December 15, 2021
Financial Update #1: Inform, Encourage, Challenge
As Bethlehem’s 150th anniversary year comes to a close in just a few short weeks, this first “Financial Update” of 2021 is intended to inform, encourage, and challenge us to celebrate God’s grace and faithfulness to us as a church by responding with joyful generosity.
Going into December, contributions to Bethlehem’s “Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25” operating budget totaled $7.6M through the first 11 months of our fiscal (calendar) year. With projected 2021 ministry expenses of $9.6M ($600K below our congregationally approved 2021 budget of $10.2M), we needed $2M to cover this year’s anticipated expenses.
In the first two weeks of December (through Dec 12), you’ve already contributed $400K toward those expenses, meaning that our remaining financial need in the next 16 days is $1.6M. This is a larger amount than we usually need at this point, but not beyond what God has done in the past—and, we pray, may do again this December. See this chart of December giving from the past six years and consider how gifts in these amounts would relate to our anticipated expenses of $9.6M in 2021.
God is not constrained in the least by any projections or scenarios—he promises to supply what we need (Philipians 4:19), even if it’s not necessarily what we want. But as our good Father, he also calls us to ask him for good things (Matthew 7:7–11), and covering the costs of 2021 ministry seems like a good thing to me.
I was quite encouraged by a recent slide from a Thrivent/Barna webinar (“The Financial Health of U.S. Christians”), where 60% of Millennials, 74% of Gen X, and 88% of Boomers reported they either had “more money than I need for myself and my family,” or “I am fairly secure, able to make ends meet and have some money left over each month.” Those statements help illustrate not only potential year-end generosity of American Christians, but provide a broader context for several special “over-and-above” gifts Bethlehem already received this year to help with crucial special projects, including a new North Campus roof and new carpet. We thank God for these generous and unexpected gifts!
One privilege of leading an Operations team that supports all three Bethlehem campuses is the multi-campus perspective it affords—for example, receiving all three campus pastor update emails each week. In their December 3 congregational letters, each pastor highlighted Bethlehem’s year-end financial need and the crucial role prayer plays in meeting that need, and challenged us to be a joyful people who give cheerfully and generously as the Lord leads (emphasis mine):
- Pastor Kenny Stokes: … The fight of faith is not denial of the fears and anxieties of our lives. But rather, the fears and anxieties of our lives are occasions to trust in our God ... “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Applying this word to our church finances, please pray, asking God to provide for our church financial needs as we close out the calendar year (and) please give cheerfully, as the Lord leads. Together, we are trusting God to provide for all our church needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 4:19).
- Pastor Steven Lee: … I know many worthy organizations have asked for your financial support during this season. … I mainly want to say thank you to all those who have faithfully and joyfully given to Bethlehem to enable us to continue to proclaim Christ and serve the nations and our neighbors. … Recently, generous congregants provided the funds so that we are able to replace additional carpet at the North Campus that was well past its lifespan. Praise God for his provision through this family. As we collectively trust God to provide all that we need, please prayerfully consider how you can participate in supporting the needs of the church through your financial resources.
- Pastor Dave Zuleger: … As we approach the end of the year, my prayer is that you would view the South congregation as a people and place that helps serve your joy in Jesus, that makes you want to share your joy in Jesus with your neighbors and that is committed to seeing the joy of Christ spread through church plants and global outreach. So I’d simply ask you to take some time to pray and then give according to that joy. That is what grace causes us to do. The joy that comes from considering the grace makes us overflow in generosity. And the promise in giving is that it is “more blessed [happy!] to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
As you “prayerfully consider how you can participate in supporting the needs of the church through your financial resources” in the next few weeks, please contact Financial Secretary Steve Walmsley if you’d like any assistance or have any questions about giving to Bethlehem, including online or other giving options.
We thank God for his generosity to Bethlehem through you!