I was thrilled by an editorial that appeared in the MINISTRY, November, 1963, titled "Ingathering—Methods and Motives," and I felt I must express my appreciation and state that as a layman I am in complete agreement with the concept of the editor in the matter of handling all financial programs for the church. I believe the short article that followed this editorial, telling about the success of one of our pastors in some of our large churches over a period of years, and who follows this concept, is additional evidence that God blesses those who serve Him from the "love motive"—love for God and love for man for whom Christ died—not the "self-love" motive.
When I retired after almost thirty-seven years of service with the Government, we took as our aim: "To be what God would have us be, to be where God would have us be, doing what God would have us do, in His way, not our own." Since that time life has been one miraculous experience after another. To God be all the glory, for it is not by might nor by power, but by God's Holy Spirit that His work is to be accomplished. Our own experience in the matter of stewardship and the handling of our church program has, we believe in all sincerity, proved that the Lord means what He says in the matter of pouring out His blessings upon those who are faithful stewards as they walk the Christian way.
In August of 1959 we moved to Batesville, Arkansas, and having a desire to settle down in one place, and asking the Lord to show us His will in the matter, we decided to offer to buy land where we could build a church. However, if the individual from whom we attempted to buy should offer to give us the land we needed, we would take it as an indication of the leading of the Lord. We had less than $50 and no pledges. A lady, not an Adventist, whom we had never before met, would not sell to us, but she said she would give us about two acres of land on the Little Rock highway about four miles south of Batesville in the Southside community—the fastest growing community in the Batesville area. We accepted the offer, of course, now assured of the Lord's leading, and in January, 1960, a company of six members was organized.
Windows of Heaven Opened
An article in the local paper explained what we were attempting to do and told of our plans for a welfare program. We had shown temperance and other educational films and given temperance lectures in churches, schools, and community buildings throughout the Batesville area. These appointments had been given good coverage in the local paper. The response was amazing. Adventist friends and others across the country wanted to have a part in our work, and money came from several States. Many local business houses contributed cash and material and sold us materials at reduced prices. Many non-Adventist neighbors donated labor. Prayers went up for help and never was it necessary to stop work because of a lack of money.
During all this time the business of raising money and building was not made a matter of discussion from the pulpit. Other than a mere mention of our program and the wonderful blessings of the Lord, our business matters were dealt with on days other than the Sabbath. Our members gave what they could and found joy and blessing in sacrificing. God richly blessed our work and soon we were organized into a church with thirteen charter members. In January, 1964, our conference president, I. M. Evans (since retired), and P. I. Nosworthy, treasurer, dedicated our building, estimated to be worth $20,999, free of debt and with a membership of thirty.
Worship Hour Saved
When church finances must be discussed, a business meeting is planned and a brief announcement concerning time and place is made on the Sabbath. Any promotional material is distributed a week in advance to allow time for study so that the members can be prepared before the Sabbath to give their offerings at the proper time. Such announcements and distributions are taken care of before the eleven o'clock hour. Thus it is not necessary to take time from the worship service for these necessary and worthy causes. Only rarely is an announcement made from the pulpit. This, we feel, helps to create a sense of reverence and to prepare our hearts for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the effective reception of the preached Word.
We have had four district pastors since we have been in Batesville. We have always counseled with them as well as our conference officials, and they have all encouraged us. We believe the Lord is just as displeased in our day when we make His house of prayer a house of merchandise as He was when He cleansed the Temple while He was here on earth. We tell our people that we will never pressure them or beg them for money for the Lord's work. We do occasionally bring sermons on stewardship, but we endeavor to show that stewardship includes our Christian activities and services as well as our tithes and offerings.
If we tithe or make contributions to the Lord's work merely from the standpoint of duty or to be seen and commended by others, it will bring no credit to us in the books of heaven. Paul makes it very clear that we can go to the extent of giving all we have to the poor, even to the giving of our bodies to be burned, but if our actions are not motivated by love they are unavailing in God's sight.
To the Exact Dollar
In the summer and autumn of 1962 we were able to have the Voice of Prophecy evangelistic programs on the local radio station daily for six months. At first this seemed to be a formidable undertaking for such a small group with such limited income, but there was much interest and lots of praying. After finding out the cost of running the daily program for the six-month period I presented the plan to the church. Slips of paper were passed out. These slips simply said that the individuals signing would undertake, with God's help, to pay a certain amount each week or month. This took about five minutes, and when the slips were totaled we had the required amount needed—to the exact dollar—and not one person failed to meet his commitment. This accomplishment required much sacrifice on the part of these members. With the exception of a few months, we have had but one male wage earner in our membership. Sometimes I have felt a prompting to suggest to some that they were attempting to put too much into the church program, but God forbid that I should ever do this and cheat any one out of the blessings of a faithful partnership with his Maker.
Ingathering, programs are not always met enthusiastically by every church member but we have found that many of our members enjoy it. In the annual Ingathering program we tell our members of the church goal and remind them that this is based on a goal of $25 for each member. No individual records are kept. No competitive goal devices are used. We have a chart on the wall in the hall where the church goal is shown, as well as a thermometer which indicates the weekly progress of the church toward the goal, and the percentage of membership participation. We stress that all the programs of the church are designed for the purpose of making contacts, winning souls, and hastening the finishing of God's work on earth so the Lord can come for His people. We have good membership participation each year, and have not failed once in reaching our church goal. In fact, we have gone over almost every year.
I believe many of our pastors and lay members are ready to move into this service-of-love experience in preparation for the finishing of the work in all the earth. This is the experience we all must have, and the experience God is calling us into. The psalmist David tells us: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Ps. 110:3). Speaking, as we believe, of our day, the prophet Isaiah says: "The wealth [margin] of the Gentiles shall come unto thee" (Isa. 60:5).