by Jerry Russell, vice president for finance
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This passage in the New Testament became something we claimed everyday during the pandemic. It became very meaningful to me personally; let me tell you how.
The recession of 2008 had eroded our financial reserves as we took a stance to continue The Mission rather than have to pull back on ministry and let a lot of people go.
I knew prayer was a good thing, a great thing, but I have to admit that I leaned a little too much on self and not enough on God at that point.
I hate to admit it, but my prayers were fast and not real deep. They were certainly not bold and brimming with faith. I was taking for granted the blessings and promises of God.
Around that same time, a colleague challenged me to start a weekly prayer group to pray for conference finances. I thought that was a good idea but put it off for awhile because I was “busy.” Not a good move.
When he brought it up again, I relented and started a group consisting of the Treasury, Trust Services, Education, Administration, and several others. We met every Monday morning at 9:00, read a little, talked about prayer requests, and prayed.
Our prayers expanded from conference finances to include the financial blessings of all our churches and schools.
We later added prayers for our members, that God would take care of and bless them. It was at that time that God began the financial comeback of Washington Conference. What had I been waiting for?
At the time, we only had 25% of our recommended reserves, or about $1.2 million put away for the next economic difficulty. Our formulas called for over six million.
This was now the aftermath of the recession and things were still very tight financially, yet we saw God faithfully provide, day by day, during this time and through the following years. God was leading our financial comeback.
Several years later, while we were still on our comeback journey, COVID-19 made its entrance into the world. The mandates that followed caused us to lock the doors on our traditional revenue centers, our churches, in March 2020.
It was a tenuous time, with lots of worst-case scenarios discussed. We had no idea what God had in store, but we planned for the worst.
Those Monday morning financial prayer times became Monday and Wednesday prayer times, just on Zoom instead of in-person.
As we waited for the COVID effect to hit us financially, we continued to wait, and wait.
The negative financial catastrophe that we had braced for never came. From a human perspective, that made no sense. With our church facilities closed, we received more donations than we had ever had before. Only God.
In 2021 we received the highest tithe ever in the Washington Conference. We were blessed with a total tithe of $28,002,934. That, compared with tithe in 2020 of $21,954,376 gave us a gain of $6,051,558 over 2020 tithe!
Sure – we were blessed by a couple extraordinary gifts within this gain. However, the tithe gain equally represents the broad spectrum of thousands of givers – you! – who faithfully partner with God to be lifelong stewards of God’s gifts.
God is good and keeps His promises to provide all our needs. We’ve prayed about this.
God continues to provide in just ridiculous ways. We’ve seen this in the increased levels of mission and ministry, in adding the right personnel to our team, in planting and revitalizing churches even in a pandemic, and in all the ways that we partner with Jesus at our churches, schools and ministries.
God has been so good. Prayer has become a transformative gift to me and for Washington Conference finances.
As we move forward, I truly believe our prayer to God should be: “Wow us for Your honor and glory!”
It's list time! Reflect back on this year. Have each family write down three good things that happened so far this year. Share your lists with one another in a family sharing time filled with prayer and praise for each item listed.
Lord, deepen our faith and draw us closer to You. Help us live with gratitude and generosity of thought and actions. Continue to provide for our family in just ridiculously awesome ways. Thank You for being so good to our family in good times, hard times, and in-between times. Wow us for Your honor and glory! Amen.