In the first part of this article, I shared how God helped our church to repay a loan and to start a building project. God blessed us with financial miracles through one of our trustees and the generosity of our parishioners. The first building project of our ministry therefore proceeded with rapidity. We broke the ground in December 1997 and looked set for completion by the 3rd anniversary of the church in September 1998.
A month to our anniversary, we were faced with insufficient funds and I would not go to a bank for help anymore, I had decided. Then came a suggestion from an associate; ‘Let us call a few members who are comfortable enough and ask them to loan the church..’ I took the suggestion, the cash flowed, the building was completed, the anniversary celebration with an array of seven guest speakers was glorious and we all rejoiced. Church conventions and anniversaries have become norms in our clime and are executed with heavy budgets. The merits of it are hardly ever considered and churches make great efforts to celebrate them with pomp. However, we were as broke as chalk at the end of it as has also become the usual experience in many churches.
Like the previous year, this moment of great need also became the moment of poor cash flow. Parishioners probably had spent a lot on uniforms, transportation, offerings, products and other convention-related expenses and had little left to give. While paying vendors and struggling to keep operations afloat, there was nothing left for the church to repay loans for two months. While I refused to be as worried as the previous year and managed to sleep well daily, most of the day was spent trying to figure out how to repay church members. My name, integrity and reputation were on the line and the moment a leader loses them, his influence is decimated. It was important that I kept my promise to repay members who were kind enough to loan us their hard-earned money. Thank God for the advice of one of the church leaders with whom I discussed the matter. His contributions to discussions had been quite enriching at our regular leadership meetings. He was older and as a controller who oversaw 16 bank branches, I figured he could help. He advised thus:
- Decide to dedicate between 10-20% of the church income to debt repayment. Ensure the rest can keep the church afloat.
- Suspend other projects except for compulsory ones till after clearing the debt.
- Meet every one of the creditors and ask them for 3-6 more months for the repayment. He said some will turn theirs to donations.
I decided 20% of the church income will be dedicated to loan repayment and instructed the Accountant to effect it with discipline. I spoke to every creditor and as predicted by my adviser, some turned them to donations and most committed to waiting patiently. In 3 months, we were out of debt but it took a lot of discipline for our young ministry and our lean purse. I was so excited I informed my adviser but almost regretted doing so. As soon as I informed him of our success, I also expressed the difficulty we went through in setting aside the 20%. His response however was, if you could do it for 2 months, you can always do it. Open a new bank account and start saving the same amount for projects. It will amaze you how much you will be able to do with time. My countenance fell at the distress that would result and yet I was immediately awakened to the power of its possibilities. Today, it has become a part of our financial policy for a minimum of 20% of our church income to be saved for capital projects. I cannot begin to recount how much we have been able to achieve with the policy over the years. Except in extraordinary circumstances, it has made the need for loans unnecessary.
My advice today is to stay away from loans. Where you have already taken one or where you must, take the following counsel:
- Commit to the repayment of loans in full. A good name is better than silver and gold.
- Dedicate a percentage of your income to repayment and discipline yourself to pay.
- Never take a loan that your regular savings cannot repay.
- Renegotiate terms of repayment to affordable limits where you are defaulting.
- Build your faith in supernatural provisions. God is gracious and compassionate. He will help you move your mountains.
The above experience took place over 21 years ago and I have never been stuck again. We must learn to discipline ourselves while believing God for greater things. Have I found myself needing God’s interventions again? Certainly! Faced with persistent financial shortages, my wife and I looked to God for guidance and he showed us the way out. I will share more stories of victories with you in the concluding part of this article next week.