Pastor Scott & Biblical Training: “A Guide to Christian Theology”

Join me for this Fall for an 8-session, online course in the essentials of Christian doctrine.

What do Christians believe about God? Jesus Christ? The Bible? Human beings? Salvation? The future?

And what’s the significance of these core Christian beliefs?

Answers to these questions are the subject of “systematic theology” a summary of what the Bible says about and how Christian history speaks to these foundational topics.

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to “go deeper” in your knowledge and understanding of faith, I’d like for you to partner with me and “Biblical Training” for an 8-session, online learning experience, A Guide to Christian Theology.  Here’s how it will work:

Watch the online lectures by Dr. Gerry Breshears (Professor of Systematic Theology, Western Seminary) — Sign up for a free online account @ Biblical Training and use the free study guide to follow the lectures at your own pace, in your own time.  [15 hours (total) w/ 40 video lectures]

Join me 2-times per month (Sep-Dec) in a one-hour, online webinar — I will quickly review the session topics, take your questions and comments, and facilitate a discussion within the group.  The focus will be on sharing and applying what we’ve learned.

The schedule for 8-sessions are as follows:

  • Introductory Session: Tuesday, 11. Sept @ 20:00 h
  • Session 1 — God:  Tuesday, 18. Sept @ 20:00 h
  • Session 2 — God:  Tuesday, 9. Oct @ 20:00 h
  • Session 3 — Man:  Tuesday, 16. Oct @ 20:00 h
  • Session 4 — Jesus:  Tuesday, 13. Nov @ 20:00 h
  • Session 5 — Spirit:  Tuesday, 20. Nov @ 20:00 h
  • Session 6 — Sin:  Tuesday, 27. Nov @ 20:00 h
  • Session 7 — Church:  Tuesday 11. Dec @ 20:00 h
  • Session 8 — Future:  Tuesday 18. Dec @ 20:00

Budget 2018 — Income, Expenses, Reserves

This past Sunday, IBC Berlin overwhelmingly approved our Budget 2018 after a lengthy discussion about a number of things including our income, expenses, and reserves.  The following are some facts about our finances that will help clarify some of Sunday’s discussion:

Income and Expenses 2017 — Last year our undesignated income was about €157,000 while our expenses were about €184,000. That means we operated at a deficit and our bank reserves decreased almost €28,000 for the year.

Budget 2017 — Last year’s budget was about €194,000.  If you compare all of the figures, you can see that we did not “overspend” our budget; we underspent our budget but overspent our income. From a tithes and offerings perspective, we did not support our budget with our giving to the tune of €37,000.

Reserves Policy — In 2015, the church approved a “reserves policy” that stated:  “We will maintain a reserve of 3 months operating expenses in our church bank account.” (See IBCB Finance Policies Principles here). That means the threshold amount is determined by the church when we approve our budget.  In October 2017, we began to approach the 3-month threshold and decided to take drastic measures to curb our expenses and to reevaluate our budget for 2018.

Budget 2018 — As we looked at our budget, we noted that the line items that have the most significant impact on our budget are personnel, church facility, and church office. When Jürgen Ferrary announced that he had taken another job and was leaving the staff at the end of February, our financial outlook changed dramatically.  The financial result is that our working budget for 2018 was immediately reduced by €30,000 … that is, to €164,000, a figure that is realistic and achievable for both “income” and “expenses.”  That’s the budget that we approved.

Tithes  — Transition in our church has affected significantly our income. We’ve lost at least 10 strong financial supporters in the last two years. However, a lack of faithful tithing is the most significant factor in our limited income. On what basis do I draw this conclusion?  Half of those who contributed to IBCB this last year — individual or family — gave €83 or less per month.  Are we to assume that over 50% of our congregation has a maximum income of €830 per month? If everyone who considers IBCB their church home brought their tithe and presented it to the Lord, we would have plenty of resources to do what God has called us to do as a church.

Expenses Policy — According to our financial policies, no one is authorized to spend any monies if it has not been approved by the church. The budget authorizes expenditures that are approved by the treasurer.  No one is permitted to spend more than is allocated in their budget without prior approval from the church.  The budget determines the upper limit of our spending. Our treasurer serves as a comptroller to make sure that we do not overspend our budget.

Savings — Many participants in our church meeting were concerned about our church savings. By policy, we have decided that 3 months of operating expenses should be kept in reserve (see above). Whenever we have more income than expenses, it adds to our reserves.  Whenever we have more expenses than income, it decreases our reserves. If the church wants to change that minimum threshold, we can certainly review that policy.  For me personally, I suggest that we work to keep a reserve of 3 to 6 months reserves to be financially healthy.

As I said in our recent sermon series on generosity:  giving is a matter of the heart.  It’s time that each and everyone of us searched our hearts and determined to give ourselves anew to God and his purpose in and through our church.

If you have questions or comments regarding Sunday’s meeting, our Budget 2018, or anything I’ve written in this post, feel free to contact me.

Your pastor,

Scott Corwin, Pastor

Year End Giving — God Owns It All

“A lack of generosity refuses to acknowledge that your assets are not really yours, but God’s.”

Timothy Keller 
(Pastor and Author)

Dear IBCB Family and Friends:

Every Tuesday a volunteer comes in to the IBCB office, picks up the counting report from our Counting Team, and puts the financial data from the previous Sunday into our database.  The total amount of cash and coins contributed during Sunday worship is accounted.  Monies given to a designated fund (e.g. missions) is recorded and the names of givers are noted so that they will receive an end of the year tax letter.

This past week as I was working in my study, I heard the volunteer from the other room say, “Here it is again!”  I was puzzled by his comment, so I went into the other room and asked him, “What are you talking about?”  He responded:  “Every month I see the same thing.”  Then he showed me what he was talking about — an anonymous, un-addressed envelope with an amount and a verse reference, Malachi 3:8-10.

The verses say:  Can a person rob God? You indeed are robbing me, but you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and contributions! You are bound for judgment because you are robbing me—this whole nation is guilty.  Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the Lord who rules over all, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it all.”

I don’t know who turns in this envelope every month but their faithfulness and their gift demonstrates that they understand a fundamental truth:  God owns it all.  They know that everything we have is entrusted to us by God and that he asks us to give back to him 10% as an acknowledgement of our dependence upon him.  Doing so provides “food in my temple” and results in our “blessing.”

On the other hand, withholding our tithes and offerings falsely assumes that what we have belongs to us and overlooks our dependence upon God.  The result is that there is a lack of “food in my temple” and we miss out on God’s “blessing.”  The most damning consequence — we’re guilty of robbing God!

As we approach year end, we’re experiencing a lack of “food in my temple” at IBCB  — our giving is approximately 10% below our expenditures — and as I wrote last week it is having an effect on our ability to respond to all that God has been doing in and through our congregation.  For example, we’re unable to fulfill some special purchase requests from our Praise Team and our Kids Ministry Team because of a lack of “food in my temple.”  It’s also having an effect on our plans for the coming year as we prepare prayerfully our budget for 2018.

So, as we approach the end of the year, please, put God to the test!  As an act of faith, commit to tithing 10% of your income — at least for the last two months of the year — and see how God chooses to bless you.  Consider giving a generous offering to support our EBF Mission Partnership church planters.  Make sure that there’s plenty of “food in my temple” and invite God to “open the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it all.”  Together we’ll celebrate how God blesses us as we seek to be a blessing to one another, our city, and God’s world.

To see how you can contribute to IBCB, please, follow this link. Thank you for being a part of God’s Kingdom work through IBCB.

Year End Giving

“Examples are few of people ruined by giving.” Christian Bovee (Christian Author)

Dear IBCB Family and Friends:

It’s been an exciting year at IBC Berlin. We have seen many new things that God has done. We have received many new members from the Iranian community. Our teenage ministry has begun to blossom. We’ve started a “Kids Own Worship” with plans to strengthen our Kids Ministry. Our missions partnerships are reaching people through three new church plants. We’re working hard to get a new “IBC” started in Berlin — New Hope International. God is at work in and through International Baptist Church Berlin!

It encourages me to see God at work, but I’d like draw your attention to a fact: this year’s giving has been behind budget by about 10%. As a result, we’ve had to be careful about our expenditures for this 4th quarter. What’s more, since IBCB is committed to sound financial management, next year’s budget is being governed by this year’s giving.

We have high hopes for the future and would love to see our current ministry grow, but giving must increase for us to pursue our God-given goals including deepening our fellowship and multiplying worship services. These goals depend upon your generosity … bringing your tithes and giving your offerings. Whether you are a long-time member or a recent addition to our church family, we value your investment in God’s Kingdom purpose through IBCB.

Prayerfully consider giving generously as you make your year-end contributions. Help us reach our EBF Missions Partnership Goal of 8500€ by contributing your “missions” designated fund. Help us catch up on our giving as you catch up on bringing your tithes and giving your offerings to our general fund. To see how you can contribute to IBCB, please, follow this link.

Scripture reminds us: “Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.” (Deut 16:17)  Reflect on the ways that God has blessed you during 2017 and let your generosity be an expression of your gratitude and thanks to God.

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing through our church family. May God continue to bless you and to bless us so that we may be a blessing to God and to others.

Your Pastor,

Scott Corwin