Can you meet with the Trustees urgently about the financial situation?”
“Are we looking at redundancies?”
“We need to talk options…”
That’s the gist of a conversation I was having a few weeks back. Like quite a few churches in our context, we’ve been encouraged over the past ten years to see Gospel growth but that has not translated into financial security. So, in fact, I’d known and in fact warned for some time that there was going to be a bumpy ride ahead. COVID-19 means that whilst some churches will have seen key donors move on either to new places/churches or to different stages in life, that there has also been an interruption to new people coming in.
So, before we go any further, I’m not writing this article to request a pity party. Over the years we’ve made it clear that when this day came -as we knew was likely that people should not worry about us, God has been so good and generous to us and we can continue to trust him in everything. However, I know that my situation is no different to the one many of you will be facing in the months ahead and indeed have already faced. So, I wanted to share a few thoughts today that will hopefully prove helpful.
First, the word redundant itself is awful and we need to acknowledge the dread and feeling of stigma it causes. I remember the day as a student that my dad broke the news that he had been made redundant from the company he had served all his working life. I remember feeling a sense of shock and bereavement as though someone had died. In those situations, it feels personal. It suggests that someone has not been valued, loyalty has not been rewarded and indeed has been punished.
So, it is there in the psyche. One of my recurring dreams is that I’m at work for the redundancy announcement and my name is called out and my dominant emotion is of shame and worthlessness. All of that is highly unusual because back in the early years of the new millennium, I was very much the other side of the desk working with the efficiency guys and the consultants to see how we could reduce costs. Furthermore, if redundancy had come at that point, I’d have probably volunteered for it as it would have helped with the Theological College fees!
I think the reasons for these emotions are there in the word itself. It suggests that you are not needed, unwanted, un-useful surplus to requirements. My wife has even caught me talking about “bring redundant” these last few weeks and insisted “no, you are not redundant, your role is.” It’s an important point and the first lesson we need to learn and keep re-learning. My value and worth is not found in a paid position and job status but rather in the fact that God loves me, has adopted me into his family and called me his son.
Secondly, because God is ultimately the one each of us works for, it is helpful to remember that we are never redundant. God made us and commissioned us both with the creation mandate to fill and subdue the creation and with the Great Commission to go and make disciples and neither of those commissions has been withdrawn. Whilst paid work in a particular context may not be available, God still has work for us to do and he is the one who will reward us generously and eternally even if we do not receive a human reward.
Thirdly, we can trust God to provide for us. He is the good father who loves and looks after his children. This does not mean that we are immune from long term unemployment and financial hardship. It does mean that God will not abandon us through hard times. We will not lose our identity as part of his family. Furthermore, I do think that being part of God’s family means that there is a beautiful way in which Christians care for each other in the family. Don’t be scared to make your needs known to your brothers and sisters in Christ. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are in this together. Again, just to be clear before you panic and start assembling the food parcels to leave on our doorstep, we are not in a position where we have to worry about this, Sarah has a good job and we have savings. However, there are others who will have been hit very hard, who will have been living at the edge of their credit limit and who will be thrust into severe hardship right now. So, please be alert to the needs of those people in our communities.
Fourthly, I am convicted that this is what we as human beings have tried to do to God. Sin is about our desire to make him redundant, to tell him that the role of king in our lives is already taken and he needs to look elsewhere. All of our experiences in life should give us a greater appreciation of the Gospel. This is what we did to God and he still chose to love us and forgive us.
So, if you are facing redundancy at this time, don’t lose hope along with losing your job. Don’t try to downplay things, acknowledge the reality of the painfulness it brings. However, do know that you are not alone and that you can cling to Christ.