Outward, Upward, Inward

by Paul Gilbert

One significant way Susan and I have experienced God’s tangible love for us over the last 23 years is seeing how God provides for our family financially. We have learned over the years to view shortages in our budget as a welcome friend enabling us to see God’s hand of provision more clearly.  We’ve seen in our sermon series on II Corinthians this year how God uses weakness to show strength, and for us that theme is clearly experienced in weak budget months.  God has provided for us through generous family members, friends, garage sales, Ebay, and tax refunds. There is a catalog of stories in my heart that reminds me of the ways God pours out his provision on our family. 

I’ve had a front row seat, though, not only for God’s provision in my personal life but for Four Oaks Church as well. God provides for His church in the same way He provides for the personal lives of His children.  Like all non-profits, Four Oaks relies on the voluntary generosity of its people to fund our mission & ministry. The way this giving has happened in the past has been nothing short of miraculous.  May I share just a few examples for your encouragement? 

I remember receiving a call in 2008 that someone’s family business had sold, allowing us to meet budget at a low point in our giving. During 2010, a faithful couple had been saving their tithe check over a 6-month period until they found a new church – and Four Oaks was it! That same year, two dear friends showed up on our doorstep one day with a generous sales commission check they wanted to give to the church – oh, so timely! And, I will never forget when, in 2008, someone had an unprecedented financial windfall that helped us land in our new church home. God has shown up for you, Four Oaks family.  God has shown up for me, too. 

December has historically been a very pivotal time, financially speaking, in the life of Four Oaks. And this year is no different. The elders set out a budget for 2015-16 that anticipated average weekly giving of $38,500 to fund our current staffing, ministry, missions, and facility priorities. For the current fiscal year (July ’15 to present), we are averaging about $36,000 a week in giving. This puts us about $60,000 behind budget for the first 6 months of the budget cycle, a gap we have been able to cover through our cash reserves and rental income. 

What we are really praying for, and asking you to pray about as well, is that our December giving would not only allow us to make up this deficit but to also put us in a position of moving forward proactively with our mission and vision for the coming year. Here are some things we would love to be able to do in the coming season, if finances allow. All of these ministry endeavors involve helping people to orient their lives Inwardly, Upwardly, and Outwardly to the gospel: 

Outward: God is enlarging the heart of our church family to pro-life causes this season. We desire to expand our local outreach to: unwed mothers; crisis pregnancy sufferers; children in need of adoption; and gospel partners in the “life” community. We have begun to put together a “Life Team” of people in the church who are starting to synergize together about a holistic approach to this area of ministry.  

Upward: Debbie Cunningham, our Women’s Ministry Director, just led a new training for 35 faithful women in our church who desire at some point in the future to pursue a Bible teaching role with women in our church. Our desire is to make these studies more accessible to young mothers by fully funding childcare for all of our women’s Bible studies. This is herculean task which would require increases in staff, training, and resources. It is our heart to ask God for it, though.  

Inward: Allocate more resources to helping expand our programming and events to children and students, which now total about 350+ people on a weekly basis between our two campuses! Our amazing children’s and youth teams generate ideas to bring the Word of God more creatively to our students across the board, and we desire to help by funding these programs in the coming year with helpers and supplies.  

When I reflect on the happenings of 2015, I am indeed overwhelmed with how amazing God’s grace is. As you reflect on God’s goodness and grace in your life, would you prayerfully consider leveraging your giving to the Four Oaks family? 

May we each taste and see that the Lord is good in a fresh way as we prepare to wind this season up and enter the new year.