It is not easy to be generous - the attribute is to be acquired, it is something that needs to be taught. It is especially difficult to be generous over the matters that might not be directly relevant to us. It is not easy to set aside part of your income to support your local ministry when you yourself are also on a tight budget, and it is especially difficult to set aside more money to give to another ministry that you might never cross.
For example, if I have $100 in my pocket that I would like to give on Sunday, and that has to be divided into different ministries, how much should I give to my church, that I know has laboured hard to meet its budget? How much should I give to the MTS fund, that I know has failed to pay some of its staff workers for a few weeks?
How much then, should I contribute to another hard working but struggling Christian ministry that is a few suburbs away, whom I have no idea about except random notes in the church newsletter that sometimes mentions them?
I guess I know what I'll do because it seems like common sense to me. Your own church is struggling - so take care of that first. After all, which evangelical gospel-centred Bible-teaching church in Sydney that does not have their financial crisis, when each of them puts on more and more full-time staffs to meet the ever growing ministry needs? We are all united as The Body of Christ, but somehow we all have different needs, and we all strive to meet our own end.
FOCUS - both International Unichurch or University Chinese Church, has fallen behind in budget. Again. Campus Bible Study needs more fund to sponsor 30 or so MTS trainees on the UNSW campus, and I dare to check how much they are short. We have put on more full-time paid staff workers in Unichurch, yet the main contribution still comes from our large number of "relatively-poor" students. Ever since I have joined FOCUS, I do not remember a year where we can yell out, "hey, there's a surplus!" However, the infrastructure changes over the last two to three years have since altered our financial situation. For better? As of the immediate effect I think it is the opposite.
When we were once a big multi-congregational parish, there was a "gift" system where disadvantaged congregations, like student churches, would be assisted financially from other more able ministries. That big parish broke up into pieces two and half years ago, and now the university ministry at UNSW is standing on its own feet. Thanks to the generosity of many other Christians, Unichurch is still receiving the gift funds from other parishes, yet we are getting significantly less than before - for that obvious reason stated previously.
There is going to be another change this year - AABC is now spawning off from Unichurch to St. Marks. That will leave parish only one family/workers congregation (CBC), and three other student congregations (IUC, UCC & Unichurch). Moreover, CBS during the week also needs to be funded. There is certainly a lot of burden to carry to keep this heavy train moving.
Chatted with TH on Sunday night, and he said Campus Bible Study will not take as many MTS trainees next year, and each trainee will need to raise more money by his/her own. Chatted with PG a few months ago also hinted the possibility of down-sizing. What about bringing on more full-time pastoral staffs, like the G's for Pelita and L's for UCC? Are they still on track? Can we afford them with only the contributions from not-so-wealthy students, and continuously-decreasing long-termers?
Who is going to bail you out when you are in need?
This post is long overdue - originally I was thinking of writing it down 2 months ago, but procrastination overtook me. The thoughts continue to progress (thanks to chats with Vivian and JN), and I am hoping to materialise some of my reflections here in the next few days. I know the discussions like this can be a sign of lack of trust - we could have prayed and asked God for help. Well, we did. But I am still going to write these down :)
To be continued.