Turning Kingdom Dollars Into Kingdom Dynamics
By Dr. Timothy M. Hill, General Overseer
The question has been repeated over and over, “How will the Church of God International Offices stand with and assist local churches and their pastors as we move through the Covid-19 crises?” That question is generally followed by specific questions or comments concerning the tithe of tithes paid by local churches to the state/region and International Offices, as directed by the General Assembly.
These are very appropriate and understandable questions. People are concerned, apprehensive, and many are simply afraid about the unknown future. Again, this fear is completely understandable.
It is especially important in times of crisis that we do not forget that the Bible provides us with guidance. The words of Proverbs 3:5-6 must always ring in our ears - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
While we must trust in the Lord and put our faith in His sovereign plan for our lives, ministry, and churches, we also must recognize the “interdependence” and interconnectedness of all the members of the Body of Christ (General Assembly Minutes, page 39), as well as the “central importance” of the local church as stressed in the Minutes (page 42).
With those challenges in mind, there are at least three areas we should focus on as we, a connected body of believers, navigate through the uncertain waters ahead.
Dedicated to Sustain
First, we must be Dedicated to Sustain current budget efforts that place funds directly into the field. In other words, the International and State/Regional offices must not stop doing what they are already doing to assist the local church at every possible opportunity. Just as examples, consider the following:
A total of $1.2 million annually is currently directed through budget allocations to mission and borderline mission states/regions to assist pastors and churches in carrying out ministry.
Additionally, approximately $500,000 annually is given to fulfill local church requests that are processed through state overseers.
More than $900,000 is currently assisting new church plants and pastors through no-interest loans from the Church Planting Bank.
Over $1.8 million annually is provided to aged ministers and widows of ministers to honor their service to the Kingdom.
Annually some $1.5 million is given to assist retired ministers/widows with medication expenses through Helping Hands Ministry, a benevolent arm of the Division of Care.
To support projects, personnel, and ministry around the world, the Church of God tithing structure provides World Missions’ basic budget some $6.5 million annually.
In the past four years, Church of God Care Ministries has delivered an average of $950,000 per year in cash donations to storm ravaged regions.
And to help support Church of God educational institutions, including Lee University, Pentecostal Theological Seminary, and the Ministerial Development Program, more than $3 million annually is provided.
Devoted to Strengthen
Not only must we be dedicated to sustain our current ministerial efforts, secondly, we must be Devoted to Strengthen the local church and pastor with additional and new resources. Simply stated, we must seek ways and means to do more than we are already doing. For example, we will begin with the following ideas:
Align undesignated and unbudgeted resources to focus on, and flow to, critical areas of immediate need.
Seek additional benevolent grants, hopefully allowing for direct contribution to our minister's financial needs, and providing financial literacy to ministers needing guidance.
Work with Church of God entities that make church loans to seek possible short-term modifications, including interest-only and deferral options.
After recommendation by the state/regional Administrative Bishop, enter into covenant agreements where feasible with local churches to address reporting challenges.
Determined to Secure
Not only must we be dedicated to sustain our current ministerial efforts and be devoted to strengthening our commitments with additional resources, thirdly, we must be Determined to Secure the future of our church by facing this crisis - and those that may come - with wisdom, trust in God, and partnership with one another. In other words, we must remain focused on the basics of interdependence and interconnectedness.
It can never be forgotten that the International and state/regional offices exist for the purpose of Great Commission fulfillment carried out through the local church. Our budgets and spending cannot wait on a crisis to reflect that purpose. It must be reflected every day, even in the best of times. The local church carries the burden of evangelism like no entity or denominational department.
Similarly, as a local church through the tithing structure is able to assist families and enact local ministry in times of need, so are International and State/Regional Offices able to provide support to individual congregations.
It is important to remember that we are in this together, not only dealing with the economic downturn created by the current crisis, but those that may come. Every new situation will impact giving at the local church level. As individual giving affects the local church, so the local church’s response will affect what is received through the tithe of tithes at both the international and state offices.
Keeping the tithe structure as sound as possible helps to insure that we are able to keep placing funds back into ministry and adding more along the way.
The Church of God must be poised to seize every Great Commission opportunity the Lord has placed before us. We will get through the current situation by the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ and we will FINISH the Great Commission.
The challenge is great but the vision is greater!! We are the Church on Mission!!