Life-changers…#8

number 8(this is a recurring weekly series on the fifty events that shaped the course of my life and the person i’ve become along the way.  welcome to my therapy.)

i was 30 years old and was deeply entrenched as the youth minister of our church family in huntington beach.

honestly, there’s not enough space on this blog…nor do i have the time or emotional energy…to write about everything i learned and all the ways i was shaped and molded by my years in HB.  i am totally indebted to so many people for believing in me and challenging me and partnering with me to do kingdom work there for a long time.

i hope that my criticisms of those years are always equally balanced by expressions of gratitude and amazement for all the good that was experienced.  with that said…

near the end of my fifth year, the church had just moved into our new ediface…a multi-million dollar building that would house our corporate worship services and, sometime in the future, large events in an incomplete lower level.  we were heavily financed, falling seriously short of making our regular mortgage payments, and in an enormous financial crisis as a church family.

the leadership of the church decided the best course of action was to hire a stewardship development organization to help us raise capital funds…in a hurry.  there was a realistic fear that the creditors would sieze our building and lock us out!  something had to happen.

the capital campaign that was chosen was one built on the idea that church family members would only give above and beyond their regular offerings if they saw the staff and church leadership setting the example.

here’s what that meant: the staff (which definitely included me!) was told if we didn’t substantially increase our financial giving, we would be fired.  if we didn’t give more money to the building program, it would be an obvious vote of “no confidence” in the leadership and direction of our church family.

the bottom line?  my job was in serious jeopardy.

wanda and i had always given our weekly offering…faithfully and sacrificially.  we had both learned at a young age, to give 10 percent of our income as an act of worship and an expression of our shared ownership of church family life.  at that point in our lives, we were also giving another percentage of our income to various other ministries and missionaries we knew and believed in.

we didn’t make a great deal of money (maybe $28k, combined), but not giving was never an option.  it was (and still is) simply how we are wired and how we understand the meaning of being a follower of christ.

but we had made the decision we were not going to give any more money to the building program.  we just couldn’t do it.    we were willing to figure out how to give more money away…as a show of our support and commitment to christ.  but we had drawn a line.  we just didn’t feel that giving more money to the building was prudent.  not while there were so many other “people needs” being overlooked.

i informed my beloved senior pastor of our decision.  he tried to reason with me, but we had prayerfully made up our minds.  so we waited for the day each staff member would have to meet with a group from the stewardship organization and our leadership team… to inform them of the amount we were going to increase our giving.

i was prepared for that to be my last day.

all i know, is that while i was waiting in the office lobby (outside the room where the dreaded meetings were taking place), my senior pastor walked out, patted me on my knee, and told me i didn’t have to meet with them.  he told me he had “handled it”.  

i was the only staff member that didn’t have to meet with them…and the only one who didn’t have to give more money to the building.  everybody else did (about 15-20 on staff).

the church went on to struggle financially for another decade, until new leadership came in and steered the church in a brand new course.  by that time, our senior pastor had passed away and the farra family was a distant memory.

i will forever be indebted to the courage my senior pastor took to protect my job…at great peril to his own.  he was an amazing man.

and my attitude to church financial campaigns to build new facilities would never fully recover.

oh, well…

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