Archives For Stewardship

PA-33C-3

By Eric Reed

Roger Marshall, pastor of First Baptist Church of Effingham, said at a recent IBSA meeting, “People used to say, ‘We can do more for the Cooperative Program.’ Now they ask, ‘Why do we support the Cooperative Program?’”

He’s right. No longer can we assume that people appreciate the Cooperative Program, or understand it, or even know what it is. So when we ask our church to make sacrifices for the sake of missions, many aren’t sure what we’re talking about.

It’s time to teach the basics again.

Have you considered how often bring the Cooperative Program before your congregation? When speaking about vision, Rick Warren used to say he had to restate the vision at Saddleback every 30 days. If reaching the world with the gospel is part of our vision, then the same applies to Cooperative Program. People need to know that their offering supports the most effective missions ministry in the world.

Consider these ways of sharing about CP:

  • Distribute the IBSA bulletin insert. Delivered six times a year, it’s provided free to IBSA churches. E-mail Communications@IBSA.org.
  • Include a short note in your church newsletter or on your website.
  • Tell an SBC or IBSA missions story in a sermon, and mention that your church supports that work through CP.
  • Hold a new members’ class. Keep it short. Include CP. (A 90-minute seminar is a popular format.)
  • Add a short CP fact as part of the offering time. Pray for a missionary or country by name, and mention the Cooperative Program.
  • Observe CP Sunday in April or October. Put in on the church calendar.
  • Hold a missions fair. Give CP a table or booth.

If we are to make new sacrifices for the sake of the gospel, pastor will lead the way. If we are to keep funds flowing to support missions, then we must educate our people about Cooperative Program. It’s the way we get things done.

Learn more at PioneeringSpirit.org

Thank you

ib2newseditor —  April 2, 2018

Cooperative ProgramRecently I attended a meeting of state Baptist executive directors, like myself, from across the country. The format of the meeting included several panel discussions on topics ranging from missions giving to working with local associations, and from disaster relief ministry to ways Baptist state conventions can help one another.

One of the panels was comprised of four experienced leaders, and they were asked the question, “What have you discovered that encourages generous missions giving from churches through the Cooperative Program?”

It was a question that certainly got my attention. While Cooperative Program giving is up in Illinois so far this year, last year it dipped below the $6 million mark for the first time since 1998. Many churches understand and appreciate Cooperative Program missions and ministries, and are giving sacrificially. But many are giving nominally, or at a rate lower than in the past. That affects missions and ministries not only in Illinois, but throughout America and around the world.

Your missions giving is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world.

By the way, if you want to know how strong your church’s CP missions giving is, simply divide the amount your church gave through the Cooperative Program last year by the number of church members. Across all IBSA churches, that average is about $50 per member. The top 100 CP missions giving churches in Illinois give at least $100 per member. My home church here in Springfield isn’t large, but it gave about $200 per member last year. This “per capita” giving is really the most accurate way to compare churches of all sizes.

Anyway, so when I heard the panel discussion question about CP missions giving, I sat up straight and poised myself to take notes on whatever my colleagues might say about this important need. The first to speak was one of the most experienced and respected of all the executive directors.

“The first and most important thing is this,” he began. “Whenever I am in a church, whenever our staff is in a church, in fact whenever I have an opportunity to speak or write to pastors or churches in any setting, I always start with thank you. Thank you for prioritizing the Cooperative Program in your missions giving.”

I didn’t bother writing anything down. “I can remember that,” I thought. “What else will he suggest?” But he kept talking about gratitude.

“We all need to remember that churches, like church members, have a lot of demands on their resources. There are lots of ways they could spend their church’s offerings at home. Whatever they choose to send beyond their church field to the mission field and ministries of our state, nation, and world, deserves our humble gratitude. I always focus on saying thank you.”

Then, one by one, each of the experienced panelists began their remarks by affirming this foundational principle. “I agree, the most important thing you can do is say thank you.” “Yes, we must always remember to say thank you.” “We can never take a church’s missions giving for granted.”

Whatever else my colleagues said that morning, I came away with this note in my head. “The next time you write to Illinois Baptists, say thank you for their giving to Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.”

So, thank you. Whatever your church is giving, it is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world, and it is deeply appreciated. In fact, I would love to come to your church and thank you personally, if you will invite me. Whether I deliver the morning message, or just share a brief word about Cooperative Program missions, you can be assured that my first words will be thank you.

Cooperative Program (CP) Sunday is April 8. Downloadable CP materials are available at IBSA.org/CP.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

The Briefing

Here’s where evangelicals are giving the most and least
Giving continues to rise for many categories of ministry, according to new research released today by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). An analysis of the finances of more than 1,800 of its accredited members found a 2.2% rise in cash contributions from 2015 to 2016. This group also saw a 3.6% rise in non-cash giving, which includes income such as government grants or real estate. That adds up to $16.2 billion of giving—$12.6 billion in cash and $3.6 billion in non-cash—to evangelical ministries in 2016.

It’s official: Evangelicals appreciate Chick-fil-A the most
You could say Chick-fil-A is one of those fast-food restaurants with a cult following. But in this case, the closed-on-Sunday chicken sandwich chain clearly has a church following. Evangelicals and fellow Christians have the most positive view of the Chick-fil-A brand, according to Morning Consult’s 2017 Community Impact Ratings. In breakout poll results provided to CT, 62 percent of evangelicals considered Chick-fil-A to have a positive impact on their community, compared to 48 percent of Americans on average.

Former fire chief Cochran’s rights aired in court
A federal court is weighing not only former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran’s right to express his beliefs but the right of others as well, religious liberty advocates say. A federal judge heard arguments Nov. 17 in Atlanta regarding the city’s 2015 firing of Cochran. The city terminated Cochran, now a staff member of a Southern Baptist church, after he wrote a men’s devotional book that advocated in a brief section the biblical view of marriage and sexuality, including that homosexual behavior is immoral.

Iraqi Archbishop pleads with Trump to save 20,000 Christians
The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, is urging President Donald Trump to help 20,000 Iraqi Christian families that have been driven out of their homes following attacks and dangers from Islamic extremists. Warda said in an interview that 20,000 Iraqi Christian families, or around 100,000 people, still need vital assistance following years of attacks by Islamic radicals and other conflicts.

Church of Sweden to stop using ‘he’ and ‘Lord’
The Church of Sweden has urged its clergy to use more gender-neutral language when referring to God and to avoid referring to the deity as “Lord” or “he”. The move is one of many made by the national Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in the process of updating a 31-year-old handbook, which outlines how services should be conducted in terms of language, hymns and other aspects.

Sources: Christianity Today (2), Baptist Press, The Christian Post, The Independent

Increased missions support is encouraging, but it’s just a beginning.

The new year brought encouraging news to the IBSA office: In 2015, churches gave more than $6.2 million through the Cooperative Program, which funds missions and ministry in Illinois, across the country, and around the globe.

That’s $93,914 more than in 2014, an increase of 1.53%.

“We certainly are grateful to each IBSA church that continues to prioritize missions and ministries beyond their church by giving through the Cooperative Program,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams, in response to the increase.

Founded in 1925, the Cooperative Program works when churches send a percentage of their tithes and offerings to their state convention, which then forwards a percentage—Illinois sends 43.25%—to support and train more than 4,000 international missionaries, plus 5,600 missionaries and chaplains in North America.

The remainder—56.25%—stays in Illinois to help get the gospel to eight million people who don’t know Christ, to strengthen nearly 1,000 existing churches, and to help start new congregations in neighborhoods with little to no evangelical presence.

Over the past several years, cooperative giving has been hampered by economic downturn. Adams noted that 2015 giving still fell behind 2012 and 2013 (and IBSA’s peak year of 2009).

“Throughout most of 2015, Cooperative Program giving in Illinois was running one to two percent behind 2014, so when giving surged in December and ended up higher than 2014, we were very encouraged,” he said. “I know a number of churches that have been struggling in various ways, and I hope this upturn in giving is an indication of greater church health and strength in 2016.”

The Southern Baptist Executive Committee shared its own good news in October, when they reported a 1.39% increase in nationwide CP giving over the previous fiscal year. The increase can be credited at least in part to the “1% CP Challenge” issued to churches by Executive Committee President Frank Page.

Last year, Baptist Press reported more than 4,400 churches have met or exceeded the challenge to increase their giving through CP by 1%. Page has said that if every SBC church accepted the challenge, CP giving would increase by $100 million.

Looking into 2016, Adams echoed the challenge. “I would join our national SBC partners in urging churches to embrace percentage giving from their annual budgets, and to consider a 1% increase in CP giving this next year.”

For Cooperative Program promotional resources, contact IBSA’s Church Communications Team at (217) 391-3127 or Communications@IBSA.org.

 

Editor’s note: After an often tearful year, the Christian’s counterattack is hope.  The enemy may use the events of last year to strike chords of fear, but in reporting them, we offer notes of hope for 2016. God is in control of this world, and whatever happens, this history being made before our eyes will turn people toward him. He is our hope.
This is our certainty as we anticipate the new year, our hope.

Missionaries-squareBy Meredith Flynn | The tone was set at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention: If we’re going to continue sending missionaries to people groups who haven’t heard the gospel, the missions paradigm has to change.

“Churches almost unknowingly begin to farm out missions to missions organizations,” International Mission Board President David Platt said during the missionary commissioning service that coincided with the Convention.

“But this is not how God designed it.”

Instead, said the leader of the world’s largest evangelical missions organization, local churches must play a greater role in sending missionaries to the ends of the earth, like the first-century church at Antioch did.

Two months later, Platt announced 600-800 missionaries and staff would end their service with the IMB through a voluntary retirement incentive and subsequent hand-raising opportunity. And the local church was still central to the conversation.

IMB released a list of ways churches can support returning missions personnel. Many, including Illinois pastor Doug Munton, publicly encouraged local congregations to consider hiring returning missionaries to fill vacant staff positions.

At their September meeting, the SBC Executive Committee adopting a resolution encouraging churches to give to the Cooperative Program—Southern Baptists’ main method of funding missions—“more than ever before” in light of the IMB cuts.

Since Platt was named president in 2014, he has prioritized the responsibility of local churches and everyday Christians to leverage what they have so that more people around the world might hear and respond to the gospel. And not just through monetary gifts.

“Even if our income from churches were to double over the next year…we would still have a cap on our ability to send a certain number of full-time, fully supported church planters,” Platt said when he announced the personnel plan in August. The solution: “Consider all of the different avenues that God created in His sovereign grace for multitudes more people to go.”

What it means for churches: Those avenues may find business people, college students and retirees in your church leaving their lives in the U.S. to take the gospel to people who have never heard it. Local congregations have an opportunity to expand the ways they think about missions, and encourage “regular” people in the pews to do the same.

How is tithing like football?The numbers may be surprising. A people who claim generous giving as a way of life, with the biblical standard of 10% as their benchmark, give only about 3% of their income to charitable causes, including their local church.

And of evangelicals, only

12% qualify as tithers, giving 10% or more of their income to their church (or other organizations), according to researcher George Barna.

So, what’s the disconnect? We talk about tithing. We teach tithing. But many believers don’t tithe. Why?

And here’s a better question: What’s at stake if we don’t give generously?

First and ten

The play is complete, the ball is down, but the purpose of the next play is unclear. If the football has been moved 10 yards, it’s a first down and the offense gets to start counting its march downfield from its new vantage point. If not, the play could be the last, for now. Ground gained could be lost.

So the chain gang comes in from the sidelines to measure the advance of the ball. Was it 10? Is the offense positioned to start another advance?

Similarly, in ministry, gospel advance is often determined by the resources available to move the mission forward. And month after month, we call in the chain gang to measure our progress financially.

Sometimes we pass the line.

Often we fall short.

At issue is how we teach people to give, and how we budget based on those expectations.

Many evangelicals have a firm commitment to tithing as a New Testament command. Tithing is commanded in the Old Testament. In fact, multiple tithes are collected from the Israelites to support the priests, the temple, and the poor.

It is the prophet Malachi who puts the sharpest point on the one-tenth rule: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!….By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts (Mal. 3:8-10, HCSB).

When Jesus speaks about giving 400 years after Malachi, the tenth is assumed (Matt. 23:23). But Jesus, criticizing the legalistic actions of the Pharisees, expresses concern about the heart in giving. And Paul prescribes giving that is compassionate, generous, systematic, and regular (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Some would argue that the tithe is still in place for New Testament believers, that it is still a command. Others contend that, free from Law, the tithe becomes a benchmark for believers who choose to give, and that the command is instead generosity.

Call it obedience

Former Illinois pastor Rick Ezell frames tithing as an act of obedience. “If you are tithing, you are being obedient to God’s instructions. But remember that tithing has always been the floor—the place to begin, not the ceiling—the place to end, of giving to God’s work.”

In a recent devotional for his South Carolina congregation, Ezell advised taking steps to correct faulty giving patterns. “If you are not tithing, perhaps it is because of poor money management. Many believers don’t tithe not because they don’t want to, but due to their current economic situation and spending habits. Maybe you need to spend some time examining your expenses and evaluating your priorities.”

“I am very direct about preaching and teaching on generous giving,” said Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon. He holds up the tithe as the standard. “I have tithed and beyond all of my life and this is extremely valuable to my spiritual life. I preach on the importance of a generous life.

“Generous giving (tithing and beyond) is one of our expectations of members of FBCO. And generous giving is one of the great joys of my life.”

For Bryan Price, pastor of Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville, the tithe offers clarity. “For me, the idea of tithing gives a better guideline for people, gives a benchmark,” Price said. “Focusing on giving (rather than tithing specifically), that benchmark was missing.”

Both Munton and Price preach regularly on giving. Munton leads an annual stewardship emphasis. And Price returned to a financial series after a two-year break when he was encouraged by church leaders to address the issue again.

“Having discussion with our elders, I asked our Sunday school to join me (in a stewardship emphasis). Price admits he feels some tension when preaching on giving. “You don’t want to come across trying to beat people over the head about money,” he said, but “we made a concerted effort, and it proved beneficial.”

Especially among younger people. “You would think people would be familiar with tithing, but we have younger people coming up and newly marrieds. They’re hearing these things for the first time really.”

And the results? “We have definitely seen an increase in giving in the past several months,” Price said.

The head of an organization called Generous Giving, Brian Kluth, says pastors can’t be shy about teaching on money. “We need to learn to be open-handed people in a tight-fisted world.” Kluth had considerable success as a pastor leading his Colorado congregation in giving. “Every time you give to the Lord, you are declaring who your source is, who your help is,” Kluth said.

In a recent blog post on tithing, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd warned against greed as the enemy of generosity: “Somehow we must grow in our faith enough to understand that when we do not give biblically by both tithing and practicing generosity, we are not walking in godliness.”

But, he admits, it will take support from the pews to overcome reticence to address money issues. “Lead the way laypeople, encouraging your pastor to preach on tithing and generosity. Encourage and defend him both privately and publicly,” Floyd wrote.

Floyd’s comments come as the SBC strains to rebound in Cooperative Program giving to missions, and to answer long-term questions about funding for SBC missions on all fronts. The potential for gospel advance would be almost unimaginable, if the biblical standards for generosity were heeded.

What if we all tithed?

Empty Tomb, Inc., a Champaign-based research firm, asked this question when average giving by church members was at its lowest point in their annual surveys (2.46% in 2008): What if all givers tithed? The researchers projected that if every church member in the U.S. gave 10% rather than the average 3%, the additional amount available for kingdom work would be $172-Billion.

Empty Tomb speculated, “If those members had specified that 60% of their increased giving were to be given to international missions, there would have been an additional $103-Billion available for the international work of the church. That would have left an additional $34-Billion for domestic missions, including poverty conditions in the U.S., and this all on top of our current church activities.”

Meanwhile, the ball moves ahead in fit and starts, while the measuring gang rattles the chains on the sidelines.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist where this article first appeared in the September 21 issue. Read the Illinois Baptist online now.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Nate_Adams_March23Recently a bivocational pastor shared with me a difficult decision he needed to make, whether or not to stay as pastor of the church he was serving. He had already accepted the reality that the small church could not afford both his insurance and a full-time wage, and that he needed employment outside the church to support his family. What seemed to have him questioning whether he could stay were recent remarks by a couple of his church members.

“We had to cancel Sunday services one week because of a snowstorm,” he explained, “and a couple of the members raised the question of whether or not they should still pay me that week, since I hadn’t actually preached.”

I could hear the hurt in his voice, and read the disappointment in his face. He was still a few years away from retirement, and had recently lost his job outside the church. At a time when being valued by the church was very important to him, a couple of unthinking church members had made him feel less valued than ever.

But the pastor went on to explain that, in his view, the problem probably ran deeper than a careless statement or two. “I really think some of them think that way. They aren’t giving generously to the Lord, or even to support me as their pastor. They feel they are merely purchasing a service from me, and that if that service is not delivered, the church shouldn’t have to pay.”

After a few minutes of talking it through, it seemed clear to me that the pastor was going to stick it out. He loved his congregation, and I suspect that even the ones who made the hurtful statements loved him. But he and I agreed that if he was going to feel appreciated, and perhaps even more importantly, if his people were to have their hearts matured and transformed into generous, godly givers, that he needed to provide some candid teaching, and loving but direct conversation, on tithing and giving.

I think one of the reasons I was able to understand this pastor’s hurt and encourage him to press on is that this same dynamic of consumerism can also affect our cooperative missions work as churches. Not often, but occasionally, I will hear someone ask, “Why should we give to that? What do they do for us?”

They could be referring to a mission offering, or the Cooperative Program, or the local association, or any ministry where the investment is largely in people that are doing ministry among and on behalf of the churches. If there’s not some direct, tangible benefit back to the church, the value is questioned. “If they aren’t here, helping us, maybe they don’t deserve our support.” If the sermon isn’t preached, the ongoing, continual ministry of the pastor isn’t valued.

The next Sunday after that conversation, a snowstorm hit here in Springfield. Several area churches cancelled services, but our church did not.

With that pastor’s pain still in the back of my mind, I got up early to clear the snow from our driveway, and make sure we could get to church. As we headed out the door, I asked my wife to make sure we had our offering envelope with us. I remembered in a fresh way that our tithe was the Lord’s, and that our church’s staff and ministries count on our support, whether we’re there benefitting from them or not.

I also remembered that the portion of my weekly offering that goes through the Cooperative Program supports thousands of missionaries and other ministries that operate literally around the clock and around the world. The Lord and they are at the heart of my giving, not the benefits I receive. And I’m grateful for each one of you that feels and gives from that heart too.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.