True Confession: Church finances really scare me. I’m convinced that no matter how hard I try to follow the rules and do everything above board, somehow I’m making a mistake that is going to get me in trouble somewhere down the line. And, let’s be honest, the auditors from the IRS just automatically assume that if you’re in ministry you’re probably doing something shady with the money. All this business scares me. I want no part of it.
Considering my worries about church finances, I was looking to hire someone to do a little bookkeeping for ministry several years ago and I had set an appointment with a guy named Mike. We were supposed to meet at Pete’s coffee on J St. I had no idea what he looked like; I just knew his name was Mike.
Okay, his name wasn’t Mike, but I can’t member what it was. I do remember that it was a very uncommon name. That’s an important detail.
I walked the two blocks from my office over to Pete’s and waited inside for Mike to show up. At the arranged upon appointment time, a man walked into the coffee shop and scanned the room as if he was looking for someone. I said, “are you Mike?” He looked up at me and smiled and said, “why, yes I am.” I replied, “Hi, I’m Pastor Scott. It’s nice to meet you.”
"This guy has a firm handshake; a bit odd for an accountant," I thought.
Mike and I struck up an easy conversation. I bought him a cup of coffee and we went to sit down. As we sat there, Mike began pouring out his heart to me about all the horrible things that were happening in his life. Believe me, you would not want any of the stuff that was happening to this poor guy.
Mike told me that he went to a mega church in the greater Sacramento area and that he had been trying to talk to a pastor there but couldn’t seem to get an appointment. He said, “just this morning I prayed that God would send a pastor to talk to me and here you are. You are an answer to prayer.”
“Well, it sounds like you really need some prayer and counsel,” I said. I shared some of what I thought was wise, biblical counsel regarding the situations that he was dealing with. I encouraged him not to give up on his church or be mad at his pastors.
Mike and I prayed together for a bit. When we concluded, he stood up and thanked me saying, “I guess I had better get back to work. Maybe I’ll run into you again sometime. Thank you, pastor.” A bit surprised, I asked, “wait, are we going to talk about the accounting?” Mike got a strange look on his face and said, “I work for the Sacramento Bee, but not in accounting. You don’t want my help with that. Believe me.”
Realizing that I had just enjoyed a divine appointment with Mike the newspaper guy while missing the appointment with Mike the accountant, I rushed back to my office to see if he was there or if there was a message. There was a message. Mike the accountant was irritated. He had been sitting in Pete’s coffee for an hour waiting for me and was about to leave.
Remember, back then we could not communicate as easily as we do now. There were no smart phones and not everyone had a cell phone.
When I finally got in contact with Mike the accountant, I learned there was a second Pete’s coffee on J St. that was located twenty blocks to the east. Long story short, Mike the accountant and I finally met. He was less than impressive and a bit too curmudgeonly for me. He also held grudges. He was really upset and kept making sarcastic comments about being on-time and keeping appointments.
The way I see it, I was triple blessed that day. I got to enjoy a divine appointment that resulted in real ministry. I avoided hiring the wrong guy to help with the church’s books, and I got to drink some great coffee, twice.