Dear Faith Family,

It was September of 2009 when we were studying the book of James as a church. We came to James 2, and we were confronted with the reality that those who have received mercy extend mercy. Grace in our hearts overflows in goodness from our hands.

While we were studying James, we were also going through our church budgeting process. During an elders meeting, we spent concentrated time looking at the world through the lens of the Word. We remembered that vast numbers of people have never heard the gospel, and we realized that multitudes of our brothers and sisters around the world are starving. And then we looked at our budget, and we asked the question: How can we better use our resources to build up the church and to advance the gospel around the world?

We knew that because our staff had already been conservative with our spending, we had about $500,000 in budget overages. Our thinking had been that we needed to save that for a “rainy day.” But we knew that the “rainy day” was already a reality for millions of lost men and women who don’t have the gospel and millions of our brothers and sisters who don’t have food or water. So we decided to give the $500,000 away to local churches we have relationships with in India, where 41% of the world’s poor live.

And then we started looking at the proposed 2010 budget. We asked the staff to go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb and cut every expenditure we possibly could so that we could give more around the world. When I sat down with the staff, I tried to soften the blow of what cuts might mean for individual ministries. But as I was sharing, one of our preschool leaders spoke up. “David,” she said, “you don’t have to go soft on us. We realize from God’s Word that this is something we need to do, and it is something we want to do. So let us get to work and start cutting our budgets!”

With that said, we split up into different teams to reevaluate our budgets. What happened next was thrilling. Whereas the budgeting process usually involves leaders vying with one another to see who can raise their budget the most, this year our leaders were competing with one another to see who could cut their budget the most. There were big cuts—our worship ministry leaders sliced 83 percent from their budget. And there were little cuts—preschool leaders cut the assortment of snacks we offer to kids whose stomachs are already full every Sunday morning.

We knew, though, that this wasn’t just going to affect the staff; this was going to affect the entire church. So we believed it was important to have the entire faith family vote on moving forward in this direction, and that’s what we did. One Sunday that fall, we put a proposal before you that said the following:

In love to God, in light of the needs around the world, and in obedience to Scripture (Proverbs 14:31; 21:13; 28:27; Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:16-18), the leadership of The Church at Brook Hills proposes that the church body affirm the following actions:

  • We will immediately begin radical saving as a church during the remainder of 2009 for the sake of urgent spiritual and physical need around the world.

  • Our leadership will work together over the next two months on a 2010 budget that saves every expenditure possible for the sake of urgent spiritual and physical need around the world.

  • We will immediately designate up to $525,000 of our current excess cash to serve impoverished churches across India.

A couple of weeks later, you voted overwhelmingly in favor of reallocating these resources in this direction. We were able to free up an additional $1.5 million from our 2010 church budget. With that money, we began to focus more on spreading the gospel in Birmingham and around the world.

Locally, we identified an area of our city with particular needs, and we committed time and money to partner with other churches, organizations, and schools to share and show the gospel in tangible ways there. Not wanting to give our money without going ourselves, we challenged every member in the church to pray about possibly leaving their comfortable neighborhoods and moving into this area of the city. Since that time, several of you and your families have done exactly that.

Globally, we focused on northern India, home to 600 million people but where fewer than 0.5 percent are evangelical Christians. Based on relationships we already had and new partnerships we were able to form, we committed time and money to meeting urgent spiritual and physical needs through local churches there. Since that time, you have given…and you have gone. You have made financial sacrifices in your families and in our faith family, and many of you have gone on trips to serve alongside our partners in India. And now, a year and a half later, I have the privilege of going on a trip and representing you with the brothers and sisters we are working with there. Along the way, I have the privilege of reporting to you of God’s grace in our brothers and sisters there, and encouraging you with how your sacrifices in Birmingham have led to the spread of God’s gospel and the proclamation of God’s glory in India.

Our plan is to spend time with the major partners that we have worked with, to deepen our relationships with them, to edify them with the Word, and to encourage them with our prayers.

Our goal is to update you along the way so that you might glorify God through a first-hand glimpse into how God has given us the privilege in Birmingham of being a part of His work 10,000 miles away.

And our request is that you pray—for fruitful time with our brothers and sisters (Romans 14:19), for mutual encouragement in the faith (Romans 1:11-12), for grace and wisdom to follow the leadership of the Spirit at every moment (Acts 16:6-10; 20:22-24), and for boldness to proclaim the gospel—the glory of the one true God in the land of a million gods.

I love you, church.

David (with Heather, Callie, Travis, and Cory)