The subject of finance deals with an all-absorbing question to every conference executive, every evangelist, minister, Bible in structor, and lay member.
It has long been agreed among us that a conference cannot operate successfully without a budget. It is just as important to finance an effort under the budget system. In making a conference budget, one must establish an oper, ating level. This is the first step in financing every activity of the conference. If this operating level absorbs all the income so that there is nothing left for advance work, the budget is out of balance. No budget is balanced unless every one of the conference activities has its proper share.
When the budget has been carefully arranged and the funds segregated, there should be strict adherence to it. Emergencies will arise, of course, but there should be a special fund in every budget to cover them. Nevertheless, this emergency fund must not be out of balance with the whole program. There should be a specific sum for evangelism in the operating level. This evangelistic fund should be jealously guarded by the conference committee and should be used preferably to advance the work in new places. This definite amount varies according to the gross income of a conference. As a fair basis, I would suggest so per cent of the gross tithe receipts. Thus a conference having a tithe receipt of $soo,000 should be able to dedicate $so,000 strictly for evangelism. Should the tithe receipts increase, the program for evangelism should also increase.
Evangelism includes all efforts in soul saving, whether it be a tent or a hall effort, a cottage meeting or a literature campaign. After the conference fund for this purpose has been consecrated, it must be segregated again so that each evangelistic program will receive proper consideration.
The problem of financing the effort mar be considered from five angles : (1) Help from the conference ; (2) help from the church; (3) public collections ; (4) appeals for special donations; (5) economy.
Financial Support From Conference
There is danger that the conference worker may depend altogether on the conference treasury to finance his soul-saving effort. On the other hand there is some danger that a conference official may look to the local worker to finance his whole work and thus expect him to make bricks without straw. There are a hundred places where a conference could spend every dollar that flows into its treasury, and too often there has been money for almost everything except evangelism. No one individual is responsible for the inefficiency of the past, but a definite change must come among us to fulfill the great task before us. We are not joined together in a syndicate where the surplus earnings are divided among the investors. When a sacrifice is to be made, we as workers should take the lead in making it. The Lord despises a selfish Christian, be he an executive, a pastor, an evangelist, or any other servant in His great vineyard.
What help, then, can a worker reasonably expect from the conference in financing his effort? Before any one program or effort is fully arranged, the conference must know the needs of every worker who plans a soul-saving endeavor. After these needs are all compiled, the conference may be utterly unable to meet the demands called for. It is then that the conference executive and the evangelist must adjust the program in harmony with the means in hand. It is extremely important for every worker to plan closely with his conference officers in all the financing of an effort. Financial embarrassment reflects not alone on a worker but also on the conference he represents. Lack of the fullest financial co-operation on the part of a worker will bring untold perplexity to the president and the secretary.
Financing an effort should not come altogether from the conference treasury. The worker himself should be given opportunity to raise a part of the expense from another channel. However, this portion should not be greater than a reasonable possibility. In this each worker's experience in raising money must be the guide. It is good training for each worker to raise some of his finances himself. The dollar earned by hard labor is not so readily spent as the dollar that is inherited. All donations from whatever source, as well as all expenses, should be accurately reported to the conference.
However, a program as great as that given to Seventh-day Adventists demands large sums of money. Every worker might do more effective service if given more liberal financial encouragement. No farmer, not even a home gardener, will have any returns unless he invests somewhat in the seed sown in the ground. So a little financial aid from the conference will usually bring excellent response.
Message upon message has been given in reference to the importance of warning the cities. But the charge is made, "Some will say, We need all the money we can get to carry on the work in other places." To this the answer comes from the Lord. "Do you not know that unless you carry the truth to the cities, there will be a drying up of means Sketches," pp. 417, 418.
Large city efforts require a larger initial investment than do those in the smaller city or town. The laboring force must be larger. The advertising, the hall rent, and everything in general costs more. The help from the conference must therefore be measured according to the size of the city, the location or hall where the effort is to be conducted, and how much territory the effort is desired to cover—whether the whole city or but a section.
Additional Support From Church
After the full arrangements between conference and worker are completed, financial help can be solicited from another source--the church membership. After all, in the final analysis, the constituency is the conference. The rank and file are ready to support heartily any good cause. The greatest joy in any church is a baptismal service. I have long believed in a strong evangelistic program that would appeal to every member and would receive his financial support.
"In the last extremity, before this work shall close, thousands will be cheerfully laid upon the altar. Men and women will feel it a blessed privilege to share in the work of preparing souls to stand in the great day of God, and they will give hundreds as readily as dollars are given now."
"He has provided His people with a surplus of means, that when He calls for help, they may cheerfully respond."—"Counsels on Stewardship," pp. 40, 45.
I believe that our people are ready to support any program that will hasten the coming of the Lord. We as a people have undertaken a gigantic task. We must not fail as the climax is being forecast by the unmistakable signs all around us.
For the first few years after 1844, our leaders gave themselves to the task of learning the platform of the third angel's message. The second period was the development of organization. The third step was the building of institutions—academies, colleges, sanitariums, and publishing houses. Today we know the message ; we have the organization; and we have established educational, medical, and publishing centers. One more task must be accomplished—the last and final step. It is the supreme effort to give the last warning message to all nations. Once again the clarion call must be sounded throughout all Israel for financial support—the call for evangelism. It is a call for surplus means, a call for an additional sum besides the tithe, to warn the world of the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us make our appeal not only to those in the region where a local effort might be held, but to the whole constituency, for the support of the greatest evangelistic program ever carried on by any people in the history of the world.
Public Collections and Special Donations
Every audience in every effort should be made to feel that the effort needs its financial assistance. It might be profitable for the collections to carry a certain expense item necessary to the effort, such as the expense of advertising, the rent of the hall, or the like. Some smaller efforts can be made entirely self-supporting. Our appeals should always be made in harmony with the dignity.and solemnity of the message and our high calling. Let us not cheapen our ministry by crude attempts to extract coppers or quarters from tightfisted misers.
Finally, is economy necessary? My counsel is : though you be a billionaire, spend your money as if you were a servant. Let us remember that "in the books of heaven, an account of every business transaction is kept." The Lord holds us responsible "to look after all the larger and smaller matters, that nothing be wasted or damaged through neglect. A little squandered here and there amounts to a large sum in the course of a year. Some have never learned to exercise their faculties to save the remnants, notwithstanding the injunction of Christ, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.' . . . Attention should be given to saving even so trifling a matter as wastepaper, for it can be turned into money."—"Testimonies," Vol. IV, p. 451. If we do this, the meal in the barrel and the oil in the cruse shall never cease.
No one is watched more closely by the laymen than a conference worker. They readily observe whether the worker overadvertises himself and whether he displays himself or makes the message the center of attraction. Extravagant display and careless spending of money have brought discouragement and have caused donations from the laity to cease flowing. In humility, sincerity, and meekness we must proclaim the message of Christ's coming.