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Archives / 1958 / November

 

The Pastor and Church Finance

Erling E. Calkins

 

Among the unusual items of interest that attracted my attention during a recent ed­ucational sight-seeing tour of the Arts and In­dustries Museum in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., was a single link of a great wrought-iron chain. It was a little more than three feet long and about eighteen inches across, weighing several hundred pounds. The chain, supported by log rafts, had been stretched across the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War to blockade the British fleet. This it did quite effectively until a weak­ness in one link rendered the whole chain in­effective.

Among the links in the pastor's church pro­gram are worship services, welfare ministry, personal and public evangelism, young people's activities, Christian education, social and fel­lowship service, counseling, visitation, and fi­nancial administration. The church program is no stronger than the weakest link. Unfortu­nately, finance is quite often the weak link.

All too often the financial administration of the church is divorced from its spiritual serv­ices. Some seem to think of financial objectives as being of a "worldly" nature, or at best a necessary evil connected with the promotion of spiritual objectives in the church. As workers in God's cause we are happy to get our pay check and use the money for glutenburger and shoes, and Chevrolets, but when it comes to supporting the cause of God, it becomes "filthy lucre" and should not be mentioned in the same sermon with the love of God or the atone­ment of Jesus Christ.

We hesitate sometimes to make calls for money in a more positive way because of an unfortunate attitude that has crept into Protes­tantism (and possibly into a fringe of our own Seventh-day Adventist membership) that "churches are just after our money. It's give, give, give, all the time."

Such an attitude is reflected in the story that is told of a children's Sunday school class that was studying the twenty-third psalm. The teacher asked, "What does the shepherd do for the sheep?" expecting, of course, the answer that he leads them beside the still waters. However, one bright lad spoke up, "He shears them." I

Are church people generally giving "till it hurts"? Robert Cashman, in his book on church finance, says, "It is not what people contribute to the church that hurts, but rather what they spend on so many other items."'

Let us see how good a job of "shearing" the churches are doing. According to Mr. Cash­man, the American public spend ten times as much for gambling as for all religious purposes combined. They spend eight times as much for liquor and six times as much for tobacco as for the work of the churches. They even spend five times more for chewing gum than the total appropriations for missionary work.'

A recent United Press dispatch reveals that the churches are receiving from the most pros­perous nation on earth only about "1.11 per cent of their total income 'after taxes.' " It goes on to say, "If this country is experiencing a religious revival, it apparently hasn't reached the pocketbook level." The giving of Americans in 1930, during the great depression, while less in total dollars, was still 1.17 per cent of their total personal income—.06 per cent more gen­erous than during these prosperous years!'

The per capita giving of any church group should certainly be higher than the average of the nation, 40 per cent of whom belong to no church. It is a matter of record that Seventh-day Adventists have a higher per capita rate of giv­ing than any other people. Latest figures indi­cate that in 1955 this church contributed $67,­919,368, or an average of "nearly $200 each," whereas "the annual average per capita con­tribution for all U.S. denominations is $48.81."' Yet we must not sit back in contentment, for there is considerable room for improvement even among our own churches.

The blessings of giving are proportionate to two factors: (1) the spirit, or motive, of the giver, and (2) the proportionate amount of the gift to the giver's resources. Are we not denying our church members a great blessing by our neglect of instruction on the privileges of stewardship—and are we not denying the cause of God great blessings by the lack of means, of which, we are instructed, there would be a "sufficient supply" if "all, both rich and poor," were faithful in tithes and offerings.

Financial Administration—A Spiritual Service

A minister was overheard to say, "I do not concern myself with financial matters of the church. I am here to preach the gospel." What an unfortunate attitude for any minister to have, much less a Seventh-day Adventist! While the minister is not expected to attend to every detail of church finance, yet the fact remains that money—the right and wrong use of it—is vitally connected with the gospel.

Jesus certainly thought that the use of money is part of the gospel. From the Sermon on the Mount to His denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees, from His conversation with the rich young ruler to His observation on the poor widow's generosity, there runs the theme, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." The apostle Paul and all the disciples emphasized this fact. "Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own." 8 Money is only a convenient repre­sentation of time, talents, and hard work. Those who consecrate "all" to God must be taught how to use their money to His glory.

Some Pertinent Questions

How may the financial objectives set before our church members by ourselves and others be met? This larger question divides itself into a number of related questions:

1. How may a greater number of church members be induced to return to God a faith­ful tithe? While many do, there are others who pay only a token tithe and a few who pay none at all.

2. How can men and women be stimulated to greater liberality in behalf of foreign missions? This might include appeals to non-Adventists as well as to church members.

3. How may sufficient funds be provided to maintain local missionary and church work, such as church expense, Sabbath school expense, home missions, Dorcas welfare work, Missionary Volunteer activities, poor fund, flower fund, and dozens of other charities?

4. How may the increasingly heavy demands for Christian education, both for operation and for adequate facilities, be met?

Some Pertinent Questions

How may the financial objectives set before our church members by ourselves and others be met? This larger question divides itself into a number of related questions:

5. How may a greater number of church members be induced to return to God a faith­ful tithe? While many do, there are others who pay only a token tithe and a few who pay none at all.

6. How can men and women be stimulated to greater liberality in behalf of foreign missions? This might include appeals to non-Adventists as well as to church members.

7. How may sufficient funds be provided to maintain local missionary and church work, such as church expense, Sabbath school expense, home missions, Dorcas welfare work, Missionary Volunteer activities, poor fund, flower fund, and dozens of other charities?

8. How may the increasingly heavy demands for Christian education, both for operation and for adequate facilities, be met?

Love is to be the mainspring of every action. It is the constraint of Christian liberality. The messenger of the Lord states that "grateful love" is the motivating spring of genuine be­nevolence:

True Christian benevolence springs from the principle of grateful love. Love to Christ cannot exist without corresponding love to those whom He came into the world to redeem. Love to Christ must be the ruling principle of the being, control­ling all the emotions and directing all the energies. Redeeming love should awaken all the tender af­fection and self-sacrificing devotion that can possi­bly exist in the heart of man.12

Another has written of the motivation of love in relationship to the Christian life in these words:

When love of God and love of one's fellow men permeate a life, then it is that stewardship comes into its greatest fruition. Sharing becomes a pleas­ure and giving takes its rightful place as an act of worship alongside Bible reading and prayer, as an essential to one's growing religious experience. 13

All that man does in a religious or a spirit­ual way, he does because he believes in God. There could be no church, no worship, no service, apart from this faith. As Richard D. Ownbey says, "The question 'What does it mean to be a Christian Steward?' is only an­other way of saying, 'What does it mean to be a Christian?' "14 But a man is not a Christian because he goes to church and worships God and gives a portion of his time, talents, and means to the work of God. These outward acts are the result of an inward conviction. They follow a mental and spiritual dedication to God.

 


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1 Lewis Sperry Chaffer, Spirit-directed Giving (tract), p. 1.

2 Robert Cashman, The Finances of a Church, p. 20.

3 Ibid., pp. 20, 21.

4 Hollywood Citizen-News, Aug. 4, 1956.

5 "Peace With the Adventists," Time, Dec. 31, 1956.

6 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 475.

7 Matt. 6:21.

8 Acts 4:32.

9 Counsels on Stewardship, p. 72.

10 Boyd M. McKeown, Achieving Results in Church Finance, pp. 45, 46.

 

11 Sermon preached in the Women's Club, Rockford, Ill., November, 1944.

12 Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 396.

13 McKeown, op. cit., p. 20.

14 A Christian and His Money, p. 7.

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