Pastor Report 2019
How we got here. Four years ago a few of us started getting together at a place called “The Lab”—it was a big open gymnasium with an AstroTurf floor to train football players. There were about 25 of us, we brought our own lawn chairs, we met on Saturday nights—we had the idea to be a church for people who didn’t have a church home. Either because they had never been part of a church, or because they had been hurt by some experience with churches and church people. We started with nothing but a vision that God had given us. We got together, worshiped God, sang some songs with an acoustic guitar, I taught the Bible and talked about God’s hope and salvation, we prayed together and we hung around to eat and drink together—so we could get to know each other and learn how to be a church family.
We took an offering each week but all we did was save it. I said I didn’t want to get paid until we had at least $40K in the bank—we started in February, and I really hoped we would have $40K by June because that’s when my savings was gonna run dry.
Something amazing happened. Someone stepped up and gave the church 200 thousand dollars—suddenly we were able to buy chairs and equipment and trailers to keep everything in during the week. Over the next several months we built our teams and got ready for a public launch. About a year after 25 of us got together for the first time, we officially opened the doors with over 170 people.
Our next goal was to grow so that we could afford to get a permanent home—not be portable anymore. We started NewChurch with the idea that someday we would be in a restaurant pub coffee shop during the week—a place where we could hang out together and with the community all week long, and then worship in the same space on Sunday morning—really be a church that reaches people who probably wouldn’t step inside a church otherwise. I figured that if we could grow to about 250 people, we’d be able to afford that kind of thing—NewChurch Pub.
And we were getting there. By the Summer of 2017 we were averaging 140 to 150 people on Sunday morning. In the Summer!—we were getting ready for a big “back to school” push, then two things happened: The Lab closed its doors and we had to scramble to find a new place to worship. And, on the day that was supposed to be our last big worship service at The Lab—Harvey struck Houston and turned it upside down.
We moved into the small auditorium at Aristoi—a room that held about 120 people and we pretty much stopped growing. No one really said anything to me about the space but they voted with their absence.
When this room was finished, the Griffin Center, we were pretty excited about moving in here. I love this room, I think it looks fantastic, the lights and the screen, the way it sounds—I really hoped we’d be able to grow here. And we have a little. We had almost 300 people in here last August for my ordination—that was pretty exciting, a little taste of what could be.
We have a lot to be thankful for, a lot to celebrate—God has been very kind to us. The friendships and community that has grown out of your love for Jesus and love for each other. Every week you faithfully show up to worship God and love the people that are here. Every week the BruteSquad is here in full force to set all this up, make it work, make it pretty, and tear it back down and pack it up—every week, without fail and without complaint. Deep friendships have been formed. Every week Kemper and Peter and Holly and Shanna and Ryan and Brooke and Pat and Amanda and a whole bunch more of you teach Bible classes and Sunday School and YoungOnes and the Journey—you love our people and our kids and make an eternal impact on so many people. The tech team, the band, the readers, the greeters, the Elders, the Leaders, the chair team, the HangTime Team who set everything up and clean everything up—I thank God for all of you. There’s so much to celebrate and be thankful for. Your generosity has allowed us to help more than 54 families through the Benevolence ministry—more than $24,000— This is on top of the $14,000 we gave Harvey victims. We threw a big Thanksgiving feast for the veterans at Camp Hope, we’ve fed the homeless with Hope Impacts, had an amazing Baby Shower For Jesus for the Pregnancy Help Center and have been able to support both those ministries with financial contributions of about $1,000 each. We’ve had 16 baptisms and We’ve added 18 people in official membership over the last year and several other families who are thinking about it. The Scattered Groups, Discipleship groups, Ladies night out—I could go on and on. God is doing amazing things through our little church—and I know He has even greater things ahead for us.
But we’ve got some big challenges right now. We’re not growing as fast as we need to, and we have some sobering financial pressures. Back in December, I said if we continued burning through our bank account that we’d be out of money by January 2020. I asked everyone to consider giving an “end of year” gift and possibly increase weekly giving—hoping that we could start the new year strong and stay in the black. And we did have a good December—some of you really stepped up and gave some generous gifts. That’s why I was so surprised when we ran the numbers and instead of running out of money in January 2020, it looks like we’ll actually be broke by the end of August 2019 if we don’t make some big changes.
There are two big reasons for this: The first is that there were two very generous donors who aren’t part of NewChurch—they don’t worship with us—but they were two of our biggest contributors. They both drastically reduced their giving in January. One of them was our single largest contributor, so we’re really feeling the sting. And, too many of us are inconsistent in our giving habits. Too many of us, when we’re not here on Sunday, don’t give that week. The bills are the same whether you’re here or not—so when we have low attendance and a low offering, it really hits our reserves hard. Our offerings were $5,600 short in January. We can’t afford too many more months like that.
The second big problem, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for this—there was a very unfortunate oversight with the IRS that cost us about $26,000. We discovered it and brought the problem to them, hoping to work something out, but the IRS is not a particularly merciful organization. So that hit our reserves really hard. To be clear, most of this was money that needed to be paid to the IRS based on the way we were set up with our payroll—but it kept us from seeing the true state of our finances. Rob will give more details about this in his financial report.
So those are some serious challenges, but this is our home. Our family. This is our church—God is building something here and He’s not done with us. He hasn’t abandoned us and He’s gonna finish what He has started. God is faithful. God is good, and God is in control.
We need His wisdom to know what to do about all this. To know where to go from here. There’s only two possible solutions: we cut our costs or we increase our giving. We grow or we find ways to spend less. Probably both. It’s hard to do both at the same time but that’s what we gotta find a way to do.
As far as cuts to our spending, most of the fixed costs are people. We started this ministry with just me and an acoustic guitar, plus whoever wanted to volunteer to be in the band with me—most of the band is still volunteer, but we’ve been paying the amazing Ethan Marshall to play drums. I hate to see him go, but he’s a PHD student with massive student loans so he can’t afford to be here for free. Unless something drastically changes, Ethan is only gonna be with us for the next two Sundays. Please let him know how much he’ll be missed.
The lovely Donna, who does all the admin stuff for the church, has offered to forgo her salary until we get back on our feet—an amazingly generous gift. Please thank her for everything she does and let her and Rob know how much you appreciate them.
So those cuts help get our bills down to about $5,000 a week. Our average offering so far this year has been $4,134—which brings me to the other part of the solution: we have to grow in our financial faithfulness.
To stay in the black, our offerings need to be at least $5,000 a week. We’ve been an average of $866 short most weeks so far this year. I think God will be asking some of you to step up and fill that gap.
Listen, if you’re already giving at close to ten percent of your income, giving consistently every week, if you stepped up with a big gift in December—I’m not talking to you. You’re already doing your fair share. The last thing I want to do is put a big burden or guilt trip on anyone. Some people get really uncomfortable when the pastor talks about money—I hate talking about money. But I love our church, and even though the mission of the church is NOT to make money, it takes money to do the mission of the church. So I have to go there sometimes. Jesus talked about money a lot, so it’s just part of the way ministry works.
Please pray about what faithfulness in giving should look like for your family. Grow in your financial faithfulness—God says it should be somewhere around ten percent. I know that sounds like a lot if you’re not already doing it. Start somewhere. Give something. Some people don’t give anything—don’t be a zero. Surely we can come up with $866 more dollars a week, right? At least? We’re gonna start putting the offering numbers up for everyone to see how things are going—last week’s offering, in the red or the black. Let us know what you think of that in the coming weeks.
But to get where we actually want to be, we need to grow in size, too. So far this year we’ve been averaging about 103 people a week. We need to be averaging closer to 250 people before we can start thinking about getting our own place and doing the ministry the way God has given us a vision to do it. To really reach those people who need to know about the love and grace of Jesus.
So, how do we get there? How do we grow? Most people will only go to church if someone they know invites them—that’s just the way it is. So we gotta be inviting people. Let me know if you have any ideas for how to make that easier for you to invite your friends and family.
Also, and I really hate this, I don’t think this location is helping us grow. I think it’s too far from I-10 and 99, I don’t think this area is densely populated enough, and I don’t think there’s enough drive-by traffic. I love this room and I love the school, but I think we need to consider moving to a school on the south side of I-10 in an area where more people live.
If we do end up moving, please move with us. I don’t want to lose any of you. We’re all in this together.
Look, no one said this was gonna be easy. God called us to do this and He will see us through—but He wants us to trust Him. Not trust ourselves. Not trust our own understanding. Sometimes God pushes us out of our comfort zone so we can really learn how to trust Him.
That’s where we are. We know that God has led us here and He will see us through. He’s not done with us, He hasn’t abandoned us, He’s gonna finish what He started.
I’m asking you to stick in here, to continue to grow as a church and as the people of God—grow in faithfulness, grow in being a church for people who don’t have a church. Pray for NewChurch—everyday. Pray that our leaders have wisdom and direction for what we should do, pray for God to draw more people to join us, pray for more resources, for someone else to step up with another large gift like the $200,000 we got when we first started. Pray for us to find the perfect place for us to meet each week for worship. Pray for it to be free, or at least affordable. Pray for our people to grow in their faith and trust of God and as disciples of Jesus.
I thank God for you all the time. Thank you for listening.