$39 Billion, Really?
Stealing money from church coffers, by trusted insiders, has been going on since the time Jesus started His ministry. Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus, kept the money bag containing the funds used by Jesus and the disciples to carry out their ministry. Sadly, he was known to pilfer from it on occasion (John 12:6). Unfortunately, a simple search on the internet will show that such activity continues to this day. Todd. M. Johnson, Ph.D., estimated that ecclesiastical crime in the USA at $39 billion dollars in 2014. (Todd M. Johnson is Associate Professor of Global Christianity and Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is the author of Status of Global Mission 2013 from which this data is quoted.) What can be done to prevent this activity, and more importantly to us, what are we doing to head off such crime?
The Apostle Paul also faced much the same question when administering the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. His example of careful administration of money given to help the saints in Jerusalem is a good guide for us (1 Corinthians 8:16-22,16:3). He used:
- Team of People – The people administering the gift wanted to serve and were of good reputation. Together they formed an effective team for the collection, transport, and delivery of the gifts. Willing people of sound character are key to any endeavor, and the handling of monetary gifts is no exception. Paul knew this and saw that the best team of people was assembled to administer the gift.
- Transparency – The gifts were carefully handled so no one could discredit its administration by either God or man. If there is one thing man watches like a hawk, it is money, and that did not bother Paul or the team of people administering the gifts. Paul understood that the team had to administer money in full view of God and man. All of God’s holy nature and man’s laws were to be satisfied.
- Church Approval – Not only did the churches supply the gift itself, they were involved in the selection of the team members that were to accompany the gift. Paul encouraged the churches to send representatives as they saw fit to go along with the gifts, whom he offered to endorse (1 Corinthians 16:3).
- Sound Motives – The motives of those involved were to glorify God, administer the gift without discredit, and serve both the donor and receiving churches. Neither Paul, nor the administration team, had hidden agendas or motives for personal gain, but rather a heart’s desire to serve the Church of Christ at Jerusalem.
What precautions does Grace Fellowship take to administer the gifts we receive? Let’s look at some of the more important aspects of our handling our gifts.
- Team of People – The Treasurer and Financial Secretary hold the primary responsibility for the administration of money at Grace Fellowship. Additional help is provided them by a bookkeeper, the ushers, and the Trustees. These people operate with defined responsibilities and checks and balances to ensure careful administration of the gifts.
- Transparency – The use of gifts received is primarily guided by an annual budget publicly created, discussed, and then approved by the congregation. Monthly financial reports are generated which account for all gifts received and disbursements made. These are distributed to all Elders, Deacons, Trustees, and anyone else who asks. A bookkeeper is employed so that we have timely accounting for all income and expenses, and to insure we properly comply with tax laws and filings. Annually, the Church Audit Committee, examines the church’s books and reports on its findings during the annual meeting. This is to verify we are keeping accurate financial records and that church financial procedures are being followed.
- Church Approval – Church approval is obtained for all people holding the positions of Treasurer, Financial Secretary, Trustees, Elders, and Deacons as stipulated by our “Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws”. Annually, the church reviews an annual budget report and approves a written budget for the following year.
- Motives – Article 10 of the “Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws” specifically prohibit any elected officer of the church from receiving compensation for their service to Grace Fellowship Church. This helps prevent anyone seeking an office for personal gain, and protects our tax-exempt status in the eyes of our government.
Much more could be said about Grace Fellowship’s efforts to administer well the generous gifts we receive and to minimize the possibility of misused gifts. But, to keep this article short I have only written in broad terms. All of this is to say, we can freely give to Grace Fellowship knowing that we are administering the gifts well in the sight of both God and men.
Photo credit: By User:Neurovelho - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4086872