the frontiers of midwifing what inclusion, integral faith community is going to look like. We’re part of a growing global movement of church change and we provide inspiration and leadership for many.

  • Commitment matters: Most new churches fail and close before their fifth birthday. We’re onwards to our sixth year as an open, active and inclusive church. Our community has faced a lot of external adversity and lack of commitment. We lost two years of promised funding and support when we were kicked out of our birth denomination for our stance on LGBTQ inclusion. We really needed that funding. But what transpired was nothing short of miraculous - people committed and came together. Simple acts of generosity have gotten us this far. We can continue to grow and be a community of light in the world - but only with repeated acts of this kind of level of commitment.

  • We are actually growing. A year ago we were averaging 60 something on Sunday worship. Today we are averaging 83 on a Sunday. We have an amazing slate of volunteers, including 16 kids volunteers meeting at a recent Christ Church kids training with Jess and Elsa, and another dozen musicians coming together to begin to dream about what our music life looks like.

  • I totally believe we can do this. But we need you. If you can up your giving or encourage others to give, that would go a long way. Also, please plan to attend our Congregational Forum on Sunday May 19th immediately after church for an hour to talk more and hear from you as well.

At the end of 2018 we planned on a Spring giving series. I’ll be sharing the story of St. Paul’s fundraising for the movement that was being born in real time after the first Easter.

The early churches faced immense trial and pressure but were committed for the greater good and especially those in need. For me this story is an inspiring call not simply to generosity, but to what it means to be sincerely focused on community, commitment and the greater good. We all have a role to play and we get to play it out of our own unique abundance. I’m particularly struck by this key verse:

"While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. (2 Cor 8:2)

That word “generosity” is fascinating - because in the ancient, common Greek it carries with it a tone more akin to  “simplicity, single-mindedness, and sincerity.” I like that mood for this moment, because we have a simple, crisp clean call in this moment to be a deeper, more committed expression of what we’re looking for.

I think the commitment of the churches in Macedonia might serve as an inspiration for us today.

Sarah and I started Christ Church 6 years ago with a commitment for an inclusive Christ-centered church in Portland, with an integrated spirituality for today. Meeting in our front room for the first few months we gathered around Jesus’s manifesto to be salt and light in the world - known as his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Over hummus, LaCroix and the odd bottle of wine that someone brought to our first “Mesa,” or table-gatherings, we had dreams to be a church for the city and for all people. 

A few months later we were kicked out of our denomination for our stance on LGBTQ inclusion and marriage equality. That was a shocking, heart-breaking time, and in many ways we should’ve closed. We lost two years of promised funding, denominational support and a ton of friends, partners and mentors. It was a real death for us.

But we’re resurrection people - and what God did in that moment was nothing short of miraculous: we continued anew, with a fresh, distinct call to help lead the frontiers of what church could be in the 21st century. Inspired by Oasis in the the UK, who are doing their part to pioneer a new expression of what it means to be church in a very post-church context, we adopted an ethos to be about equality, inclusion, relationships, hope and perseverance. This ethos is rooted in Christ’s story for what it means to be truly human and rooted in the Divine.

I’m sharing all of this in the firm belief that we are just getting started. Let’s press on together, rooted, and audacious with hope as resurrection people for all people.