The Triangles

Richmond – Liverpool – Benin

  • Richmond sent tobacco and other goods to Liverpool which sent trading goods to Benin and West Africa which sent enslaved people to Richmond.
  • An awful triangle which led to some 12 million humans being removed from their homes and forced in permanent unpaid labor.
  • The Reconciliation Statue is in each of these three places.

 

Birmingham – Selma – Montgomery

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail by MLK, Jr asks white ministers why they aren’t outraged at what caused demonstrations. Just five months later, four girls were killed while attending church.
  • Selma’s famed bridge is named for a CSA soldier. Why does it still have that name? Why doesn’t the bridge honor Congressman John Lewis who was beaten on that bridge on Bloody Sunday?
  • Montgomery has Dexter Ave Baptist Church where MLK, Jr was pastor. As of April 2018, it also has the Memorial for Peace and Justice. It honors over 4,000 people who were lynched. 800 steel monuments are permanent placed in the memorial. There are counterparts waiting for 800 counties to claim and display their monument and tell the stories of the lynchings in their boundaries.

 

If you can’t visit those triangles, then make one visit – to the African-American Museum in Washington, DC. Spend a full day there. Absorb the full story. And, when you’re done – ask someone, anyone of a skin color different from yours, to tell you their story. Listen deeply.

 

Lead On!

Steve

Scars

For the past 25 years I’ve lived in 2 cities: Birmingham, Alabama and Richmond, Virginia. These two are integral to African-American history in the US. Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America and one of the centers of the slave trade. Birmingham was founded after the Civil War but was a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement and infamously had a bombing in September 1963 which killed four girls who were at their church (the family of one of those girls worshiped at a church where I worked).

 

Bombingam – it will be a hundred years before it lives down that name – is still living its racist history. Here’s what I witnessed living there from 1995-2005

  • A bombing of a women’s clinic just six blocks from a church I worked at. The bombing killed a police officer and maimed a nurse.
  • I regularly drove on a bridge under which the 1963 bombing was planned
  • I attended briefly the trial of one of the 1963 bombers. The prosecutor is current US Senator Doug Jones; his opponent this November is an ardent support of Donald Trump. Doug will probably lose – to a man who endorses a racist president.
  • I supervised dozens of African-Americans. I always treated them with the same respect I treated everyone else – the way I wanted to be treated.

Richmond

  • Hollywood Cemetery is the final resting place of over 18,000 CSA soldiers and it has a CSA flag (not the battle flag)
  • Monument Ave was a real estate venture in 1920 and to attract home builders, they erected statues of CSA generals, all sons of Virginia. Those statues honor men who were traitors to the USA. A few years ago a statue of Arthur Ashe was added, but the rest of Virginia’s history is completely ignored on Monument Ave.
  • Maggie Walker got a statue in the city a few years ago. She was the first female bank president and the first African-American bank president. But it took almost a century after her death for her to be honored.

 

These cities have scars. Your city has scars, too. They may be covered up (16th St Baptist Church was repaired after the bombing) or they may be on a pedestal (as Robert E Lee is in Richmond), but they’re there. Acknowledge the scars, learn from them, talk about them with others. Never forget what made the scars lest you cause more scars.

 

Lead On!

Steve

Church Finances during COVID-19 (part 1 of 5)

Issues to address immediately:

  1. Online giving – if you don’t have it, get it now. My currently preferred vendor is Tithely. They can get you set up in a few hours (they say they can do it in minutes but…). Then, promote the heck out of your online giving.
  2. Audio & video technology – This crisis has forced many churches to acknowledge their AV equipment wasn’t ready. PLEASE invest more money into this area. You won’t regret it. After this is over you’ll have really good microphones. With your video equipment, you can improve or launch an online service so that members can watch you whether they’re homebound, traveling, sick, in a retirement community, or just want to watch the service again during the week.
  3. Paycheck Protection Program – the $2.2 trillion CARES Act (and its related additional acts) provide churches federal money. This is the first time the US government has offered money to faith groups. Fill out the forms, work with your local banker, and get the money. If you don’t need or want the money – get it anyway. You can always
    1. Return the money later
    2. Give it to a non-profit that you partner with
    3. Use it for missions in your community

 

I think every church in the world has realized the need for those two things. These are no longer “wants” but actual needs. Yes, it will cost some money but it may be the difference in survival and closing your doors.

Lead On!

Steve

Listen to the podcast:
https://anchor.fm/cbf-va/episodes/Church-Finances-during-the-Pandemic-Navigating-the-Financial-Fallout–the-CARES-Act–and-Making-Tough-Decisions-ecfgm7

An Expensive Football

Years ago my church had an auction to raise money for a summer missions trip for the youth. It was a big event – it took two days to stage, the youth were waiters, we had a professional auctioneer (he donated his services), it was an event! One of the live auction items was a football signed by a nationally known coach who was a legend in the state. The football started at $100

$200

$300

$400

$500

$750

$1,000

At this point everyone dropped out except for one older man and a younger man whose 10-year old son was sitting beside him. The boy was incredibly excited about the prospect of getting this football.

$1,500

$2,000

$2,500

$3,000

$3,500

$4,000

The father bid again, $4,000

The other man bid $4,500

 

The father looked down at his son, shook his head and said he couldn’t go any higher. The son was crushed. He hung his head and was terribly disappointed.

The auctioneer awarded the bid to the older gentleman who came forward, wrote a check, and was handed the prized football. The man looked at the football and walked to the boy and handed him the ball. “It’s yours.” And he left.

This is a completely true story – you can’t make up this stuff.

Lead On!

Steve

$10

When I was a poor college student I had barely enough to get by. I certainly didn’t have any money to tithe. And when the offering plate was passed, I wanted to give but I couldn’t. I had no financial margin in my life.

One Sunday morning I walked from my parking spot to the church and noticed on a ground a $10 bill. I put it in my wallet knowing I could use it for a meal or some expense. Before going too far I felt a nagging question (from God? Probably): why don’t you put this found money in the offering plate.

I sat through the service and when the plate was passed, I passed. The money never left my wallet. I felt guilty afterward – I was given money, I was asked to give it away, and I didn’t.

That was almost 40 years ago but I remember it quite well. The lesson I’ve tried to learn is to be generous whenever I can. Opportunities will appear out of nowhere and you’ll be asked to give. Do it – you won’t regret being generous but you will regret being stingy. I still do.

Lead On!

Steve

Make Generosity Part of Your Church’s DNA

  1. People are naturally generous but too many people today are constricted from giving by other financial obligations: mortgage, college debt, cars, credit cards, etc. Having enough money to pay for utilities, food, and clothing stretches some families to the limit.
  2. Modern advertising tells people to spend money as fast as they can. Very few voices are telling people to spend responsibly, save at least 10%, set aside another 10% for retirement, and give away 10% to non-profits. The church can help with that void.
  3. Financial Peace University and Crown Ministries both teach people how to manage their money, get out of debt, and give away money. Churches should encourage people to go through the classes. While these programs have a biblical basis, their principles are good for anyone whether or not they attend church. FPU/CM will help people get their financial house in order so that they have more financial leverage in their lives and thus more disposable income to be generous with.
  4. Another resource is providing books for people to read on their own. A couple of good ones are The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn and Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley. Ask classes to read the books together and talk about them AND act on the principles listed in each book. Two good children’s books are Miss Fannie’s Hat by Jan Karon and The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau; each of these beautifully illustrated books teaches lessons about the joy of giving.
  5. Having natural conversations about FPU/CM and these books will, over time, make generosity part of your church’s DNA. Intentionally talk about this in small groups, Sunday morning sermons, Wednesday nights programs, etc. Make that word part of your culture AND your expectations of your members.

Lead On!

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

H2O (part 8 of 8)

2016 05-May (12)

H2O

The Gospel of John has more symbolism than the other Gospels combined. John forcefully uses bread, light, and water – all elements necessary for human life – to teach us that Christ alone is at the core of our being. Without food, water, and light, then we are without Christ.

 

In several consecutive chapters of John, the use of water is powerful. The following paragraphs can be used a devotional meditations during Advent or, as illustrated, during Lent. They can be used to bookend a week of meditations with the first and last used as sermon material and the middle ones as material to be read during the week.

 

John 19:28-30 

Good Friday

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

  • Jesus is hanging on the cross. He has been tortured and mocked. He has not slept in days. His male friends have deserted him. He is weak from lack of food and water.
  • The first seven chapters of John have instances of God using water to illustrate his power, love, and desire to be with us. Jesus offered living water to all who would believe. And now, at the end of his life, Jesus himself needs water.
  • “I am thirsty.” Jesus wants the living water of God because he is feeling abandoned by God. Jesus is feeling the fear that he cautioned his disciples about. Jesus is disconnected from God like never before. Jesus wants – no, Jesus needs God’s water. But he only gets wine-vinegar which burns but does not satisfy.
  • When have you felt abandoned by God? What did you do? How did you go about getting God’s living water back in your life? (or have you?) What would cause you to feel distant from God in the future? What have you done when one or more of your friends has been in a situation where the friend blamed God?

 

Water is essential to our lives. Living water is essential to our souls.

 

Lead On!

Steve

H2O (part 7 of 8)

2016 04-April 12 (1)

H2O

The Gospel of John has more symbolism than the other Gospels combined. John forcefully uses bread, light, and water – all elements necessary for human life – to teach us that Christ alone is at the core of our being. Without food, water, and light, then we are without Christ.

 

In several consecutive chapters of John, the use of water is powerful. The following paragraphs can be used a devotional meditations during Advent or, as illustrated, during Lent. They can be used to bookend a week of meditations with the first and last used as sermon material and the middle ones as material to be read during the week.

 

John 7: 37-41 

Palm Sunday

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

  • Jesus proclaims to the masses that God is the source of all things. God can give each one of us a Spirit which links us ever closer to Jesus, but we are required to believe.
  • The masses believed. The masses stated Jesus was the Messiah or a prophet from God. The masses knew that Jesus was not “just” a human but that he was connected directly to God. And they wanted the living water, the connection that Jesus had with God.
  • Who is the source of your inner strength? What is the basis for your faith? Where is your “living water” coming from? How is your soul being restored daily?
  • Water is an element that is basic to all life. But God wants to give us more than just water, he wants us to have water that gives life. What’s more, God has this living water and generously gives it to all who believe in Jesus the Messiah.

 

Water is essential to our lives. Living water is essential to our souls.

 

Lead On!

Steve