Why Giving Matters (and a Few Other Things)
Like John, “I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink” (3 John 13 ESV). Regardless, I have no choice but to use digital ink for now. In this week’s letter, I have a few important items to share about corporate worship, giving, community needs, and prayer.
It feels like ages since the elders announced the decision to close our doors as an act of sacrificial love towards our community. At that time, we said we would cancel services up through March 29th and reconvene to discuss when to meet together again. Thursday night, we did so and unanimously agreed to comply with the governor’s order to shelter-in-place until April 7th.
This, of course, means we will not be meeting on Sunday, April 5th. We don’t want to give you false hope. Given the government’s newly extended social distancing guidelines, the elders believe we will most likely not meet in April. For that reason, we are now saying that our worship services are canceled until further notice. We will continue to monitor the situation on a week-by-week basis. As soon as we get the go-ahead from the appropriate governmental authorities and we feel it’s safe to gather again, we will do so.
The decision to stay apart grieves me as I’m sure it does you. But I remain convinced that this is for the good of our people and the well-being of our community. I cannot stress enough that we have not been motivated by fear in this, but love. If you want to know more about our thinking on this, please take a look at my original letter.
Why Giving Matters
I still remember the first tithe check I ever wrote. It was just over a decade ago. I was a relatively young believer and had just learned the importance of giving. I was also a “recovered” musician, a former waiter, and a brand new real estate agent. In other words, I was poor. Sure, I’d just sold my first house. I even had a few more deals in the works, but my income was far from “stable,” and I often found myself left with too much month at the end of my money. For a longer stretch than I care to admit, economic anxiety was my default state of mind.
That Sunday, Paul wouldn’t have called me a “cheerful giver.” I wrote my first check with great reluctance and under a real sense of compulsion (2 Cor 9:6-7). I knew I needed to do it, but I didn’t want to. I knew God had provided, but I didn’t fully trust Him to provide again. Sure enough, He did. More than that, He invited me into a deeper sense of His goodness. My heart was hard, yet He softened it. My grip was tight, yet He loosened it. Through that offering and the inconsistent trickle of checks that came behind it, God calmed my anxiety and showed me He could be trusted—that He would never stop caring for my loved ones and me.
We are only beginning to see the toll COVID-19 will take on our nation in terms of physical suffering and personal grief. With such things before us, it seems crass to discuss the economic toll this is taking—especially when we consider one of our own dear sisters and her current battle with the disease. Still, we can’t ignore the issue. Though the value of our bank accounts is not worthy to be compared with that of even the “least” of God’s image-bearers, the economic pain brought about by social distancing will bring even more suffering—inside our church and out.
Right now, we all have reason to feel economically anxious:
- The person who’s lost work because of the shut-down.
- The young family with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed.
- The family with kids to put through college.
- The college student with tuition and housing bills to cover.
- The adults with aging parents who need ongoing care.
- The older adults with decisions to make about how best to allocate their limited funds.
As the sole breadwinner in a family of 5 and a leader in an organization with bills to pay, employees to compensate, and missionaries to support, I understand that anxiety. But the burden I feel for us all right now isn’t primarily an organizational one; it’s pastoral.
Economic anxiety understandably pressures us to tighten our grip on what we have and hunker down. But in moments like these, our giving becomes a crucial act of faithful defiance. It pushes back against the anxieties this world would cast upon us and declares in faith that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-12). It agrees with Paul that the God who gave up His only Son will not hesitate to give us all things (Rom 8:32). The Enemy lures us into doubt, prodding us to clutch our resources and hold on for dear life. But the Father says, “Let go and trust my provision,” and the Son says, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Difficult decisions face us all. It would be an abuse of my ministerial office to shame you into emptying your wallets when you’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I would also be misleading you if I said our church is hurting financially. It’s not. The Lord has been good to us and, though our giving has dropped somewhat, it has not cratered in the same way it has at many of our neighboring churches. Even so, I implore you not to give in to the anxieties of the present darkness. As we find ourselves in physical isolation, I pray we would not go into spiritual isolation as well. I pray we would take this opportunity to lean in and, with our finances, declare to the world that our God is on His throne, and we trust Him to provide.
Lest there be any doubt, I’m asking you to continue giving faithfully to the Lord’s work at VCL. I’m asking you to be faithful and wise, to see that your affairs are taken care of and to make the adjustments necessary to continue giving to our church. There are people around the world who are counting on our support. Soon, there will be people in our backyard who need our help as well. When they come knocking at our door, we want to be prepared to answer the call.
International Students and Families in Need
Trinity—our neighbor and friend—has been the first to knock, and our church has answered by giving $2,000 from the mercy fund to provide both immediate and ongoing aid to the international families who’ve been hit the hardest by the school’s closing.
We’ve also pledged to raise an additional $3,000 over the next 6 months, but we suspect this will not be enough to meet the needs we’ll soon see before us—both at Trinity and in our surrounding community. We ask you to help us prepare to meet those needs by going above and beyond your regular giving to contribute directly to the mercy fund.
How to Give
If you’ve been giving to our church, I encourage you to continue in faith. If online giving is a burden, consider setting up a recurring gift via PayPal (see below). If you’ve not yet given, my counterintuitive advice is this: start small, start now. As He did with young Kenny, the Lord will meet you in your sacrifice, grow you in your faith, and quell your economic fears by His amazing grace.
You are welcome to give with a card or bank account online. You can find instructions on how to give online by clicking here. If you’d prefer to write a check, members of the finance team will be at the church once a week to process your offerings. You can mail them to:
Village Church of Lincolnshire
201 Riverwoods Rd
Lake Forest, IL 60045
To give to the Mercy Fund, use the PayPal screen to add a note indicating how much of your offering you’d like allocated to that fund. If sending a check, include that information on the memo line.
Last Wednesday, about 50 of us gathered for a group prayer meeting on Zoom. After we all had a minute or two to settle into the technology, the meeting went very well! I know I wasn’t the only one encouraged to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices.
We’ll be organizing another Zoom prayer meeting very soon. Until then, I would encourage you all to continue praying with and for one another. Use Zoom, Skype, Facebook, or the good ol’ telephone to get together virtually and pray together. It may not be as nice as sitting together, but the Lord will meet with and listen to us no matter where or how we gather.
You can find specific things to pray for at http://evcl.org/vcl-prayer/. This page contains personal information, so we’ve password protected it. If you need the password, look for my email titled ‘Wednesday Night’s Prayer Meeting.’ Failing that, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until We Meet Again
These are uncertain times, but we can all know one thing for sure: our God is in control. I pray that we’ll all find deep comfort for all our anxieties (medical, economic, or otherwise) in the fact that He delights to give us good things and that He will never cease to provide for His people.