Evangelism ’17: Site Redesign, Endowment Started & Still Way Behind on Funding

[UPDATED 5.16, 5.23 with more contributors, a new thermometer, an important mission partner we omitted – and the name of a longlost friend in the Lord!]

We redesigned our main site three weeks ago, in honor of the historic consecration of our new Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis.

The first one and the newest one, who’s also a first: +Barbara C. Harris and +Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, onstage at Clowes Hall of Butler University, April 29. (Diocese of Indianapolis)

Our new look is cleaner and brighter, with a banner all the way across the top, wider pictures, bigger type and no cluttered sidebar.

But there are drawbacks, too. Without the sidebar, we no longer remind you every day of our mission partners in Haiti, Liberia, Brazil and the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That’s a real loss, because we want you praying for them as well as helping support them with your donations. But we were desperate for a new look, too, so there’s a trade-off.

We’ve ditched our fundraising thermometer (except below) and moved our donation and subscription links to the bottom of the page of every service. Our main Donate link is now under About at the top.

The good news is that, with constant but unobtrusive reminders, we’ve received more donations on the new site than we did in the previous four weeks. To our latest donors, thank you! We’re a few thousand dollars ahead of where we were the last time I wrote, but nowhere near where we need to be.

It leaves me wondering which of these mission projects to eliminate – because we can’t fund them until we have our own house in order.

Nurses’ capping ceremony at FSIL’s 9th graduation in Leogane, Haiti, last November. FSIL is Haiti’s first and biggest school of nursing, part of the Episcopal University of Haiti. (school photo)

SOS, Save Our Selves: This anti-bullying/suicide prevention booklet is by kids, for kids on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Mother Lauren R. Stanley pulled together the resources. (Rosebud Episcopal Mission)


Easter party last year for the children of Brasilia’s Anglican Community Center, one of our mission partners. They only get a few hours a day from their public schools, and the Center helps make up the difference so they don’t fall behind. When you click our Donate links, these kids are some of your beneficiaries. (Bishop Mauricio Andrade)

I don’t think you want us to eliminate any of them – but we’ll have to if more of you don’t get us funded first.

As always, we ask for $10 a year per subscriber – email or WordPress – more if you can, less if you need to. Ready to act? Skip the rest of this sermon and go here.

More questions? Keep reading. Our goal is only $36,000, less than it takes to operate a storefront church for 20 people in a tired, empty strip mall. Yet we have 7000 followers worldwide and as much weekly and annual traffic as the National Cathedral!

Fledgling Endowment Fund
Thanks to a modest, thoughtful and generous gift from Mr. Paul Chervenie of Delaware, we now have an endowment fund, administered by the Diocese of Indianapolis and managed by their investment advisors. Paul says he’s writing us into his will, too; that makes two of us. Consider this your invitation to join us.

For more information, leave a comment online; I’ll receive your email address, but it’s never published. You can also speak to Canon Marsha Gebuhr at DioIndy – (317) 926-5456 – for particulars to give your attorney.

If we should ever manage to run a budget surplus, the excess will go there too. But just the idea of “more money than we need” makes my thoughts return to mission – because we don’t want to be running surpluses in this broken, hurting world.

We Are All About Mission, Ours & Others’
First, let me define that word – because what I mean by mission isn’t always the same as what Episcopalians seem to mean by it. We’ve come to prefer half the definition, not the whole one.

To me, mission means evangelism and all it entails. It’s the explicit proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, before and beyond social work. (But people can’t hear us if they’re hungry.)

I’m all in favor of social work; my degree is in that field and I labored in it joyfully for decades. I don’t mean social work as psychotherapy; I mean social work as it was originally done by Jane Addams and other pioneers in the settlement house movement: a bunch of people with problems in common, which can be ameliorated with solutions in common. The classic example is a flood of immigrants who land in a poor neighborhood in a big city. They don’t know the language, so they can’t get a job, the cops keep hassling them, politicians ignore or even demonize them, schools don’t know what to do with their kids, and folkways that worked in the old country don’t necessarily work in the new.

A social worker tries to build a community of friendship and respect so people can work on their problems together. A social worker back then is called a community organizer today – and it still works, no matter what the population group is. There’s a cultural aspect to it, too; Hull House used to have concerts, readings and theater of an evening, so that proud people had a chance to preserve their culture and learn about others. Clergy and laypeople have been involved in these pursuits with disadvantaged groups for generations; it’s in areas like these that social work and evangelism converge and overlap, and this Church has a lot to be proud of.

But I like to carve out what’s unique about evangelism, and that’s communicating the Gospel to people hungry for Good News. You don’t have to be poor to need it; these days all of society’s in the same boat, caught up in this meaningless pop culture of consumerism and escape.

What We Can & Can’t Do Online
Our focus at The Daily Office is the Gospel – twice a day, every day, regardless of race or station. Pray the Office with us every day, and in a month You’re Bound to Get Closer to God™.

That we can do online; while church social work will always depend on the physical food pantry, education and housing and health care. A personal touch goes a long, long way.

Mother Lauren Stanley on the Rosebud Reservation has assembled an amazing team of volunteers near and far. She does most of the Gospel-proclaiming and supervises the volunteer teams – when she’s not chopping the firewood herself, driving the pickup and delivering the wood that keeps her parishioners alive during the long cold winter. So it’s right for us as an online-only congregation to do our proclaiming and collect money to help her do hers – along with running the youth group and the log-splitter, conducting the sacraments and pastoral work. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to send her a few thousand bucks since we got started. Our money really helps.

It’s the same way with all of our mission partners. We can’t teach or feed Haitian children from the comfort of home – but we can help buy the food and pay the teachers so those bright young kids can learn. We also help pay tuition to train nurses in Haiti and Liberia. Your small checks go a long way to improve health care in those nations, administered by local, educated, front-line professionals. I’m proud of our contributions; they’re very efficient and cost-effective.

Jesus was a healer; Jesus was a teacher. But he spent most of his time proclaiming the Good News, and so do we.

So Yes, We Ask for Money
I hope our fundraising problem is that too few of our followers see our appeals and that we just don’t do them well enough. We’ve tried many methods over the years, and we’ll eventually hit on something that works better. I’m as tired of begging as you are. But beyond the money we have or don’t, there’s a spiritual hollowness to much of this that troubles me. I hope it troubles all of us.

The rigorous, respected Public Religion Research Institute published new international survey results today, and highlighted this snippet on Twitter:

Percentage of citizens of Greece who believe in God: 93%
Percentage of Greeks who went to church on Sunday: 6%

Why, they almost sound like Americans, don’t they. They certainly sound like progressive Christians.

One reason The Daily Office is successful is because the percentage of subscribers who “go to church” with us ranges from 13% to 20% on any given day; those are very high rates for what’s essentially direct mail. Feast and fast days matter; more people will come if they know a day is important, the saint is someone they’ve heard of, or disasters happen close to home. For us, Hurricane Katrina was the classic lesson; our traffic skyrocketed and didn’t slow down  for months, because we kept on the stories of people in need, people surviving and helping each other, as the news media began to lose interest.

But I want to say to those Greeks (and Americans, Episkies and Daily Office members), “If you think that believing is all it takes to waltz into heaven, you’re in for a rude awakening.”

St. Paul never taught that. “The water and the blood,” he wrote, “not the water only, but the water and the blood.” The sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion. To get those we have to go to church.

We don’t want to be among those people who cried, “Lord, Lord,” only to have Jesus answer, “I never knew you.” But he predicted that would happen a lot more than, say, your average Greek seems to think.

I cannot imagine why anyone would sign up to receive emails from The Daily Office twice a day, 60 times a month, and still only respond once every 8 times, or once every 5. The people who do respond at a high rate are fabulous – they’re our donors! But where are our other 80-90%?

It’s no surprise, with a hit rate like that, that I have to beg continually for $36,000 from the richest denomination per capita in America. On any given day, most people just delete our messages. They’d rather binge on “House of Cards” for hours than visit the House of Jesus for 20 minutes.

The Daily Discipline of Prayer Works Miracles
We have some really generous members here. We also have some impoverished members who give their mite with fervent prayer. I’m very proud of both, as well as everyone in the middle who gives what they can and what they think is right. Good for you!

Our really committed members are people who know what wonders God works when we turn to him every day in prayer. Some learned it here, but most learned it somewhere else and choose to gather here; they’re the ones I learn the most from and the ones who keep us going.

If we fail, for financial reasons as well as spiritual ones, I can predict what will happen if we can’t even pay for a discount lay Vicar, inexpensive technology and a few thousand dollars for some of the hurtingest people alive. The day I get run over by a Bud Light truck, our Mission Board will scramble to keep us going. A few wonderful volunteers will step into the gap; but the quality of our liturgies will start to deteriorate from lack of WordPress experience and the daily demands of the clock. Then in a couple of weeks we’ll grind to a halt. No more Daily Office, after we’ve built such a wonderful thing that’s grown to be a virtual Episcopal megachurch.

Volunteers can’t do this; we’ve tried, but a year ago I couldn’t even take a week’s vacation. I’m lucky now to get an occasional Friday night off. When I depart this life, we have to be able to hire people – two at least, for as big a job as this is – or we’re done. I’m not complaining or threatening, it’s just a fact.

We don’t have a single clergy or vestry member who would run their parish this way – which leaves me wondering why I have to. But I know the answer to that, too; the average parishioner of an Episcopal Church would rather pay to maintain the building than keep up the prayers inside.

I’ve never said it that bluntly, but it’s true. As mainstream denominations have dropped precipitously in membership, parish budgets have actually risen. Fewer people are giving more money than ever. (Except to us.)

People are really attached to those stained glass windows and organ pipes, and the good works that small groups do – while all we do on The Daily Office is show pictures of other people’s windows and pipes and works. That’s why we cost so much less, we don’t have a building.

Jesus didn’t either. Yet in his Father’s house are many mansions.

The ideal believer’s response to his gift of eternal life, I believe, is to give to your local parish and go to your local parish on Sundays and feast days – then show up here Monday through Saturday, and throw us a little donation too, because we’ve got bills to pay, mission to work and Christ’s message to spread.

Lunches & Lessons
Bottom line, we’ve got more mouths to feed than we’ve got food and workers to cook it – while the Jesus we adore was a great multiplier. He could take a few loaves and fishes and make a banquet out of them.

I have faith in him and you and myself that we’re going to find the extra money, and find it soon. But until we do, a couple of hundred kids in Haiti are left to wonder whether they’re going to get lunches with their lessons. How’s a kid supposed to learn on an empty stomach?

So why haven’t I written more of these Evangelism Updates? – Lack of time and especially sleep. I haven’t been able to do anything lately beyond designing liturgies, posting them and officiating live, because Evangelist Josh has been so busy doing what we ought to be doing – expanding this ministry, not shrinking it – instead of what Administrative Josh must do just to fund this pitiable little outfit for the rest of the year.

Obviously I can’t have it both ways and neither can you. So here I am at 1 in the morning again, asking for your money and prayers, when I have to be up in 4 hours to conduct our next two webcasts.

That’s where we stand today. If you’ve got a better method, let me know. If you haven’t donated yet, donate now.

If you don’t like PayPal and prefer to write a check instead, here’s where to send it:

Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
1100 W. 42nd St
Indianapolis IN 46208
MEMO: Daily Office

Now let us pray for more contributors, a higher hit rate, more people in the pews – and let us give thanks to God for the following faithful ones who’ve gotten us this far.

Josh Thomas
Founder & Discount Lay Vicar 🙂
40th anniversary of my commissioning as an Evangelist

The Daily Office is presented this year by the following donors.

Acolyte – under $50
Kathy Abbott
Sarah Adams, in memory of Flo Anne Moore; in honor of Dora Mazzola
Mary Barber
The Rev. Michelle Boomgaard
Hannah Bowman
Kathleen Bryant
Richard Burgess
Michael C.
Mark Bradley Cappetta, in honor of the Very Rev. Fr. John David van Dooren
Cliff Carr
Nancy C. Deutsch
Rachel Diem, in honor of the Community of the Gospel & the Order of Julian of Norwich
Lara Dreyer
√ Barbara
Nancy Jean Eggert
√ Steven Ellis
Barrett Fisher
The Rev. Elizabeth Fowle
Marian Gabriel
Gary Gee
Charles Grover
Anonymous, in memory of Fr. Bill Steuber
Sarah Hartzell, in memory of Bob Burgess
Pr Dave Heckler
Patricia Henkel
Ann Higdon
Sandy Hudson, in honor of +Cate Waynick
Freda Iverson
Kammy and George
Sara Keeth
Nick Kuchcinski, in memory of all beloved family now enjoying eternal rest
Glenn, in honor of Margie McCaslin
Br. Jonathan Maury, SSJE
Dale McNeill
Jon Mittelstadt
Anita Miner
The Rev. Robert C.V. Morris
The Rev. Roberta Morris
Janet Norden
Stephen Oakes, in honor of Mr. & Mrs. M. Wayne Oakes
Jennifer Oldstone-Moore
Claude P. Ragan
Barb Roth
Patti Sachs
The Rev. Deacon Leslie Scoopmire
Gary L. Short, in memory of Isaac Allen Tabler
Daniel Smith, in honor of Asta Smith; in memory of Alfred V. Battista
The Rev. R.F. Solon, Jr.
V. Thomas
The Rev. Canon Mort Ward
Will Wauters, TSSF
William Weightman

Intercessor – $50 – 99
Anonymous (Indianapolis)
Catherine Balassie
Grace M. Barge
Davidson Bidwell-Waite
Caroline Braun
Leslie Bryan, in memory of Billy Bryan, in honor of Connie Bryan
The Rev. Norman C. and A. Patricia Burke
Grace Burton-Edwards
The Rev. Denise Cabana
Jennifer Clyde
Stephanie Curtis
May B. Daw
Dorothy Dewing
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Dreisbach
Marilyn Engstrom
Linda Goertz
Patty Gotway
The Rev. Dr. Janine Howard
The Rev. Steven Kern (Canada), in memory of Lawrence & Martha Blum
Kersten Family
Elizabeth Koenig
Mary Koski
Gordon Kubanek
Thomas LaFrance, in memory of Don LaFrance
Deborah Lisano, in memory of Mike Lisano
Jill Littlefield
Steve LoCastro
The McAskill Family, in honor of John Alexander McAskill
Dale McNeill
Eric L. Miller, in memory of the Rev. Rick Rutledge; in honor of the Rev. Maggie Foote’s ordination to the Sacred Order of Priests
The Rev. Susan Negrotto, in memory of Fr. John Negrotto
Nancy Parr
Morgan Ponder
Elizabeth Popplewell
The Rev. Deacon Susan Reeve
Joseph Scholtes
Ilia and Timothy Smith
Bishop Kirk Smith
Tony Stankus
Anna N. Walker

Lector – $100 – 249

Anonymous (Canada)
Brendan Barnicle
The Rev. Joan Beck
Jane Beebe
Ron Blaisdell
√ Elisabeth Bourdet
Libbye Brooks
Linda E. Brown, in memory of James W. Brown and Anthony D. Brown
Robert L. Buzzard
Jonathan Coffey, in memory of Hollis Hamilton Ambrose Corey
Allen Davis
Diane (Canada), in memory of Kevin
Ann Doebler
The Rev. Mark Elliston, in honor of the Rev. Charll Kapp
Robert and Josephine R. Giannini
Brian Gloe
Cara & Michael Gordon
Hilary Greene, in honor of Josh Thomas
Barbara Griffith-Powell, in honor of Jean I. Smith
Harvey H. Guthrie
Katherine Harper
Gail Hart
Fr. Robert Hughes
Eric Johnson
Harry Kelley
Jo Ann, in memory of Jesse
Lighthouse Literacy
Barry MacDowell
Brian L. MacFarland & Ian L. Bockus
Molly Moores
√ The Rev. Julie Morris, in honor of dailyoffice.org
Yvonne Morgan, in honor of the Jacksons, Pintos and Morgans
John Musco
Joyce Palevitz
John H. Ryan, O.C.P.
Alison Saichek
Margaret Schultz, in memory of Ron St. George
Greg Seamon
Valerie Scott
The Rev. Deacon Sallie O. Simpson
Katrina Soto
Jerold Stadel
Marion W. Stodghill
The Rev. Sam Tallman
Victoria, in memory of Fitz Harvey
The Rev. Deacon Teresa Wakeen
Tom Welch
Francesca Wigle
√ Susanne Woods
The Rev. Gwynne Wright (UK)

Cantor – $250 – 499
Lisa C.
Michael Delaney
The Rev. Andrew Durbridge
Jerry Fitzgerald
Steve Helmreich
Martha E. Kelley
Love, in memory of Love, in honor of Love
The Rev. R. R. Lutz
Nicholas Myers
Joan Rasch
Gregory Seamon
The Rev. Warner C. White

Gospeler – $500 – 999
Denise Clauss, to the glory of God
Robert Crane
Wyndeth Davis
Deacon Letha Tomes Drury
The Rev. Deacon Maria L. Evans
Clint Gilliland
The Rev. Michael E. Hartney
The Rev. Anjel & Stu Scarborough
Josh Thomas

Missioner – $1000 – 2499
Tom Alloway/James Beckwith (Canada)
Linda Barry
√ Paul H. Chervenie, in memory of John H. McClelland
Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
The Rev. Gwen Hetler and the Rev. Jim Livingston
R. Nikolaus Merrell, in honor of Espanol Costa Rica
Mark Nelson
Peter and Beverly Van Horne

Vestrymember – $2500 – 4999
The Rev. Michael Corrigan

People’s Warden – $5000 – 9999
(your name here)

Vicar’s Warden – $10,000+
Robert B. Crane

4 thoughts on “Evangelism ’17: Site Redesign, Endowment Started & Still Way Behind on Funding

  1. Dear Josh, You may want to go over three books with your diocesan folks. I donated regularly over the last year and restarted monthly this year. I don’t think I’ve received a statement from them in a couple of years. I finally made the check out to Daily Office so it should be better, I avoid PayPal so I send a check. I wonder if this is happening to other donors.

    Blessings! Nedi

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nedi, I know you’re right – but it’s not the diocese at fault. I want everyone to understand that. Two things caused us not to send tax letters this time.. First, the government eliminated the requirement that every donor receive a letter; the IRS no longer questions any donation under $250. (As the above list indicates, small donors are the bulk of our contributors. After all, we only ask for $10 per person, and we love how small donations add up.) The legal change has benefited nonprofits and churches nationwide.

      But anyone who gives $250 or more is entitled to a letter and needs one. I thought the diocese did that when they took over our accounting; I thought that’s what they said. But I was wrong. They’re not set up for it and don’t offer that service to any church or ministry whose books they keep. The mistake was mine – and by the time I found out it was too late to correct it by any method other than by hand – individual payments, one by one (including the monthly ones like yours. I still have all the records that came to me in 2016, which include most of the biggest donations we received – but none of those who pay monthly AND use the diocesan PayPal account. I get a notice that someone says they’ll pledge, but no evidence that they actually did so.

      It’s different for our longest-running donors who still use our original PayPal account, not the “Support” site; I control that money directly, because A) every minister needs discretionary funds to pay unexpected expenses, and B) I was not going to ask those folks to stop one payment method and create a new one using the Support site. Why should they have to go through the hassle? There was nothing wrong with the old system, so I felt it should continue. New pledges, yes, but old pledges, no. Those people are good as gold to us, some of our earliest supporters.

      So I’ve hired a local accountant to do nothing but send out those letters for us every year. I’m so pressed for time, I can’t do it AND keep up the daily posts AND the unseen pastoral work AND the future planning AND set up internet radio and get that off the ground. The accountant can track the $250+ donations and produce the letters in 10 minutes. But that’s only for 2017 going forward; I have to send out individual letters for 2016 myself, and I’ve only managed it when people ask. That isn’t right or fair, but I’m an evangelist, not a number cruncher.

      Meanwhile, I want everyone to know the diocese handles our money correctly. They don’t take money intended for us and send it somewhere else. They can tell the difference between our donors and others, and they haven’t made a mistake yet. (Everytime someone has a question, “Did you receive my payment?”, they always think the diocese took it. No they didn’t! They wouldn’t and they don’t.)

      But we don’t have an integrated system yet, despite their efforts and mine. Having two PayPal accounts and two accountants is obviously not right. We have discussed how to get all this organized correctly so the right hand knows what the left is doing – but we’re not there yet.

      I apologize to everyone who wanted/needed a letter and didn’t get one. If you still need it, please ask. And always, pray for more workers in the vineyard, including a skilled parish administrator who knows what I don’t know and how to fix what I mess up.

      Thanks again, Nedi!


  2. Can you let me know if you accept stock gifts, and if so, send me the information on where to transfer the gift/wire? Thank you!

    Heather Zrubek


    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather, we certainly do; thank you for asking. Canon Marsha Gebuhr has that information, but she will not be back in the diocesan office until Friday. (I think every staff member is taking a few days off after the consecration of +Jennifer.) I will forward a copy of your comment to her, along with your email, and ask her to contact you directly for a safe, smooth transfer.

      Thank you very much.

      Josh Thomas


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