Like many fellow pastors and leaders, I attended the last General Council. It's always fun and encouraging to go. God inevitably delivers something positive to work on. I love being a part of the C&MA, knowing that we have missions in approximately 80 countries worldwide makes me feel like I'm a part of something bigger than my local church.
From the beginning for us here at Good News Family Fellowship, we have always felt that we should model for our congregation whatever we asked them to do. We ask our people to consider that 10% of their gross income is a good place to start with their weekly giving to the Lord.
God Has Always Met Our Needs
Since our inception in 1998, with a congregation of approximately 20 people, we have always given 10% of our weekly offerings to the C&MA. In year 7 of our 17-year history here at Good News we were down to our last $700 in the church bank account and I announced that if things didn't improve that we would have to close the church. We never stopped giving our 10%. We never closed. That was 10 years ago. I don't get overly concerned about offerings too much anymore. God has always met our needs because we put Him first...even when we "couldn't afford it."
Giving to the Great Commission Fund
At first all 10% was given to our district. We did that for about 7 or 8 years. But one day, talking with Gerry Stayton at the District office, I was asked to consider only giving 5% to the District and the remaining 5% to the GCF (Great Commission Fund). It sounded like a good idea to me and so we tried it. It was gratifying to be able to share with my congregation that ALL of us who gave to the church were contributing to missions worldwide through the GCF. At the end each year I never even felt compelled to give to the end of the year GCF offering because we had been giving all year.
A Cold Slap in the Face
Well...if you attended the last General Council, like I did, if felt like a cold slap in the face to hear our president, John Stumbo, articulate how our denominational giving to the GCF has plummeted over the last 30 years. If I remember correctly, back in 1985 the average C&MA church gave over 19% of its general offerings to the Great Commission Fund. In 2015 that figure dropped to about 7%. We not only can’t afford to send new missionaries out to the field, but we can barely pay the ones we have now.
In my 25 years in the church ministry I have met a number of these humble and hardworking folks who have given up so much to spread the gospel all over the world. They don't deserve that. They deserve more. John strongly encouraged church leaders to consider approaching their Elder Boards and challenging them to try and give 10% to the GCF through their local churches. It was indeed a cold slap in the face, but I really needed that. Sometimes we all need that. I went to my Elder Board the following week. Here's what we came up with.
A Step of Faith
We agreed to immediately go from 5% to 7.5% giving to the GCF and still maintain our 5% giving to the District. Honestly, we could not afford that, but we took a step of faith, something we ask our people to do all the time.
We agreed to take four additional Sunday offerings a year. The first would go to whatever missionary we host for Mission's Week that year. The second and third offerings would go to four specific missionary families on the field in Indonesia that I had the privilege of meeting in 2012 on an Envision Trip. The fourth and final offering would go directly to the end of the year GCF requested giving.
We also agreed that before presenting our annual budget each year to our membership that we would raise our GCF giving 1% until we hit our goal of 10%.
We made those decisions shortly after General Council in 2015. Previously we were at exactly 5% giving to the Great Commission Fund for the first 6 months of 2015. Before the year ended, as a result of our new quarterly program and an immediate 2.5% increase for the remainder of 2015 we ended the year at 8% giving to the GCF.
We are confident that at the end of 2016 we will hit our goal of 10%. Do we plan on stopping there? No way. We ask our Lord for so much and He asks for so little. He deserves every penny and so much more. Wouldn't you agree?
I strongly believe that God allowed us to nearly go broke 10 years ago to see if we would stop giving at least 10% because we, "couldn't afford it." We never stopped giving and neither did He.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance was founded on the belief that the Gospel of Jesus Christ needs to reach every person on the face of the earth. I think, for a time, I forgot that and started focusing on my own church and my own budget at the expense of the Great Commission. I won't let that happen again. We had one of our best years ever financially in 2015 here at Good News Family Fellowship in Dublin.
Am I saying that may be true for you also? Nope. Don't forget that we almost closed the church in 2007. The point is that we remained faithful in spite of that. You never know what God will do if you don't give Him the chance. Maybe we need to start practicing what we ask our people to do every week. Maybe we need to lead the way. Thanks for your time reading this.
Your Co-Worker in Christ,
Good News Family Fellowship