We’re celebrating our fourth birthday this month, and I can’t help but think back over the many unexpected things that have happened over the last five years since the idea of actionchurch was born. One thing that I’m constantly reminded of, is the phrase that Paul used in Hebrews 11:34 to describe people who put their faith in God. He called them people “whose weakness was turned to strength”. That phrase describes so much of the actionchurch story. Today is part two of the story, you can read the first installment here if you wish: http://actionchurch.com/2012/02/08/weakness-turned-to-strength-part-1/
One of the biggest weaknesses from the beginning of actionchurch was money. Mainly because we didn’t have much. Fundraising is NOT one of my strengths, we had no financial backing from any outside organization, and it turns out that LOTS of money is needed to finance a start-up church. This weakness was compounded by the fact actionchurch was always intended to focus on folks who didn’t already attend church (and therefore probably wouldn’t show up at actionchurch with a stack of un-cashed tithe checks just waiting to stuff into the offering plate.) Also, because the myth that “churches are just after my money” is one of the difficult hurdles for people who don’t attend church to overcome as they walk into church for the first time, we chose to never actually “pass the plate” or “take up an offering”. We decided instead to place giving boxes at convenient points in our meeting space and trust that people who supported the vision of actionchurch would open their wallets as well as their hearts to what was happening each week. Since then, we have added online giving and begun taking credit and debit cards, but in the four years of actionchurch, we’ve never taken a traditional “offering”.
So how does a church with no money of their own, lots of new people each week with no background in weekly giving, no offering plates or offering…survive? How does it not only survive, but go on to be debt free and bless countless individuals and other ministries over the years? I truly believe that God “turned our weakness into strength” as we trusted him to provide.
Because of our financial constraints we’ve learned to do a few things well.
1. We’re Thrifty. We don’t buy the “latest thing” just because it’s the latest thing. Our early TV stands were bar tables wrapped with metal roofing and duct tape. (they looked great but I lost a lot of blood assembling them each week. The were SHARP…in the worst way) Right now we have no paid staff…that’s unheard of for a church the size of actionchurch. If a retired Bread truck can haul and store our equipment for Sunday mornings as well as an new dually pick-up and trailer…we go with the bread truck. :-) We’ve simply learned to do the very best we can at what we do…with what we have.
2. We’ve learned to give to others…No strings attached…even when we have little. One of the most powerful things we’ve learned over the years is that when we need more-we “plant” more. I can’t tell you how many times a donation or event for the community has EMPTIED the actionchurch bank account…and how many more times we’ve seen God’s people generously provide for everything we needed and COULDN’T have paid for had we held on to what little funds we had. GIVING is the key to GETTING!
3. We’ve learned to let people “buy into” the vision of the church…before asking them to support it financially. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that people WILL support actionchurch financially…even though we don’t pressure them…even though we don’t pass a offering bucket each week- It just takes time. It takes time for folks to watch and see our church bless others in the community and gain trust that their money will be used well. It takes time to understand and obey the call of scripture to give the first and the best of our money to God through the local church. It takes time to move from being a spectator “attending” actionchurch, to a participant of actionchurch whose life is changed by putting the stuff we learn on Sundays into action all week long! I’m SO grateful for the many people who generously and faithfully support actionchurch each week…and I am even more grateful to know that they give because they truly support our efforts…not because of tradition, guilt, or and coercion on my part.
There have been many other ways that God has turned our financial “weaknesses to strengths”. Next week, I’ll share how renting 3 different venues over the past four years has not only made our finances stretch…but our faith and “reach” in our community as well. I believe that we have truly been BLESSED by what seemed like (so many times) a lack of resources. I believe that actionchurch is uniquely positioned to share Jesus with our community in a time when money is increasingly scarce…and the need for the hope that we bring is increasingly necessary and valuable. We are blessed as a church to be scrappy, thrifty, and just “weird” enough to flourish in a financial climate that will be increasing difficult for churches to survive…let alone grow. Thank you for being a part of the action!