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The Responsible Christian

Author Jose R. Silva Delgado shows us how to become faithful stewards. In a parable, Jesus commended two good stewards who had managed their assets wisely and condemned the one who did nothing with what he had been given. This course teaches how to manage and invest what God has entrusted to us, so that one day He will say, "'Well done, good and faithful servant…. Come and share your master’s happiness!'" (Matthew 25:23).

Our Church

The gospel is the message of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. It is one of the greatest goods that God has entrusted to the church. As members of the church, we have the inescapable responsibility of sharing it with those who haven’t received it. In other words, the supreme task of the church—the task also known as the Great Commission—is the evangelization of the world.

As a worker of the Lord, perhaps you ask yourself, What do I need to do in order to carry out this responsibility? This lesson has been written with the purpose of answering your question. In the first part you will find suggestions on how to mobilize the members of your church to carry out the Great Commission; in the second you will be given some ideas on how to improve the financial situation of your church. In this way the expenses which are necessary for carrying out the Great Commission can be met.

MOBILIZING THE MEMBERS

Teaching the Stewardship of the Gospel

Objective 1.     Identify what the stewardship of the gospel means.

Some churches seem to be satisfied with just being a group  of believers. Their members are not interested in working for the church to grow. They think that their only responsibilities are to go to the meetings and pay the pastor to preach to them.

The error of these churches is due in great measure to the  fact that no one has taught the members about the stewardship of the gospel. In order to remedy this error, one must begin by teaching the believers the fundamental truths about this stewardship. These are the following:

  1. God is the owner of the gospel. It is His gospel (Romans 1:1). It had its origin in Him (1 Timothy 1:11).
  2. We are stewards of the gospel. We are partners working together for God (1 Corinthians 3:9). He has put us in charge of His secret truths, the secret of the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:1, Ephesians 6:19). He has entrusted us with the task of sharing it (1 Corinthians 9:17-18, Matthew 10:7-8).
  3. We have to know the gospel. This makes sense, since we can’t share with others what we ourselves don’t know. It is, however, the problem some believers have: They don’t know how to explain the gospel to others because they themselves haven’t understood

One way of teaching the gospel to the  believers is to tell them the story of Jesus the way the evangelists do. The ICI course Highlights in the Life of Christ would serve very well for this purpose. After all, a major part of the gospel which the disciples announced was made up of highlights in the life of Jesus (Acts 2:22-24, 32-33; 10:36-42; 13:23-32; 1 Corinthians 15:1-7). Even today, the best way of presenting the gospel in certain countries is to tell the people the story of Jesus.

Another way of teaching the gospel is to present the essential truths of salvation: a) Man is a sinner and is under condemnation (Romans 3:10-12, 23; 6:23). b) Man cannot save himself (Jeremiah 2:22). c) Only Jesus Christ can save the sinner (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 1:15). d) Man must believe in Christ in order to be saved (John 3:16, Acts 16:31).

  1. We need to preach the gospel. There are three reasons for doing so: a) Christ commanded it (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). b) It is the means God uses to save sinners (Romans 1:16). c) If we don’t do it, our guilt will be very serious (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Using the Spiritual Gifts

Objective 2. Select statements of how the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts are related to the task of the church.

The task God has given to the church is great and difficult. But He has also given the believers the tools necessary for them to do the work more effectively and easily. These tools are the spiritual gifts. Some of them are useful for confirming the message which has been preached (Mark 16:17-18, 20).

It may be that in your church there are many believers who haven’t yet received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In such a case it is better to invite them to pray and seek until they receive it (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5). If a believer tries to evangelize but does not seek the power of the Holy Spirit, he is failing as an administrator. It is as if he had to sow a huge piece of land. In order to help him do the work better, the owner has given him a tractor and a mechanical sower. But he prefers to sow by hand and complain that the work is almost impossible to carry out!

If the believers have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, no doubt they have also received some spiritual gifts. But if they aren’t using them for the salvation of sinners and the building up of the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8), they must keep them alive and not neglect them (1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6). Just as the gospel is a trust, so also are the spiritual gifts. We are stewards of these gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Planning the Activities

Objective 3.     According to the procedure given in the lesson, put in order the steps in planning a church activity.

Examine Your Church’s Situation

All the activities of a church can be grouped into these four categories:

  1. Worship

    Worship Services
    Prayer Meetings
    Retreats
    Watch-Night Services
    Revival Meetings
    Women’s Work Groups
  2. Service

    Evangelization
    Visitation
    Building Construction and Maintenance
    Musical Activities

  3. Teaching

    Classes for new Believers
    Workers’ Training Classes
    Bible Studies

  4. Fellowship

    Suppers
    Outings
    Recreation

 

You need to examine the situation of your church first before you design any plan of activities. You need a list of its activities according to the four categories mentioned above. Ask yourself: Is one category very prevalent or completely absent? Does the church seem to be more like a school or a social club? Is there a lot of worship and very little service? Or is the opposite true? Then ask yourself this other question: Are we moving forward or just staying in one place? Your answers to these questions will help you know what your situation is as you begin planning the activities. In my opinion, the order of the categories listed above gives the relative importance of each kind of activity. It can give you guidance in deciding how much emphasis to give to each.

Have Planning Sessions

After examining the situation of the church, the pastor  should meet together with the other official leaders and those in charge of the department for a planning session. At this meeting they could do the following:

  1. Adapt the national and district plans to the local situation. One would assume that these plans are not to be just filed or thrown away.
  2. Make a plan together or coordinate the different plans for the activities of the church and its This way you will avoid having departments that are working in opposite directions.

Since national and district plans are usually annual ones, it is a good idea for these planning sessions to be held each year as well. Of course, it is also necessary to have other planning sessions for short-term plans. These sessions could be held  every month or every two months, according to the local situation.

Once the plans are made, they need to be written on the calendar of church activities. There are certain activities that from the first of the year are reserved for a special day. But the dates for short-term plans can be added as they are being planned.

Use the Strategy

In planning the activities the strategy suggested in Lesson 3 can be very useful. The annual goals of the church are determined, for example, to have 30 new members or to open another outstation or preaching point. The priorities within the various goals are set too. Of course,  worship  and  evangelization should always be among  the  first  priorities.  And last, plans are made to reach the goals decided upon. In order to have 30 new members, for example, it would be necessary to prepare workers, have some  evangelistic campaigns, teach classes for new believers, and hold baptismal services.

Reaching Out to the World

Objective 4. Follow the plan for evangelism and expansion that is given in Acts 1:8 in deciding which of several activities a church should do first.

Once the church has made its plans, it should carry them out. In a plan whose principal purpose is evangelization, one needs  to know where to begin. The Lord left a plan of evangelization and expansion for the early church, which may also be useful for a church of today. You may see it in Acts 1:8.

As you may notice in the diagram, it is better to begin by evangelizing in the area where the church is located and then go on reaching out little by little to places farther away. For this work different methods may be used, for example: a) evangelistic campaigns in the church, b) evangelistic campaigns in a suburb, c) opening a new preaching point, d) open-air meetings, e) literature distribution from house to house, f) hospital visitation, g) prison services, h) personal testimony, and i) radio programs.

Evangelistic efforts shouldn’t be a special time in the church which is then followed by a time of inactivity. The Lord’s plan  is for the church to be continually involved in evangelistic efforts. The believers in the early church evangelized every day (Acts 5:42). As a result, every day the Lord added to the church those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).

The new believers should be instructed so that they evangelize others, who in turn evangelize others, and so on (2 Timothy 2:2). The church should be in a continual cycle of evangelization and instruction.

Distributing the Work

Objective 5.     Choose a solution to a given ministry need by applying the principle of distributing the work of the church.

In order to get the best results in fulfilling its task,  the  church should mobilize all its members. It can’t be divided between actors and spectators—those who do the work and  those who watch them work. All of its members should be workers.

The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). In a body each part has a special function. For example, eyes are useful for seeing, but not for walking. So one member may serve very well as a teacher of adults, but not as a song leader. Therefore it is necessary to distribute the work according to the abilities and gifts that God has given to each member.

Some people’s talents and spiritual gifts are very evident; other people’s talents seem to be hidden. In the first case, a wise leader would have no problem in using them by putting the right person in the right work. In the latter case it will be necessary to find out what they are. In order to do this it may be helpful for you to write out a list of activities. Then you may give each member a copy of this list. Thus everyone can indicate which activities he or she would like to do. Try it! No doubt it will work!

IMPROVING THE FINANCIAL SITUATION

Teaching God’s Financial Plan for the Church

Objective 6.     Match Bible verses about God’s financial plan for the church to statements of the truths they teach.

The Need of This Teaching

The financial plan for the church is  very closely tied to  the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This is  why churches that don’t know this plan are unable to carry out the task God has given them. In fact, not teaching the believers about God’s financial plan has brought about a threefold injury:

  1. To the believers, because it deprives them of the blessing God has for those who participate in His
  2. To the church, because it doesn’t have enough resources to carry out the Great
  3. To the pastor, because he won’t receive enough support to meet his

God’s Financial Plan

God’s financial plan has six basic truths. You will see what these are as you complete the following study question.

Some Recommendations

It is a good idea to teach the new believers the fundamentals of Christian stewardship. This teaching can be given as a part of their preparation for baptism. In this way they will learn that giving is a part of the Christian life in the same way as praying, reading the Bible, or going to church.

The rest of the believers can be taught about Christian stewardship through Bible studies. These studies could be given to the entire church as well as to the departments.

The goal of all this teaching is to have each believer become a faithful tither. The only reason for a believer not to be one would be because he doesn’t receive any kind of income at all. But if he does receive some, however little it may be, it is a blessing God has given him and he should tithe from it.

Appointing a Financial Committee

Objective 7.     Identify examples of the responsibilities of a financial committee.

Acts 6:1-6 shows us that the church chose seven of the brothers to take care of the support for the widows. In this way the apostles would occupy themselves only with prayer and preaching. In the same way some churches think it is good to have a financial committee to share with the pastor in having responsibility for the church’s financial affairs.

The financial committee may be made up to include the treasurer of the church and some advisors, among whom the pastor usually serves as chairman.

The function of this committee could be to: 1) design and administer a budget for the church, 2) make a plan for collecting the funds, and 3) count and record the tithes and offerings at the end of each service.

Managing the Funds

Objective 8.     Select procedures for managing the funds of  the church that follow the guidelines given in the lesson.

Administration of the funds of the church is a process which involves their collection, safekeeping, and proper disbursement. The practical suggestions explained in this section (and in the following sections) represent some methods that churches in my country of Chile have found useful for managing their funds. You may find that these procedures can be adapted to help you in your situation as well.

The Collection

The money which is collected as tithes and offerings should be counted by a committee. This committee should be made up of at least two people, preferably three. The treasurer should be one of these. Some churches find that it works better to record the offerings in one book and the tithes in another. In the tithe book, each tithe can be written down below the name of the corresponding tither. If special offerings of a sizable amount are received, it is better to give a receipt to each donor. This is very important when the donors promise to give a certain amount of money over a certain period of time. Each time tithes and offerings are received, the money is counted by the committee and then given to the treasurer.

The Safe-Keeping

If the church has enough funds to have a bank account it is better to take Advantage of this service. The funds will be protected from the risk of theft or fire in the treasurer’s house. The account should be opened in the name of the church and with the signatures  of the pastor and treasurer. This also makes it necessary to have the signatures of both in order to draw money out.

In some places around the world it is impossible to have a bank account. In such a case the church should have a strong  box or safe in which the treasurer keeps the funds. The pastor or other member of the financial committee should keep the key. This way two people must be present for the box to be opened.

The Disbursement

The funds which have been collected should be disbursed according to what the church or the official have already agreed upon. As for the pastor’s support, it is enough for the official leaders to give the treasurer permanent permission to pay that expense. The same procedure is followed with the minor and routine expenses such as light, water, cleaning, etc. But for large expenses, it is better to have the approval of the official leaders and in some cases of the church.

If the church has a bank account the bills should be paid by check, but the minor expenses can be paid by cash. Whenever possible the treasurer should ask for a voucher (invoice, bill, sales ticket or receipt) for the expenses he pays.

Being Faithful

Objective 9.     Choose descriptions of how a faithful financial committee would act in given situations.

The pastor as well as the official leaders and the financial committee should understand that they are only managers of the church’s funds (2 Corinthians 8:19-20). These goods  are actually the Lord’s. And because the funds are the Lord’s, the church leaders should manage them faithfully (1 Corinthians 4:2). This means that they should manage them in agreement with what the church has decided.

The leaders should also be faithful in exercising their own stewardship. It is not right for the pastor to teach that believers ought to tithe if he himself doesn’t (Romans 2:21-22). Neither is it right for the treasurer to care for the Lord’s goods if he doesn’t pay his tithe, because it is ridiculous for a person who is  cheating the Lord to be in charge of His goods (Malachi 3:8).

If the leaders are faithful in their responsibility and take the precautions given in the foregoing section, the congregation will have confidence in them and will give willingly. The result will be an increase in the funds of the church. And thus it will be  able to obey the Great Commission. Certainly it is true that faithfulness creates confidence.

Using Account Books

Objective 10. Match various items to the type of account book each should be written in.

Account books are essential for the management of finances. But a church doesn’t need as many of them as a commercial business does. A cash book, which should be kept under the treasurer’s control, is usually adequate.

Cash books are used to record each month’s cash flow. They are numbered every two pages. The income is recorded on the left-hand page and the disbursements (what is paid out) on the right-hand page.

The income is usually made up of the tithes and offerings. Once in a while there may be other entries  because of sales made or money paid back. Expenses are mostly made up of the pastor’s support, the general expenses of the church, and the purchase of various things.

Certain kinds of offerings are given to a specific person or institution. Such are, for example, the offerings for a visiting preacher, a believer in need, missions, the Bible school, or the biblical societies. In these cases it is better to record these offerings in the income and then in  the  disbursements  also. This way there will be a written record of them in the church’s books.

Every church should also have an inventory book. In this book all of the furniture and goods of the church are recorded. If one of them wears out, it is crossed off and a record is left in the book. There is a record made also of the goods which are  bought, lost, or sold.

It is a good idea to take a new inventory every so often. The purpose for this is to find out whether an the goods registered  are still actually present. For his own benefit, the new pastor of a church should receive this book with the inventory of the church’s goods.

Giving Account

Objective 11.  Recognize examples of items that should be included in a treasurer’s financial report.

In Lesson 2 you studied that a steward should give account  of his stewardship. In the same manner each month the treasurer of the church should give to the official leaders an account of  the church’s finances. It is a good idea to inform the church too, but the account can be a general summary unless the congregation asks for details. The report should include: 1) the list of the tithers and their contributions; 2) the financial condition of the church.

A similar report can be used for the annual church meeting. By adding the amounts of each monthly report it is easy  to obtain the amounts for the whole year.

Supporting the Pastor

Objective 12. From a list of amounts, select the one that represents what a reasonable support would be for a pastor in a given situation. 

Different Methods of Support

Among the various ways of supporting the pastor, the main ones are the following: 1) the tithes of the believers, 2) a percentage of the tithes and offerings, 3) an honorarium, 4) a salary, and 5) some gifts.

A Reasonable Support

It is difficult for some churches to decide what a reasonable support for their pastor should be. This may be due to the fact that  they haven’t first considered how much their pastor needs  to live on. Of course, it is not necessary for the pastor to live in luxury, but he should live comfortably enough to “do [his] work gladly” and not to have to “do it with sadness” (Hebrews 13:17).

The believers should consider the fact that their pastor usually has more visitors and does more traveling than they do. Besides, he needs to dress everyday as a professional person   and continue to buy new books for his own enrichment and in order to teach the congregation better. Likewise the needs of a pastor with a large family are more than those of one with a small family.

Without disregarding the factors already mentioned, what would be a fair guide for deciding what the pastor’s support should be? This guide could well be the average salary which a public official in your country receives.

Working With a Budget

Objective 13. Given a certain yearly income, write out a budget for a church based on the model given.

In Lesson 7 we considered the need for making a budget for one’s personal finances. A budget is extremely useful, also, for keeping the financial affairs of the church in order.

The first step in making a budget is to set up a committee of able believers. They design the budget and then present it to the pastor and official board. Of course, sometimes the pastor and official board may also serve as the budget committee. Once the official leaders have reviewed it, the committee presents it to the church for approval.

The budget committee makes a study of all the resources the church has as well as the short-term resources it may receive. Likewise it makes a study of the routine expenses and adds the new expenses, the investments, arid an amount for unexpected expenses. Naturally, the expenses of the budget should not be greater than the income.

Budgets are usually made on an annual basis. But if you  want to use an annual budget for each month, each quantity can be divided by 12. If as time goes by inflation has made the budget unworkable, the necessary changes must be made. But if the budget has been made using percentages, it won’t be necessary to make changes very often.

 

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