NAVIGATING THROUGH TREACHEROUS WATERS
By Pastor Eddie Campa
It was a Monday morning when I received a call from my church treasurer that she was unable to make the church deposit because the bank was closed. There was a notice on the door that said due to the COVID-19 Virus the branch location was closed. It was alerting its banking customers to utilize the ATM machine and online banking for their financial needs. I think it was at this moment that reality began to sink in about the economic impact the Coronavirus was going to have on our churches.
It is difficult to determine the lasting impact this virus will have on the economy; however, the church will be impacted and not just the way we do church. Decreases in contributions will create cash flow issues in some churches as a result of unemployment, reduced hours or limited opportunities to give if online platforms are not an option. For the church and for all of us, these are treacherous waters that we have not navigated through before.
Looking at Paul’s shipwreck in the book of Acts, we can gain some helpful insight to help us navigate through the storm.
LISTEN TO THE WARNINGS
“Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. – Acts 27:10-11 NIV
Prior to sailing, Paul discerned that a storm was imminent and warned the centurion. Not following the counsel of Paul, the centurion listened to the pilot and the owner of the ship and decided to sail on since they believed the harbor (Fair Haven) was not a convenient place for them.
With the economic storm approaching, it is imperative that we pay attention to the economic warning signs and make the appropriate adjustments sooner rather than later. Failure to make necessary adjustments because change is inconvenient could prove damaging to the integrity of the local church leadership. Furthermore, it will be costly to the overall financial health of the local church.
Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. – Acts 27:23-25 NIV
The storm that Paul had to endure was not of his own doing but a result of the decision of others. The Lord assured him that he was going to make it to his destination; however, Paul needed not to have fear but to have faith.
The fact is we are going to have to navigate through some challenging times whether they are economical or not. As pastors, leaders, and members of the church, there are circumstances that are beyond our control. God’s plan and purpose for our local churches is going to be reached, but we must have enough faith to weather the storm. Paul told the men on the ship, “Keep up your courage.” We can be courageous in the storm because God is greater than the present circumstance.
LIGHTEN THE LOAD
When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. – Acts 27:38
Why would they throw the grain into the sea? They needed to lighten the load of the ship. A ship carrying cargo sits deeper in the water which is dangerous in shallow water. According to the verse, the men threw the grain overboard so the ship would sit higher in the water in case they were blown near land where their boat would get destroyed on the shallow reefs and rocks.
Part of navigating through treacherous waters requires the church to make some difficult decisions. Some of those decisions may involve budget cuts in order to stay afloat. When revenue becomes shallow (decreased), budget cuts are necessary to lighten the load. This may involve scaling back on unnecessary spending and focus on what is needed to operate. Budget cuts are never convenient, as a matter of fact, they hurt. It is better to hurt for a season than to drown. Budget cuts can cause the church to think outside the box and find creative ways for effective but frugal church programing.
Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. – Acts 27:40 NIV
When day light came, the sailors saw land. They cut loose the anchors that held back the ship in order to move forward.
There are some things that are best left at sea for us to make progress. As a pastor, I have used this storm to learn a lesson. All aspects of my church have been impacted from worship services, to ministries, to church administration, to finances. In evaluating, our church is making the necessary adjustment required to navigate through these treacherous waters. I have discovered unfruitful ideas and methods which I have learned to let go in order to move forward and embrace the future.
Times might be uncertain right now, but not the future. The future of the church is glorious. Let us move forward united as fellow partners in Christ by working and praying together. Let us navigate through these uncharted waters by becoming wiser in our faith and stronger from it. Remember that God’s grace is sufficient and in our most vulnerable moment, His power is made perfect.