Behind the Scenes – Man Rescues Presbytery From Drowning

That’s the kind of dramatic headline that gets our attention these days, although we might ask, “What kind of a person has a name like Presbytery?”

The headline is correct, though, except the Presbytery mentioned was drowning in red ink, not water and is not a person but a group of Seattle-area Presbyterian churches, including BelPres. The member churches meet on a regular basis, worship together, enjoy community, encourage outreach and mission, and come alongside one another in various ways.

How did our Presbytery survive red ink?

I’d like to tell you a true story of the behind-the-scenes service of long time BelPres member Bob Wallace.

Back to our Presbytery. Nine years ago, there were a number of local Presbyterian churches (about five) that had closed over the years due to low attendance. The Seattle Presbytery, which owned the properties, was managing them and was losing about $100,000 each year in doing so. At that time, Scott Lumsden, the new Presbytery Executive (“CEO” of our presbytery), and Bob Wallace became acquainted. They realized together that Bob could be of great assistance because of his extensive commercial real estate experience in his business.

Bob became Co-Moderator of the Presbytery’s Property and Finance Committee and also coached Scott Lumsden in both property management and finance. Scott recalls many sessions with Bob about whether to sell or lease a property, and Scott learned how to manage these properties effectively. Bob always insisted that they have a plan for the funds that would come. According to Scott, Bob would “hold our feet to the fire” concerning good planning, patiently teaching along the way. Scott added “the other members of Property and Finance Committee also did a lot of work. However, Bob is one of the main reasons why Seattle Presbytery has turned the corner financially.”

Because of the plan that was developed and implemented, the Presbytery now has a surplus of over $100,000 each year and offers grants to member churches. BelPres has received support for our Pastoral Resident program. New Hope Revival, the Rwandan ministry of BelPres that worships in our upper campus each Sunday, pastored by Alexis Ruhumuriza, was able to purchase musical instruments. The grant list is varied and extensive. Also, the Presbytery had the funds to offer a $2M loan to Union Church, chartered this past July as a new Presbyterian church located in South Lake Union. What an exciting opportunity to share the gospel in the heart of Seattle’s bustling innovation district.

According to Scott Lumsden, “If it weren’t for Bob’s selfless investment of time and expertise, we’d no doubt still be struggling to keep the Presbytery’s financial neck above water. Instead, we’re thriving, and this benefits all our congregations.”

Bob counters that “my contributions were no more significant than those of the 6-8 fellow committee members, but thanks mainly to Lumsden’s excellent work, the Presbytery’s properties are well managed, its reserves are professionally managed, and over-all finances have never been better.”

“I think what I’ve learned is that while many of the world’s problems seem hopeless, we can make a difference one life at a time.”

His closing thoughts: “I think what I’ve learned is that while many of the world’s problems seem hopeless, we can make a difference one life at a time. I believe the church of Jesus Christ is the most important force for good in the world, and it has been good for my own faith to come to the realization that even those of us without many ecclesiastical or evangelical gifts can find a place to use our limited resources for the good of the church.”

Thank you, Bob, for inspiring all of us to offer whatever gifts God has given us to make a difference for God’s Kingdom in some part of our world.

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