Throughout these past six weeks of the Living as the Body of Christ campaign, we’ve been given much to ponder and consider. We’ve journeyed in the past to recall and learn about the history of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Academy. We’ve learned about the city of Rocklin and their plans for expanding the downtown area and increasing traffic near our doors. We’ve faced, head on, our debt—a debt taken in order to bring the love of Jesus to hundreds of children and their families who have passed through the doors of our academy. We’ve recognized the concrete needs that come with an aging facility—needs that require money.
We’ve also grown together as the Body of Christ. Through the beautifully articulated bible studies each Sunday morning, Pastor Peperkorn has led us through the basics of what it means to live as the Body of Christ. In the weekly editions of News and Views, we’ve read about various families of Holy Cross and have learned why this congregation feeds and encourages them. We’ve also read about our debt, ways of reducing that debt, and other topics surrounding money. We’ve learned about mercy and how to live generously by giving to others. We’ve had opportunities to get to know one another better through cottage meetings (13 of them!), a financial seminar on creative ways for giving generously, and finally through our celebration with food and libations.
We’ve wrestled with the sticky subjects of debt, money, tithing and giving above and beyond. This has stimulated conversations—difficult though they may be—at church and at home.
We’ve witnessed changes and growth:
- The updates in the sanctuary with paint and the Body of Christ on the cross, reminding us that His death is the source of our life together.
- The near completion of the second floor of the academy building, expanding our outreach to our community.
- The gathering of enough money to get a new roof. (Bids have been gathered and we hope to be able to get that roof on within the next few months).
And so, as we complete this initial phase our Living as the Body of Christ campaign, we celebrate the gifts God has given us. We thank you for your support of body and soul in the form of pledges and prayers.
We pray that you will be moved to complete your pledge cards and turn them in, certain that the work of Christ continues to be done through his Body, the Church.
I have been thinking quite a lot about how to answer the question of how to decide what we will pledge. In many respects, making a decision about budgeting and future plans is always an act of faith. I think we have done a pretty good job of explaining why we are asking people to increase their giving and to give toward the Living as the Body of Christ Fund. But how do you actually decide what numbers to put down?
So in an effort to try and help all of you in thinking through how to do it, I’m going to try and outline how Kathryn and I will try to do it. We will do it by asking ourselves several questions. There’s nothing magical about these questions. You may have different ones, even better ones. But this is where we’re going to start:
What are the most important priorities in our life?
That’s easy. Eternal life in Jesus Christ, and our family. We could include further refinements like education, financial stability for the future, ability to connect with extended family, music, and others. But boiled down to its core, the two most important things for us are Church and Home.
How does our budgeting reflect what are our top priorities?
In terms of dollars, we spend the most of our budget on our mortage, followed by household utilities, taxes, food, education (school tuition), my doctoral expenses, vehicles, debt reduction, savings, retirement, and our favorite category of “other”. Our offering to church is more than my DMIN costs, but less than we spend on school tuition for our kids.
So looking at these numbers, I would say that our expenses line up pretty well with our family priorities, but not as well with our Church priorities. I also don’t like the fact that weput more money into taxes than we contribute to my church. In addition, we spend almost as much on “entertainment” than we do on our contribution to the Church. Plus, we give very little to other, outside charities.
Another challenge we have is debt. Some of it is vehicles and our camper, but some of it is good, old fashioned consumer debt. We are hardly unusual with this, but it is very frustrating that our capacity to give to the Church is lessened because of this consumer debt.
How should we better align our spending priorities?
That is the question, isn’t it? As we look at our budget, we have to ask ourselves the question: What can we commit to this campaign that is faithful, generous, and challenging to us and our family?
We are going to do this in two ways: First we will increase our regular offering by 2% for the year. That is enough to be substantive, but not so much that we can’t manage it.
The second thing we are going to do is pick a number for our contribution to the Living as the Body of Christ Fund. I think the way we will look at it is take the amount of money that we contributed to Holy Cross in 2017, as use that as our starting number for what to contribute over three years. So if that number is $6000, we will contribute $2000 a year, or $167 a month for 36 months. That seems like something we can do. That $167 is a pretty small number, considering how much we spend on tuition, our mortgage, and everything else that makes our household tick.
But with any budget, if you say YES to one thing, you might be saying NO to something else. In order to see if these numbers will work for us as a family, we will need to do a couple more things:
- Pray. If we are reprioritizing what we think is important as a family, we need to pray about it. Together as a family, but also individually.
- Look at where in our budget can we cut expenses so that we may give more to the Church.
So how about you? How will you decide what to contribute to Living as the Body of Christ? This is how we will decide. I want to encourage each of you as a family to work through this together. Maybe your budgeting on this sort of thing doesn’t work this way. But you have a better way, great!
In the meantime, I leave you with these words from St. Paul:
“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
Deaconess Pamela Boehle-Silva
Martin Luther tells us that we are all beggars before God. We come before Him with absolutely nothing to offer. We stand before God weak, helpless and dependent upon Him for His gifts of grace and mercy. In one of his sermons, Luther describes it this way: We come to the Divine Service with empty sacks. We confess our sins, and the pastor pronounces absolution and that forgiveness and mercy goes into our sack. We chant a Psalm and a little more mercy goes into that sack. We sing a hymn, reflective of God’s holy Word, and that empty sack is getting lined with mercy. We hear the voice of Christ through our pastor as he reads the Gospel and preaches his sermon and our mercy sacks are filling up. We come to the Lord’s Table to receive Jesus’ body and blood (incarnate Mercy), and our sacks are no longer empty, but are filled to overflowing with mercy. We leave the Divine Service filled with forgiveness, life and salvation—Mercy! Perhaps we don’t even make it out the door of the sanctuary and someone irritates us, and we think, “here, have a little of this mercy from my sack.” We get to the parking lot and a friend or family member says something hurtful. Instead of responding in kind, we dole out a little of Christ’s mercy. Throughout the week, we encounter all sorts of people and events which require mercy and we give freely—not our own mercy, but the mercy of Christ, the merciful one, which we received on Sunday. By the time Saturday night rolls around, our mercy sack is empty and in need of replenishing. And so, we come back to the Divine Service, where again, our empty sacks are filled. And on and on it goes.
But this mercy, so freely given, comes with a price. The pastor who speaks those merciful words of Christ, has a salary that needs to be paid. The sanctuary in which we receive these gifts comes with its own costs: electricity, heat, air-conditioning, maintenance—just look around and you’ll see it. The coffee that’s served each Sunday, (and for some of us, caffeine is merciful), along with snacks—you got it—it costs money. And then there is the need to stock the bathrooms with paper towels, toilet paper and soap—mundane but essential realities.
As we desire to extend Christ’s mercy to those in our congregation, our community and distant lands, money is needed. Without money, there is no mercy missions. Without money, we would have no academy. Without money, we would not be able to send mercy to thousands of people in Kenya and across the world.
Fortified by Christ’s mercy which fills our empty sacks, we allow that mercy to spill out to others in need. Recognizing the great gift of love we have received, we are moved to care for others (and even the mundane things like buildings and roofs), knowing that mercy brings life and hope.
We have roughly $80,000 in the bank for the roof. We’re close! There is, however, a bit of chicken-and-egg problem right now. In order to determine the type of roof we get (slate or metal), and in order to get onto someone’s construction schedule (after voter approval), we need to have the money in the bank. Over the next several weeks we will start receiving pledges for the Living as the Body of Christ Fund. It is our hope that we will get another $40,000 in donations by early summer. This will allow us to move forward with receiving the final bids, and getting on a roofer’s schedule before the raining season. Pray for success in our work here. We want this roof done before the rainy season next winter.
I think what makes conversations about money and the church so difficult is because it seems so, well, unspiritual. Church should be about Jesus. Church should talk about the forgiveness of sins and the Gospel and Sacraments and all of these truly important things. But when the church talks about money, images of sleazy televangelists asking for funds somehow comes to mind. Who has time for that?
The problem is that there is a vicious circle in place when it comes to spiritual life and the growth of the congregation. The Gospel is free, and it now frees us to sacrifice for the sake of those around us. And one of the first ways that sacrifice takes place is by providing for the Gospel and Sacraments to our family, and by sharing that same Jesus family, friends, and neighbors both near and far. But somehow, the money we set aside for the most important person in our lives (Jesus) is somehow de-prioritized or, ahem, downsized for the sake of our many other interests.
Let me be concrete for a bit, in the hopes that we can make sense of what it means to budget for the Gospel and the future. And to do that, let’s talk about family budgets.
A budget is, at the heart of things, a spending plan. It is sitting down and saying, “this is how much we think we’re going to receive in income, and this is how much we plan on spending.” When a budget is effective and working well, there is enough margin to adjust for unpredicted expenses. It is also a way of thinking through our spending priorities before we spend the money.
When a budget isn’t working well, it is because we haven’t captured and planned for all the expenses, or we don’t actually use this budget as a way of making spending decisions at all. It may be that we spend emotionally, rather than rationally or spiritually.
For most household budgets, we can lump our expenses into the following big categories, in no particular order:
- Housing (mortgage, rent, utilities, etc.)
- Food & Clothing
- Offering and Charities
Your list may have more categories, or it may have less. It depends on where you are in life, your family situation, and a thousand other factors. But you get the basic idea.
So when I go to write a check to church, how do I determine how much that should be? Is it whatever is leftover at the end of the month? Is it the first money I spend, the last, or somewhere in between? As we are considering what it means to live together as the Body of Christ, I want to challenge you to re-thinking your own spending priorities. Look at your own family budget and ask yourself, “Does our spending reflect what we value as a family?”
As a final thought, I would leave you with this Scripture verse from our Lord: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34 ESV) What I find so remarkable about this verse is that we would like for it to be the other way around. As a spiritual Christian, I want my heart to determine where my treasure is. But it doesn’t work that way. Is it possible that my budgeting shows that I care more about eating out, or vacation, or having the newest gadget, more than I care about the proclamation of the Gospel?
Budgeting has a way of getting at the heart of what we hold most dear. We may not always like what it reveals, but the process is a part of growing up as the Body of Christ, and learning what it means to sacrifice for the sake of all of those around us. Christ, who is our Body and Life, is the one who both teaches us and leads us who to be and what we will become. Thank God for that!
“You shall have no other gods.” That is, you shall regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is it to have a god? What is God? Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrust itself is, I say, really your God.
—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, 1:1-3
Money should be a servant, not sovereign. To put it very briefly, God does not want us to serve money and possessions. Nor does He want us to worry. But He does want us to work and leave the worry to Him. Let him who has possessions be the master of these possessions. He who serves is a servant and does not have the possessions, but the possessions have him. For he dare not use them when he wants to; nor does he dare serve others with them. In fact, he is not bold enough to touch the stuff. But if he is master of the possessions, the possessions serve him, and he does not serve them. He, then, may use the possessions, as Abraham, David, Job, and other wealthy people did. When he sees a man who has no coat, he says to his money: Come out, you Mr. Gulden! There is a poor naked man who has no coat; you must serve him. Over there lies a sick man who has no refreshment. Come forth, Sir Dollars! You must be on your way; go and help him. People who handle their possessions in this way are masters of their possessions. And, surely, all folk who are saving much money and are forever scheming how to make pile larger and not smaller are servants.
The table fellowship of Christians implies obligation. It is our daily bread that we eat, not my own. We share our bread. Thus we are firmly bound to one another not only in the Spirit but in our whole physical being. The one bread that is given to our fellowship links us together in a firm covenant. Now none dares go hungry as long as another has bread, and anyone who breaks this fellowship of the physical life also breaks the fellowship of the Spirit.
Never work just for money or for power. They won’t save your soul or build a decent family or help you sleep at night.
—Marian Wright Edelman, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, New York: Harper Collins, 1993
You awaken to a new day. Each day, each hour is a gift from God. Why not begin each day with the holy writer and say: “This is the day which the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Each day is, without question, a special gift. Don’t waste it. Invest it as best you can and be grateful.
—Cecil H. Skibbe
Building a Church and Academy is an Important Investment
By Heather Kirkpatrick
- Do you know the story of Holy Cross’s debt?
- Do you want a basic understanding of financial responsibilities now and for the next 30 years?
In 2019, Holy Cross will celebrate its 30th anniversary of incorporating as a congregation in Rocklin, California. Our congregation, recognized by the LCMS, began as a mission, and was led by Pastor John-Paul Meyer.
The original church was built in 1992 and cost $300,000. The initial mortgage loan was $492,000 for construction and other related costs.
In the year 2000, Holy Cross conducted a School and Feasibility Study, which showed the church supported the endeavor of building a school, which we now know as Holy Cross Lutheran Academy, which has over 100 students in many programs such as: Pre-school, Transitional Kindergarten, Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten.
As Richard Schulz, your newly elected Stewardship Coordinator, who will take over the reins from Walt Wismar, shared,
"From my perspective as one who participated in that study that is the beginning of the formalization of a goal of the charter members of Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church. Those goals and the desire of those individuals to teach and spread the Word of God here in the Placer County, California through the formation of a Lutheran School."
In the year 2003, Holy Cross stepped out in faith and decided to build the Academy, which is also known as the Education Building. Square footage for first floor is 9,476 and the second floor will add another 4,465 square feet. This was a big step and the total costs were $2,940,036. In 2007 and 2008, the church reviewed and consolidated the loans.
In the year 2017, Holy Cross continued the walk and obtained a loan of $450,000 to complete the Second Story. This is after we completed the installation of the elevator.
The current loan balances are:
- $2,771,743.93. Loan for the education building, and consolidation of previous loans for Holy Cross.
- $444,998.9. Loan for the second story for the Academy
- $3,216,742.84. Total Holy Cross Debt.
Our interest rate on both loans is 3.875% (yearly adjustable) and the loan for education building matures in November of 2048. This is 30 years from now. The loan for the second story will be paid off in 19 years, in 2037. If it is easier to understand in a monthly format, our payments are $13,118.92 (principal and interest) and $2,697.36 (principal and interest).
Revenues from the Academy fund the second story loan and the Academy’s budget includes giving to the Church’s monthly income.
This investment is important to Holy Cross. As we consider increasing our giving and addressing this debt, you now have the details.
Many thanks to our Stewardship and Administrator for information for this article. All are welcome to ask further questions throughout the campaign.
A Few Other Ways of Looking at Debt
Whenever we talk about debt, it is helpful to have some comparisons in mind. To that end, we have included the following chart so you can see where Holy Cross’ debt fits with some other averages.
A part of what we are doing with this campaign is learning to understand who we are as the body, and what resources God has given us at this time and in in this place. That includes looking at people, at facilities, at money, and at debt, among other things. Let’s take a moment to think about debt from a theological point of view.
Our debt is not a mistake or a sin or something for which we need to be ashamed. Our debt is a sign of faith. What we need to do, as a congregation, is start to think about how to eliminate this debt so that we can step out in faith in other ways. Debt tends to cripple people into inaction and fear.
Debt in its essence is a promise to pay money to someone else tomorrow so that you can buy something now. At the risk of oversimplifying, debt is based on the faith that you will have the resources to pay for something later, but that you need the resource now. As you know from Heather’s article, most all of our debt is for capital expenses, primarily our education building. So we made a promise to pay for our building over an extended period of time, knowing that we need the building now. The last loan we have will be paid off in 2048, or thirty years from now.
Now the Scriptures themselves don’t have a lot of positive things to say about debt. We even talk about debt as a synonym for sin. Matthew 6:12 says, for example, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Debt is used to get people to act out of unbelief or fear (1 Sam. 22:2), or to have them thrown into prison (Matt. 18:32-34). Maybe most importantly, we hear in Colossians 2:14 this important concept:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
In some respects, we could say that a debt is the opposite of an inheritance. And inheritance is receiving the benefit of another person’s life. So in Jesus, we have an inheritance in heaven, stored up for us by His own death and resurrection. What we do not receive is the punishment of sin that we deserve. He, quite simply, shows mercy to us, so that we do not have to pay what we, and our fore-bearers, owe to Him.
All of which brings us back to our congregational debt. We have this debt because we believe that Holy Cross has a future and a place here in Rocklin. We believe in the children of our community, whether they are members of our congregation or not. We have this debt because we want the coming generations to receive the inheritance of Jesus Christ and His life for us. And so we, as a congregation, have taken on this debt for the sake of the future of the Church in this place.
This is a good, noble, and holy thing. It is important that we as a congregation get past the notion of thinking of our debt as a failure. It isn’t. It is a sign of faith.
So how, then, do we act and move forward in wisdom with these decisions, and the decisions that will be made in the months and years ahead? Living as the Body of Christ is the beginning of our our answer to these questions. We have, as a part of our goal, reducing our congregational debt by $200,000 over the next three years. That is an amazing goal. It is also what I would call a good beginning.
I do not want my own children to inherit this debt. I want them to be able to act in faith, not fear, as they look to see where the Gospel will be spread. I am convinced that a part of that means working on creative, long-term ways to eliminate our debt.
God has blessed us richly here at Holy Cross. We can figure this out, sacrifice, and do it. I am certain of it.
What does it mean to be the body of Christ? Last week in bible class we looked at Acts 4, and how living in the body meant not being an idiot (focused in on one’s self) but rather meant to hold all things in common. It meant to have fellowship with one another, and to see in each other the gifts of God lived out.
This week we look at that great chapter in Romans, chapter twelve. What I would like for all of you to think about here is to start considering the doctrine of vocation or calling as it relates to the body of Christ.
Each of us has a calling or vocation as the baptized. We are royal priests, with a high and holy obligation to love our neighbor and to intercede for them before God. That also means loving them by speaking the Gospel to them, and by providing for their needs as best as we are able.
The trouble is our favorite word today, balance. How do I balance the needs of the many, the needs of the few, and the needs of the one? In many respects, we could look at our priorities like this from the Scriptures: Church, Family, Neighbors, Self. Or maybe, Family, Church, Neighbors, Self. Either way, in the Bible our own personal needs come last when it comes to stewardship.
Does that mean we don’t take care of ourselves, and provide for our own needs? Of course we do. But spiritual growth means, at least in part, the recognition that we don’t need as much as we think for ourselves, and that the needs of others is probably greater than we realize. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about giving for your family or your church or your next door neighbor. Their needs are greater than we realize, and our own needs are probably less than we think they are.
That doesn’t make it easier. It means taking a hard look at why God has given us what he has. It means repenting of how we have squandered God’s gifts. But most importantly, it means recognizing that God is the one who sacrifices and gives all good gifts for us, His children. As Dennis says in his article in this issue, you can’t out-give God. Thank God for that!
As we continue to learn what it means to live as the Body of Christ, I pray you will look to Christ to give you what you need in all good things.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have never considered money management to be a great strength. It has been a slow move toward adulthood when it comes to understanding budgets, spending controls, and managing income. But one thing has been slowly moving me toward working harder at this. It’s very simple. I want to give more to church. While that isn’t the only reason, it is certainly one that Kathryn and I talk about a lot.
Our church is a big part of who we are as a family, and we believe that God has been doing great things here at Holy Cross for a long time. I want and pray that Holy Cross will be a part of this community for a long time to come. But in order for that to happen, it means thinking ahead now so that our children will be able to make good on the work that we have done.
What does that look like? It means looking at how has God blessed us in terms of income. It means looking at our spending priorities, and recognizing that God uses people like us to accomplish His purposes here on earth. The money, the time, and the energy doesn’t come from somewhere else. God gives it to us. But how do we manage it, and how do we do so in a way that keeps Jesus Christ and Him crucified front and center in our lives? In many ways, that is what this campaign is all about. How do we as Christians talk about and understand money as a good gift from God?
Honestly, it’s not easy. Jesus talks about money more than just about anything. Maybe even more than faith itself. Why? Because anything that happens costs something to someone. Absolution is free. But who is going to preach? Where do we gather to hear His Word and receive His Sacraments? How do we reach those who are in need of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins? Something that is free for one person means it costs someone else. We live as best as we can in Jesus’ image (Philippians 1:9-11), and that may mean sacrificing what is important for the moment in order to do something bigger and greater than ourselves.
How has God blessed and worked in your life, so that you are now free to sacrifice and to give for others? Where has God blessed you so that you see a need that you can fill? Does that mean money or time or energy and attention? Does it mean something else entirely?
I hope you will journey with us together as we thinking about what all this means by Living as the Body of Christ.
Pastor Todd Peperkorn
This is a long time coming.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran congregation in Rocklin, California. We have been in the area as a mission church and later congregation for about thirty years now. But we're ready to spread our wings a bit and learn how we can reach out with Christ to those who are around us.
To that end, we are excited to announce the Living as the Body of Christ Campaign. This campaign really has two main focuses: a capital campaign, and a stewardship campaign. As we unroll these two aspects of it, there are lots of things to learn about. In the meantime, here is the essence of what will be happening:
On Sunday mornings we will be having a bible class on the body of Christ, and how this fits with our faith and common life together as a Christian Church. What does it mean to be a body? How do we relate to each other and to God? How do we care for all the things God has given to us? These questions and more will be discussed together at 9:15 on Sunday mornings.
Another big part of our campaign is the opportunity to gather together in smaller groups and talk about our church and our future together. To that end, Pastor John-Paul Meyer and longtime member Gary Yee will be leading a series of cottage meetings where more conversation can happen.
STORIES OF FAITH
Each week we will learn about some of our fellow members in Christ at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The stories will give you a perspective of who is Holy Cross, and the diverse group of people who gather around our Lord each Sunday.
Another part of our work will be learning about money, and how God calls us to use our money for His great purposes here and beyond.