As I sit here at the keyboard, it's hard to believe that May is nearly here. Where did the first four months of 2014 go?!? It's been that long since I last wrote anything for this column. In the past eight months, I've had the privilege of working on five different Maranatha projects on three different continents. Also, God provided a wonderful answer to my prayers when He brought Renae into my life. She has become the new light of my life, and we plan to marry on July 13, 2014. God truly is great, all the time!
Now, back to the purpose of this column. Recently I was asked to clarify what/how school subsidy and student aid are determined, and where the Lambs' offerings go. We'll look at them separately.School Subsidy: This is a "fee" so to speak which is generated by MACS and which all of the constituent churches pay. Those sponsoring churches are McMinnville SDA Church, McMinnville Spanish SDA Church, Rivers Edge SDA Church, Hopewell SDA Church, and Newberg SDA Church. The fee is based on several factors: membership (as recorded at Oregon Conference Office), amount of tithes returned, and number of students from our church. Because part of the formula includes our membership, it is to our advantage to have an accurate tabulation of actual members on record at the Conference Office. Our Church Clerk, Muriel Zaugg has been working closely with Pastor Joubert and the Board of Elders to "clean up the roster" so to speak, transferring names to current churches, and removing names if the former member requests that. Our official membership now stands at about 340 members.
Currently our School Subsidy is $3,621/month, which is about 36.4% of the monthly budget. Generally there are no direct donations to School Subsidy, but there could be. When there are no direct donations, the Church Budget that pays the Subsidy. When the News & Notes from the McMinnville Seventh-day Adventist Church full amount of the monthly Church Budget ($9,945) has been received, the full amount of the Subsidy can be supported from that budget. Conversely, when the budget is under-supported, the full Subsidy is still paid, but the un-donated portion comes out of the reserves. (This is how all the accounts are paid each month.) You may be tempted to say, "Thank God for the reserves," and we are thankful for them. The problem is this: when the Church Budget is consistently under-funded and reserves are consistently tapped, eventually the reserves are exhausted. When reserves are exhausted, the remaining options are unpleasant: you either close the doors, or you drastically cut all expenditures across the board. That could mean each of us buys our own Sabbath School quarterly; we volunteer to vacuum and clean the church; we volunteer to answer the telephone; you get the picture. Greater participation and involvement must begin NOW to prevent the erosion of our reserves. Every family attending our church has an obligation to help support the on-going expenses of our church. No one should expect a free ride.Student Aid is an account to which we may make direct contributions and which also receives funds through the Church Budget. Currently the Student Aid is $1,500, or 15.1% of the $9,945 monthly budget. The education of our children is one investment which consistently has a high rate of return in terms of producing adults who contribute to the welfare of our church, our community, and our nation.
The Lambs' Offering helps defray the Student Subsidy. The Lambs' Offering is well supported, likely because we enjoy giving to our young children as they come by with outstretched hands. Perhaps it is they who should come around and collect all our offerings!
How can we justify any stinginess with God? What if Jesus had been unwilling to give everything for our salvation? Brothers and Sisters, we need to prayerfully return the Lord's tithes and faithfully give to ALL aspects of the church's work. Will you partner with God, claiming His promise: "...try Me now in this, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it"? And the promise continues, "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes..." Malachi 3:10, 11. Allow the Lord to be the Senior Partner in all aspects of your life. "Dear God, please be the Senior Partner in my life today and every day. Thank You; amen.".
As I begin this month's column, I'm sitting in a semi-darkened room. It's Sunday evening at 8:40, and the sun has already set in the Idaho pan-handle. I, with about 45-50 other Maranatha volunteers, am here at Plummer, Idaho to erect a church building on an already-poured concrete slab. Bundles of plastic-wrapped lumber await our beck and call in the morning. Plastic plumbing, some black, some opaque, stand sentinel-like at their posts awaiting some distant order. Tonight, there is no laughter, no cheerful children's voices, no hymns being sung, no preaching from the pulpit, but this church already has life. There is a pulse, a heartbeat, a throb of desire to have one's own house of worship.
The miracle of this SDA church began several months ago. Its story is too long to tell here, but as I have opportunity in the future, I will share it with you. For now, I will just say that after listening to the testimonies of several local church members, the fact that Maranatha is here and there is lumber waiting testifies to the fact that miracles abound and have been occurring for the past several months. The lumber arrived on-site just two days ago; didn't News & Notes from the McMinnville Seventh-day Adventist Church know where the money was coming from to pay for it. Concrete footings and slab were poured; not certain when the money would show up to pay for that. But, here and there, a check would arrive for a particular project or purchase, or a source would open up for a hard-to-find piece of hardware, or heavy equipment was donated for use at no charge. This church has been and continues to be a GOD THING. There's too much evidence to prove otherwise.
So, you may be asking, what does that have to do with us here in McMinnville? Just this: the SDA church in Plummer, Idaho is expecting to grow. Based on the seating capacity of the new church (80-100 if my memory serves me well), there is room to grow to three times its current membership of around 35. The question to ask ourselves is, Are we of the McMinnville SDA Church expecting to grow? What are we doing, and where are we going with our church? What are we as individuals doing to grow our church, to expand God's kingdom on earth? We seem to be sitting on our hands and just watching the world go by. Where is our action? Hopefully, in the Sunday evening "family council" meetings Pastor Joubert started in August, we will form plans for the future of our church, determine our mission, and figure out how to accomplish it.
If monetary contributions are any indication of our commitment to spiritual values, we are missing the boat. Support for our Church Budget for July was half of what is needed, half of what we as a congregation in a business meeting committed to support. We need to rise to the occasion and meet the need. Just so you know I'm "walking the talk," since June I've increased my donations to Church Budget by 33%, to $400.00 per month. What's needed now is for ALL of us to tighten our collective belts and meet the needs of our Budget.
Sisters and brothers, it is my opinion that we are not being the stewards we should be. We have a beautiful sanctuary here on a lovely property surrounded by tall, green trees and well-manicured lawns. Compared to the new structure in Plummer, Idaho, we have a wonderful retreat.
Read this: "A steward identifies himself with his master. He accepts the responsibilities of a steward, and he must act in his master's stead, doing as his master would do were he presiding. His master's interests become his. The position of a steward is one of dignity, because his master trusts him..." Counsels on Stewardship, p. 113
We have a right to be proud of the property we have here. As you know, money is required to maintain church property in a way that it brings glory to God. In the near future, we're looking at a plumbing repair situation that could run $25,000-30,000 for restoration. We need to fix our plumbing and we will have to come up with the funds to pay for it. Let's step up to the plate, putting God first in all of our dealings.
Gracious Father, thank you for our church family and this beautiful church in which we worship You. Thank you for faithful members who support Your work. Encourage those who are not yet convinced of the value and the blessing of supporting the Church Budget. In Jesus' name, amen.
In the last issue of Reach Out, we left you with a table that outlined the monthly church budget allocations. The question that begs to be asked is, "What happens to accounts that have a negative balance? For instance, if the Utility account is always in the red, does that mean some part of Utilities doesn't get paid?" The answer is, "No, all the lights, telephone, and everything else such as copier lease and maintenance, gas for the buses, wages, insurance, etc. all get paid, in full. If the monthly allocation is less than what is budgeted, that account just goes further into the red."
It is an accounting process. At the end of the fiscal year, funds are transferred from Reserves and applied to the accounts that are in the red; they are "zeroed out." That allows the new fiscal year to begin with all accounts in the black. It also means that Reserves are reduced. If insufficient funds continue to be donated, eventually Reserves will be depleted, leaving us with no cushion. We really don't want that. So, what do we do?
We have some options. One is to do nothing, and eventually we will run out of our cushion. When that happens, we will need to donate enough every month to pay the lights, the phone, insurance, etc. or they will be shut off or discontinued. Try to imagine the emotional strain that would put on us all. Without the cushion you HAVE to pay the bills. You can't let it slide to the end of the year and expect to cover it with Reserves, because you have none! You either pay up or close the church.
Personally, I don't think we are going to do nothing. This Seventh-day Adventist movement is not a "do nothing" people. Since our inception, this church has been a people on the move. As the Holy Spirit moved upon hearts and minds to begin in a new field, or set up and build up the healthcare message, or move into foreign fields, whatever it has been, this church have been motivated to fully support God's work. Therefore, I see us responding to option #2: Increase the depth of our support. What do I mean by "depth"? Only this. It would certainly be better if there were more donors who faithfully contributed offerings to Church Budget, School Subsidy, etc. But, if everyone who returned Tithes would include the suggested 4-7% for Local Church Budget, we could easily cover the monthly allocations. There are many in our church family who return tithes, but do not include anything to help pay for on-going expenses. I'm sure you can recall reading or hearing the experience of the children of Israel whose offerings averaged 30-35% of their income. As long as they were faithful to God, they prospered. So, for those who want to begin, here's an example for $100.00 in increase:
"All, both high and low, have been trusted by the Master with talents; some more, and some less.... The blessing of God will rest upon the earnest, loving, diligent workers. Their investment will be successful, and will secure souls to the kingdom of God, and for themselves an immortal treasure. All are moral agents, and are entrusted with goods of heaven. The amount of talents is proportioned according to the capabilities possessed by each." Counsels on Stewardship, pg. 118, 119. What I get from that is my offerings do at least two things: 1) They "secure souls to the kingdom of God;" and 2) We obtain "an immortal treasure," that is, treasure in heaven (salvation). In other counsel, we are told that a habit of contributing to God's work is a barrier to covetousness and selfishness. I believe we all want our church building, its facilities, its grounds, its bills, etc. to be taken care of in a way that is pleasing to God and shows we are good stewards of His blessings. My prayer for you who are not supporting this part of His work is this: "Dear Benevolent Father, Thank You for providing the ways and means for us to build this beautiful church. Thank You for those who faithfully support the up-keep of this building. Speak to those who don't support the monthly expenses and help them to see the value and eternal benefit of that part of worship. Calm and reassure their uncertainty, and I ask this in Jesus' Name. Amen."
If you wish to comment, or have suggestions for a topic, e-mail to jvickroyRN@wildblue.net.
Before I get into this month's topic, let me first say, I understand difficult financial circumstances. Not until I completed nurse's training did my family finally have a good financial base. But that was 20 years after Paula and I had been married, and all of those 20 years were years of working on the lowest rung of the ladder, and moving frequently to find new and better jobs (again, on the low rung). We struggled with not having enough to pay the rent, buy food and gas, take care of three children, AND return tithes and offerings. During that time, I'll admit there were too many months when my faith was not sufficient for me to allow God to work in my life. I was fearful that somehow God wouldn't open the windows of heaven and bless our efforts. Therefore we got behind in returning tithes. Upon entering the nursing workforce, we committed to catching up on all unpaid tithe, which, by God's blessing, we did. Since that time, we have always rounded up our tithes to the next $5.00, just in case. And as God blessed our income, He has enabled us to expand our offerings. I thank Him every day for the blessings received. Also, I thank you, everyone who returns tithes, and who gives to our ever-beneficent Provider, the fruits of your lives in the form of freewill offerings. Faithful donors are an inspiration to all. Our church would not function without your faithful and generous contributions.
We've been focusing on the importance of returning an honest tithe and adding to it our freewill offerings. In this column, we think it prudent to let you know how the church budget works, and which accounts the budget funds each month. Following is a picture of our monthly budget, and what is needed by dollar amount and by percentage each month. The last column shows the shortage for April based upon the total received contributions of $6120.42 to the budget.
As you can see, we were short $2233.58 for April.
There may be some who don't understand how the budget works when we say these other accounts "are funded by the church budget." It means that these other accounts receive a specific percentage of the money earmarked for church budget. In this fiscal year, our monthly church budget goal is $8,354. That means we must receive $8,354/month in offerings for church budget in order to fully pay all the other accounts. When less than $8,354/mo is received, the allocations to the other accounts are paid based upon their percentage of the church budget. All accounts receive money each month; how much they receive depends on how fully the budget is funded.
Since the beginning of our fiscal year last October, we have had an average shortfall of $1628/mo. If you do the math, you will see that, to date, the church budget is underfunded by $11,394. The projected shortfall for the entire fiscal year will be around $17,900. So, you may ask, where do we find the funds to zero out these accounts at the close of our fiscal year in August? That is a very good question.
Friends, are you wondering if God will see you through difficult times, especially when your desire is to do His will? I assure you, based on my own experience, God will bless your best efforts to comply with His precepts. He will honor your faithfulness in returning tithes and freewill offerings. Here is my prayer for you: "Father in heaven, just now I'm lifting up to You my friends who want to do what their hearts are telling them on one hand, but on the other hand, can't quite see how they can make it through the month. You know they want to obey, and yet their faith may be a little young or weak. Lord, please be compassionate with them, and generously bless their obedience. Thank-you for hearing and answering our prayers, for we ask all of this in Jesus' name. Amen."
"The man who has been unfortunate, and finds himself in debt, should not take the Lord's portion to cancel his debts to his fellow men. He should consider that in these transactions he is being tested, and that in reserving the Lord's portion for his own use he is robbing the Giver. He is debtor to God for all that he has, but he becomes a double debtor when he uses the Lord's reserved fund in paying debts to human beings." 6T 390
Some may ask, "What about tithe I've kept back and I used it to buy gas and food and other necessities of life? Sometimes I just don't have enough to go around and still pay my tithe and give offerings. What do I do?!"
I believe this is where we need to act on faith, believing that God is able to stand behind His word when He promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings to us. This is what I propose:
Paula and I were blessed by the fact that her grandparents were generous with their grandchildren when it came to giving monetary gifts. Their philosophy was they wanted to enjoy seeing their family blessed through their generosity, so they frequently gave money for those special occasions. Whenever we'd visit from out of town, Paula's granddad would press a $50 bill into my hand, saying, "In case you have a flat tire...." Their generosity made a huge impact on my life, and I vowed to emulate that as I was enabled by the Lord. From the beginning, my gifts and the impact of my ministry didn't seem very large, but over the years, God continued to give me opportunities to share that with which He has blessed me. It's difficult to explain how all that happens, but I see it as the means through which God is able to bless me. In other words, being generous with my finances, or with any other gift for that matter, with which God has blessed me, opens up the way for God to bless. The giving, or the sharing, of the received gifts opens the door through which God is able to pour in more blessings. It seems the more I share, the more I have with which to share, and I have more venues in which to share it. It's that way with God's blessings. He's looking for opportunities to bless us, and He's invited us to ask for blessings; in fact, He wants us to ask for LARGE blessings. Read this in Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."
You may be asking right now, "Just how are God's blessings and my giving related?" Listen to this from Spirit of Prophecy, "All the good that man enjoys comes because of the mercy of God. He is the great and bountiful Giver. His love is manifest to all in the abundant provision made for man.... And it is not because He needs anything that He asks us to reserve a part of our possessions for Him.... Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve were not to eat. This tree God reserved as a constant reminder of His ownership of all. Thus He gave them opportunity to demonstrate their faith and trust in Him by their perfect obedience to His requirements.
"So it is with God's claims upon us. He places His treasures in the hands of men, but requires that one tenth shall be faithfully laid aside for His work. He requires this portion to be placed in His treasury. It is to be rendered to Him as His own; it is sacred and is to be used for sacred purposes.... And shall not our gratitude offerings flow into His treasury to be drawn therefrom to advance His kingdom in the earth? Since God is the owner of all our goods, shall not gratitude to Him prompt us to make freewill offerings and thank offerings, thus acknowledging His ownership of soul, body, spirit, and property? Had God's plan been followed, means would now be flowing into His treasury; and funds to enable ministers to enter new fields, and workers to unite with ministers in lifting up the standard of truth in the dark places of the earth, would be abundant." 6T 385
Friend, if you are finding it difficult to pay all your bills, buy food, etc. and then turn in your tithes and offerings, why not pray about adjusting your priorities? Put God first in your life and your budget. It may require a huge step of faith, but God is faithful and willing to do all He has promised to those who are faithful. "Dear Lord, There may be some reading this who can't pay all their bills and their tithes and offerings, and are wanting to put You first. I am asking that You bless their decision to first return tithes and offerings, and then bless the remainder of their funds to cover the rest of the month. Thank you for hearing our prayer, for we pray it in the name of Christ Jesus who is faithful. Amen."
We have learned that tithe is one-tenth of our increase (Genesis 28:22; Leviticus 27:32) whether of money, cattle, orchards, vineyards, etc. God instructed the Israelites to bring the tithes into the "storehouse" for the support of the Levites who ministered in and took care of the temple. They took food, olive oil, and other necessities from the temple's storehouse. The modern-day equivalent is that tithes pay for the salaries of the church's ministers and pastors.
When a tithe dollar is returned at the local church level, it passes through the church treasury and moves on up to the conference level. No part of the tithe is retained at the local level; all is sent forward to the conference. So when you see, for example, from the February 2013 Treasurer's Report that $26,421.60 was turned in as tithe, you may think the church's financial status is strong. Yet when you remember that none of the tithes are kept here, the financial status takes on a different look.
What is really important to our local church is the Combined Budget, which will be discussed later.
I want to make a very important point here regarding tithes. God expects everyone to live up to all the light that has been permitted to shine upon the hearts of those who love Him. That goes for returning tithes, also. When in ignorance we were not returning tithes, God wasn't holding us accountable for that ignorance. But now that we have knowledge, we are obligated to comply with His requirement to "bring all the tithes into the storehouse...." Mal 3:10.
Also from the Spirit of Prophecy, Testimonies Vol 5, pg. 481: "Let each church member feel that he himself must be right with God, that he must be sanctified through the truth. Then he can represent Christian character to others and can set an example of unselfishness. If each will do this, the church will increase in spirituality and in favor with God."
Did you get that? If you and I are right with God, if we are setting examples of unselfishness, our "church will increase in spirituality, and in favor with God." So, obviously the level of our spirituality is tied to the level of our unselfishness; the more unselfish we are, the greater spirituality (we) our church will possess. Is not this what we all want? Greater spirituality? Increased favor with God? And it's as easy as being unselfish with my talents, blessings, time, money, etc.
Listen to this: "Every church member should feel under obligation to consecrate his tithe to God. None are to follow the sight of their eyes or the inclination of their selfish hearts and thus rob God . . . for in doing so they entangle themselves in Satan's snares." ibid, pg. 481. Friend, in a little while we are going Home. Today, however, I want you to be sure everything is right between you and God. We have no guarantee of life in the next hour, the next day. Be ready, be ready, be ready for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man comes. God bless....
In the ancient Jewish economy, God designed that generosity on the part of His chosen people should rid them of covetousness and selfishness. His plan of tithes and freewill offerings supported the priesthood, provided food and shelter to the widows and the fatherless, and ensured that "the stranger" could "eat within your gates and be filled." Deut 26:12
The plan and its effect upon the participants is just as viable today as it was in yesteryear. Let's review God's Word. The first recorded instance of offering is in Genesis 3, where Cain and Abel bring their respective offerings to the Lord, and God's response to them.
Exodus 25:2 describes the attitude God desired in the hearts of those who contributed to the building of the wilderness sanctuary: "...from everyone who gives it willingly with his heart..." You see, God didn't want or desire any offering that was given grudgingly. It could bring no blessing to the giver whose heart was less than willing.
Willingness is the attitude God is seeking in every part of our relationship with Him. You may ask, "How do I become willing - willing to do for God whatever He asks? Willing to let God be in control of my finances?" Personally, I believe love for God drives our willingness. When you begin to love, whether a spouse, a friend, or a family member, your love enables, or awakens, a willingness to do the "whatever" for whom you love. That's the way God desires us to relate to our bringing tithes and offerings into His work.
Again, the question is raised (from here we'll deal with tithes), "Why does God ask for tithes?" Leviticus 27:30 says, "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's. It is holy to the Lord." Then, Numbers 18:21 tells us how the tithes were designated for use; "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting."
At this point, there may be some who are asking, "What is tithe?" Deut 14:22 states, "You shall tithe all the increase of your grain...", verse 23; "...tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, of the firstborn of your flocks and herds...." It was one-tenth of the increase of their income (Gen 28:22, Lev 27:32).
In the Israelite economy, agriculture was predominant, therefore tithe was primarily based on the increase of their agricultural possessions. That included any increase of flocks and herds as well as any increase from vineyards and orchards. However, if a man's increase was in his gold and silver, that also was subject to tithing.
So we have at least these two reasons for the tithes: It is "holy to the Lord," and it is for the support of the Levites in the work of the tabernacle, later in the temple. "Holy to the Lord" means it is not my money to spend. God calls it holy, and claims it to Himself.
Friend, if you are not yet returning tithes, and maybe praying that God will show you what to do, pray rather for a willingness to follow the plain command of God. God loves you and wants to be able to pour out upon you all the blessings of heaven. Take Him at His word; "Try Me now in this... if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out such blessings that you will not have room enough to receive it." Mal 3:10 God will bless you as you step out in faith to follow His word. Trust Him!
For a wider study of tithing, please see the following: Genesis 14:20 & 28:22; Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21-24; Deuteronomy 12:6 & 14:22-28; Nehemiah 10:37-38; Malachi 3:8-10.