There are a few realities I’m having to embrace this year.  Even though Impact! Church has been in the hood for over a year, I have been reticent accept certain realities, terminology and labels.  Through much prayer, spiritual attack and the work of our volunteers I’ve had to come to embrace some of these realities.  One of those areas is finances.

We are a church mainly made up of the homeless. The term homeless is a little misleading itself.  There are some that are homeless because they have lost jobs and just need a hand up.  There are others that are homeless because they are mentally or physically challenged.  In the state of Florida there are very few options for them.  There is a third groups that makes up about 80% of the homeless population in our neighborhood and that is the addicted.  Very few of them get better or want to get better.  All three of these groups make up about 60-70% of our church attendance on any given Sunday.

The rest of our church is mainly blue-collar, hourly-wage workers barely scraping by financially themselves.  They are hard workers and excellent volunteers.  They are extremely faithful in their giving, but 10% tithe of very little is still very little.  We do have one or two big donors that make up about 50% of our giving and budget.  However, they are very sporadic in their contributions due to the way they are paid by their companies.  Some times – by the time they give – we are already in financial crisis mode.It all seems to work out, but our knees are sore from praying.

So here is the financial reality – we have monthly fixed expenses of $5500, but only average around $700 in the offering plate each week.  Yep, it doesn’t add up. In fact it doesn’t even pay the $2500 monthly rent on our building.  We’ve cut things to the bare bones.  No one takes a salary – we are all volunteers – and bi-vocational. The church does pay $600 a month for my health insurance so I can continue to see the heart specialists helping to keep me alive. Occasionally – when there is extra money after ministry expense – they pay my rent and utilities which is around $900 a month (my wife and I live in the hood also).

So if the fixed expenses are $5500 a month and we are only taking in around $2400 a month – how does Impact! Church make it? God – and you! Seriously! It never works out on paper and we spend A LOT OF TIME PRAYING.  It’s always amazing when we look online and someone that reads my blog or Facebook page makes a contribution. Or someone that follows the Impact! Church on Facebook makes a contribution online. Sometimes it’s another church in America that gives monthly or quarterly.  It’s $200 here and $3000 there and eventually we make the fixed expenses – and then some.

So the financial reality of a homeless church is that it can’t meet it’s bills from the people attending. The leadership is volunteer with little to no financial compensation.  God financially blesses those outside the homeless church so they can bless the homeless church.

Over the past few months we’ve been getting more and more calls from church leaders and church planters about what it takes to reach the homeless as a primary target audience.  It’s not pretty and we’ve been a little reluctant to share the realities of what it looks like – until now. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about other realities of a homeless church.  I hope they are inspiring, but also cautionary.  Leading and serving in a homeless church is not for the faint of heart. At the end of the day though, you will see God move in mighty and miraculous ways.

PotatoesIt’s the little things in life that keep me going – keeps my joy flowing – gives me hope. One of the simple things that brings me joy is potatoes. Lighthouse Ministries – a local shelter across the street from Impact! Church – occasionally gets a BUNCH of potatoes donated.  More potatoes than they can possibly use before the veggies go bad. So they bring us several dozen bags of potatoes every now and then.  People in the hood get giddy over potatoes! We break out the grill and roast them for the homeless hanging out in our parking lot. We put them in boxes with other food to take to our elderly neighbors barely making ends meet on a fixed income.  We take several bags to local homes were impoverished grandparents are trying to raise their grandkids because mom and dad are in prison. We take them to a local Section 8 housing complex where single mothers are working three jobs just to keep the rent paid. Getting potatoes means a day of smiles, tears of joy and a BUNCH of hugs.  Getting potatoes means building relationships and sharing Christ with our neighbors.  Getting potatoes means a day of joyous giving that God seems to bless every time.

LARRY – “I just felt like something told me to pray so I prayed and felt this weight lift off of my life, Pastor Chris”, said Larry, a 19-year-old African-American, homeless man. It was this past Saturday and Larry was sitting on my couch. Several weekends each month my wife and I bring some of our homeless friends over to the house to wash clothes, take showers, eat a meal and watch television. We always have a blast and hear about God’s moving in the neighborhood where we minster. Larry was telling us how that – after years of mental and emotional instability – he felt compelled to ask God for help. Once we took Larry back to the neighborhood, he spent the afternoon walking the streets praying for people. We tried to get him to stay at the house or at least stay around the church – but he kept saying that God needed him to pray for people. Saturday night Larry was arrested – accused of assaulting an old man and taking almost $100 from him. There is a surveillance video and witnesses – Larry is looking at a long jail sentence if convicted. One minute he is trying to pray for people, the next minute Satan takes him out.

BILLY – The Facebook messages came through letting me know that Billy would definitely get a day-pass from the program. It was this past Saturday and Billy had been a man we’d been praying for over the past month. He had some physical issues, lived in constant pain, was diagnosed bipolar and had tried to commit suicide twice in the past 4 weeks. His niece goes to our church and had been praying for an opportunity for Billy to visit Impact! Church. When the service began yesterday, there was Billy, sitting in the back of the auditorium hanging on every word I preached. At the end of the service Billy was 1 of 5 people that stood indicating that they had surrendered their life to Jesus Christ.Later at lunch, Billy told me that – for the first time in many years – he had hope. Hope that God would heal him. Hope that better days were ahead. Hope that God has a purpose for his life. Hope to live another day. One minute Satan has a firm hold on Billy and the next minute God frees his bondage!