President's Page

The author, who recently invited church members to speak out, shares responses from his survey.

Robert H. Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

 

"Have you ever considered the possibility of abolishing the salaried clergy?" I gasped when I read this question in response to a survey I had made in the Adventist Review of February 9, 1978. "Fewer conference officials," one respondent urged, and then added another breath-taker: "Maybe we should even abolish union conferences and use the money saved to send more missionaries or to enable the conference officials to do evangelistic work." But listen to this one: "I believe some of the Washington 'bureaucrats' would be more effective relieving some of the three-church pas tors in our conference."

If my Review poll enlightens me at all, it tells me that we, as denominational workers, need to take some second looks at the way we are spending the Lord's money. Our people are not blind. They know what the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy have to say about our accountability and our stewardship in the way we use the funds that are en trusted to us.

"It is very discouraging," one respondent writes, "when we need local workers so badly, to see so many in offices, so many workers traveling to so many meetings, and such fancy church and office buildings being constructed at a time when the mission fields are languishing for want of funds to preach the gospel."

"I don't believe our dormitories need bathrooms between each pair of rooms," another writer opines Robert H. Pierson is president of the
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.and actually, do they? Some of our dormitories built in recent years don't lack very many facilities, you must admit!

"Our pastors are moved too frequently at a high cost and loss of souls," one member observes, probably rightly. We do move our workers rather rapidly sometimes. On occasions early moves are a must—but would not the work move forward more effectively if workers normally stayed in one place longer and truly benefited from the knowledge and experience gained in each place?

Workers traveling too much bothered many respondents. "Conference workers (and I am sure the writer would include union and General Conference workers also) travel too much," was an oft-expressed concern by members who are aware of the many needs at home and abroad. "The traveling I would like to see stopped," one writer declared, "is the group tours sponsored by church-related units. They often go off to the Holy Land or some other distant place."

"Too much material of all sorts is being printed and circulated," was an other oft-repeated concern. Our depart mental directors, fine leaders that they are, would profit greatly by checking the blizzard of paper work that goes out from their offices. Some pastors groan over the bulletins and the mimeographed letters they receive.

"Too many conventions, workshops, and other big meetings," was a very common lament. These frequent meetings not only cost a staggering amount of money each year, but they take workers out of the field so much of the time there is scarcely opportunity for them to do their work and put into practice the overabundance of good things they have learned at the meetings.

Denominational building practices came in for frequent criticism. "Air-conditioned cabins, wall-to-wall carpets, laminated ceilings, and large quantities of playground equipment (at youth camps) exist for less than 100 days of use each year, while some churches don't have a decent place to worship in," moans one writer. Others questioned the large outlays for pipe organs, equipment, furnishings, and what they consider to be extravagant use of God's money. Too-elaborate church buildings, office buildings, school and health-care buildings come in for their share of concern.

As workers, leaders in God's cause, we need to listen to what our members are saying. They have a right to raise these questions. To a large extent they are paying the bill. They are not out of order in requiring an account of our stewardship. All of us—in the General Conference, unions, local conferences, institutions, local churches—do well to assess carefully how we are using the Lord's money. Someday soon we will have to give an account to our Master. "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:12).

God's servant says, "In all our advance work we must regard the necessity of economy. There must be no needless expense. The Lord is soon to come. . . . Our work in all its departments should be an illustration, not of display and extravagance, but of sanctified judgment." —Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 92, 93. "All things belong to God. Men may ignore His claims. While He bountifully bestows His blessings upon them, they may use His gifts for their own selfish gratification; but they will be called to give an account for their steward ship." —Ibid., vol. 9, p. 246.

Christ Himself has set us the example of simplicity. "In the establishment and carrying forward of the work, the strictest economy is ever to be shown. ... In no case is money to be invested for display. The . . . work is to be carried forward in simplicity, as was the work of the Majesty of heaven." —Counsels on Health, p. 319.


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Robert H. Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

October 1978

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