Over this past year we have seen generosity like never before in the corporate life of The Oak Church. A huge special offering given by the oak in 2014 kicked off a building project in 2015 that saw us purchase 54 Bradford Road. In order to run the new building but also to grow our staff team we needed to see our general giving to the church finances rise by 28% - around £13,000. Last year our giving rose by a staggering 33% enabling us to finish the year in a much better position - ready to advance into 2016. Just take a moment to marvel at what God has done - those kind of figures are awe inspiring - God is good.
We paid staff, paid bills, bought mountains of food, bought appliances for those without, paid gas and electric bills, bought taxis, buses and vouchers to help people get to meetings and social groups. We met with people, prayed with people, saw people come to faith in Jesus for the first time and recommit their lives to him a fresh. We’ve walked through heartache and sickness, sat at hospital beds and welcomed babies into the church family. We’ve appointed new leaders to lead our worship, kids and hosting teams, seen faithful workers receive promotions in their workplace and walked through with others disappointment and struggle in their place of work. We’ve walked through mental and physical health struggles and stood with each other through joys and celebrations. We’ve continued to give to churches in east ukraine, Ireland and France and to training leaders across the world through the Catalyst Family of churches.
Can I say a huge thank you to you as a church. Your faithful giving, your generous hearts and your desire to see the kingdom of God come in this part of Leeds and in the nations is staggering. I know also, that as in many areas of church life, the one thing we can see is not nearly a measure of what is really happening. Your giving into the church finances is only a small portion of the generous lives you lead and the people you serve.
We started the oak in 2011 with a desire to be a generous people who had some sense of what we had received through Christ and were willing to learn, by God's grace, to be generous beyond our limits and abilities. He is faithful to answer our prayers.
As we move into 2016 we have a vision to continue to build communities that are rooted in God and serving the world. We have a vision to use the resources God has given us to love the people God has put around us. We have a vision to throw ourselves behind what God is leading us into - to build where He is building, to follow Him wherever He takes us.
As a leadership team we have prayed and talked about this next year and have a sense of God's calling on us as a people - that he has blessed us immensely, now lets live in the light of that blessing.
We took the step, aided by the special offering in 2015 to employ me full time last year on a temporary contract to get us into this building, the team have requested that I stay on full time in a pastoral role. We employed lucy Pitkin part-time through some trust funding to work as a key worker with people coming into the church, she will stay on in 2016 and we are looking for trust funding to keep her on and increase her hours if we can - please pray for her and for a release of finance to help us do more. Alina is employed as a part-time administrator working one and a half days a week. We are hoping to adjust our administration role in the coming year to focus it around the use of the building and its potential uses. We would like to employ someone to invest their time in developing Treehouse, our children's work here at The Oak. The leader of our Treehouse, gives a huge amount of volunteer time each week to serving children and families in Treehouse and we would like to honour this time but also to release some of the pressure on his family life. Working a full time job, raising a young family and volunteering so many hours is incredible, but can’t be sustained long term - we need to grow our staff team! We’d also like to invest in the building; preparing more rooms for use and getting areas such as the main Treehouse and Social Action space fully developed. We are seeking trust funding to help with this but, this is our building, this is our community, this is what God has called us to invest in.
Over this next year we are praying for a 14% (about £8,500) rise in giving and for a Special Offering of £16,000 to make all this happen.
The Special Offering will pay for us to employ a Treehouse worker for a day a week for 18months where we’ll then absorb the salary into our general funds. It’ll also pay for some damp treatment to areas which we have already treated but, with the joy of a 150 year old building, have come back. It’ll pay for us to finish the long room downstairs so we can run foodbank sessions, job clubs, run training programs, re-start the supported volunteers scheme training and supporting people back into work and many other things. We’ll also invest in a seating area in the Treehouse space downstairs and hopefully have enough left at the end to create a safe space at the rear of the building for children to play outside but also for us to host BBQ’s and enjoy being outside.
Now, if you've been around the oak for a while you’ll have noticed that we don’t take up a sunday offering. The reason for this is that the church is not after or about money - it’s about Jesus. The church is not about money and the kingdom of God is not about money. We don’t want a weekly offering to be something that stands in the way of people seeing jesus, seeing his church and being intrigued about all that God is doing.
But resources need resource and finance is important. Just because we don’t take a physical offering doesn’t mean a. we don’t talk about it or b. the church doesn’t give - it does. In order for us to do what God has called us to do, you give generously. And while much of it is unseen and happens through bank transfers and the like, it still happens. In fact it happens alot.
Our special offerings will be on Sundays 13th and 20th March during our sunday service.
There will be a week of prayer on w/c monday 7th March beginning with our church prayer meeting on the monday evening, here at 7 for food and 8 for prayer. More information about this and the Special Offerings will be available in the coming weeks.
God has place a desire in us to see this city blessed.
The story of last year was incredible - i wonder what stories we’ll be telling next year.