My heart is rejoicing over our Quarterly Business Meeting last Wednesday night. I know. Nobody rejoices over business meetings – at least nobody in their right minds. But I am because I believe that Southside took a small but significant step of faith into the future that God has planned for us. I am extremely grateful for our deacons’ leadership in taking this step as they made the recommendation that moved this forward. After much prayer and in-depth fact finding, they recommended and the church voted unanimously to approve a $20,000 pledge to support the Uganda House of Hope Orphanage. Immediately following that motion, the Stewardship Committee recommended and the church voted unanimously to establish a designated fund to which our contributions can be made above and beyond the $20,000 pledge. So please understand, the minimum amount we will be giving is $20,000. Everything we donate toward this cause will be in addition to that amount. Praise the Lord! This decision effectively makes us partners with Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Priceville, Alabama and a number of other churches in this effort to build an orphanage that will eventually house and educate around 400 needy children. I honestly believe that God is pleased with our decision and will bless Southside because of it.
What you have read above is a revised version of an e-mail I sent out last Thursday. As I have been praying over this and rejoicing in my spirit, I wanted to share through this blog what makes all of this possible: faithful stewardship. I was asked yesterday if I preach or teach very often on giving. My answer to that question has always been, “No, but I do preach on stewardship.” Then the gentleman asked me what our annual giving is at Southside. I think he was planning to tell me that my not preaching on giving was the reason that our offerings weren’t higher. But when I told him the answer to his question, he was shocked. His reply was, “That’s more than double the average giving of a church your size.” Southside folks, I have always said that you are great at giving your money. But I believe the reason God has blessed us financially is that stewardship isn’t just about giving our money; it’s about utilizing our whole selves in service to God. Rather, it’s about giving everything we are and have to God and allowing Him to use us. But let me talk about the financial aspect of stewardship for just a minute.
The Bible tells us that we are to “bring the tithe into the storehouse.” Jesus said, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” Understand that in the Old Testament, the storehouse was located in the Temple. That is why I believe that the modern-day storehouse is the church. The tithe is 10% of your income. So according to Scripture, that which belongs to God is 10%, and I have always believed that since we are under grace and not the law that the tithe is the least we can do. I honestly believe that because of what God has done for us, we should be willing to give more and do more than the bare minimum. So here is the request that I have made to my people as we seek to do missions and ministry around the world: “Would you join me in giving a minimum of 10% of our income to the church’s general fund?” Not to designated funds or special offerings. Into the general fund. And I have made a promise to our people based on God’s Word that He will bless them if they do. He promised that He would in Malachi. He said, “Trust me and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on you.” That is a powerful promise. And I made another promise to my people. The money that they contribute to the ministry of the church will be used just as they have directed through the budget and through recommendations like they approved at our business meeting. You see, we have a staff that has integrity. The church has given authority to spend to people they can trust. And our Stewardship Committee is committed to stay on top of our finances to ensure that everything is done right.
So you see what I mean when I say that the Uganda vote was a small step of faith. We have money in the bank to cover the pledge we have made, but it is scary to let go of that kind of money in uncertain times. It is scary unless all of us are willing to be faithful stewards – faithful to do just what God has asked us to do. Bring the tithe into the storehouse.
One more thing before I bring this post to a close. Do you remember what I said above about giving your tithe to the general fund and not as designated funds? When we give to special offerings like the House of Hope Orphanage fund, we should make that offering above and beyond the tithe. One of the concerns in a church when we create a designated fund or ask for a special offering is that people will consider their gifts to be their tithe or that when they give to Red Cross or any other charitable organization that they are tithing. That is not the case. The tithe should go to the storehouse – the church – to provide the ability to do the work of the ministry to which God has called us.
Remember this. I am proud to be the pastor of this group of believers who want to do ministry here, there, and yonder! Thank you, Southside. I love you!