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Pastor's Perspective November 22, 2013

Pastor's Perspective by J. Ligon Duncan on Nov 21, 2013

Last Sunday morning I announced that our church is now debt free. This is a cause for thanksgiving to God and for a little explanation.

When I arrived as your pastor back in the summer of 1996, you had just completed the Study Center, and we had significant debt on the books in association with that project. We paid that off in a couple of years, and, as I recall, we were debt free in 1999. Then came Twin Lakes expansions, phase one and phase two, the purchase of houses and property adjacent to our church campus, the purchase of property for Twin Lakes, and of course the sanctuary expansion project. All in all in my time with you, the congregation has undertaken well north of $20,000,000 in capital projects improving, expanding, and extending our facilities and church property (not counting significant capital improvements undertaken by the Day School). So, since 1999 debt-service has been a regular part of our budget.

One of the two things I've been praying and hoping for regarding the church's finances, as I come to the close of my pastorate and do my best to prepare for my successor, is that we would be debt free as of December 31, 2013. As that date drew closer, I must admit I really didn't think it was likely that we would eliminate all our debt. I thought we would maybe get to within about $500,000 of clearing it, but I didn't think we'd have it all paid. Oh, me of little faith! In God's kindness and through the lavish generosity of his people, the remaining $880,000 of our debt was retired in October. Thank you, Lord, for hearing prayer and answering graciously.

Now the congregation has a clean slate and can address some of the needs that the deacons have been eyeing for some time. For instance, for a number of years, folks have realized that Miller Hall is in need of a significant facelift. The College House needs major work. There have been thoughts about sprucing up the Student Ministry facilities on the ground floor of the Youth House, and more. Now we can address those things because the previous expansions, additions, and improvements have been fully paid for.

So, if you have not yet fulfilled your debt retirement pledge for this year, or if you made a debt retirement pledge towards the 2014 budget and you are wondering what to do, please either go ahead and give that funding to debt retirement so that it can be used for immediate capital improvement project needs, or contribute it to the general funds of the church.

And let's not forget our year-end giving. As I mentioned last week, we entered November almost $900,000 in the red in cash flow. I told you above that I've been praying for two things in particular regarding the church's finances: that we would be debt free as of year's end and that we would meet the budget. Well, God has already answered one of those prayers, so I will continue praying for the other.

We have six Sundays left in the year and to meet the budget would need about $2,000,000 more in gifts. So, let's rejoice in the good news about being debt free and then really bear down on giving to the church ministry budget so that we go into the new year strongly in the black and lay a solid financial foundation for the new minister to come here at First Presbyterian. In general, you give more than 20% of our total yearly contributions during the month of December. We will need that kind of strong year-end giving in order to get out of our negative cash flow and meet the budget. So let me urge you all to give generously to the church in these next few weeks.

Now, three quick announcements about upcoming events. Don't forget Handel's Messiah, this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Then, remember the Midweek Prayer Meeting is Tuesday this week (because of Thanksgiving). Finally, our annual Thanksgiving Day service is at 8:30 Thursday morning.