We Count What We Value

What is the goal of the Stewardship Ministries Department? What do we value most as the outcome of our work? The answer to those crucial questions will depend on what we understand as the department’s vision and mission.


“People putting God first.”

It is told that someone asked Michelangelo about what he was carving out of a huge granite block. “A horse,” he answered. “But how can you carve a horse out of a block of granite!” the person responded in amazement. “It’s easy,” said Michelangelo. “My task is just to remove what is not the horse.” Interestingly, he could visualize a horse inside that granite block, and that vision allowed him to remove everything that wouldn’t pertain to it. Having a vision was crucial to molding his work strategy and shaping the outcome.

It is also extremely important for us to have a clear vision of what we expect as the outcome of our work in the Stewardship Ministries Department. Should it be to have the church’s safes full of money, or to lead people to “fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7)?¹ Should pastors and spiritual leaders become just materialistic fundraisers or spiritual soul seekers on Christ’s behalf? The answer to these questions will determine the strategy that we will adopt.

An appropriate vision for the Stewardship Ministries Department will only develop after understanding what stewardship is. An interesting definition says that “stewardship is the management of that which belongs to another,”² i.e., which belongs to God—the Owner of all things (Psalm 24:1–3; 1 Corinthians 10:26).

Humans were assigned as stewards of God’s possessions at Creation (including themselves), and any “person may [choose to] be a good steward or a bad steward.”³ True happiness and meaning in life may only be found through appropriate management of self and social and material environments, according to God’s specifications. But how to manage our own life and what surrounds it?

Jesus stated a key principle of management (or stewardship) that, if practiced, will bring everything else into the right perspective. He promised that if we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, . . . all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). True success in all areas of life can only be obtained by putting God first.

It is because Satan knows this that his “aim has been to lead men to self first,”⁴ instead of God first. And this kind of mindset “has filled the world with misery and strife,”⁵ becoming the main reason for environmental and economic problems, marriage failures, and the breakdown of any other social relations.

Even so, humanity still insists on putting self first. Some time ago, I saw in Cairo, Egypt, a huge sign on a very busy street saying, “Putting you first.” It summarizes well the selfish mindset that permeates the world and stands in opposition to God and, consequently, to happiness and success. “Selfishness,” says Ellen G. White, “is the essence of depravity, and because human beings have yielded to its power, . . . nations, families, and individuals are filled with a desire to make self a center.”⁶

If Satan aims “to lead men to self first,” filling “the world with misery and strife,” we are called to partner with God in opposing Satan’s work. Not only are church members invited to put God first, but “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” are called to “fear God and give glory to Him” (Revelation 14:6, 7), recognizing Him while managing life and the spiritual, social, and material environments.

And God should be put first not only in the realm of values, but also be given primacy in our daily schedule and practices. You will find in the “I Promise” Commitment Card⁷ seven crucial points in which we are invited to trust God and partner with Him in His final mission.

And because this vision, “People putting God first,” is broader than the scope of a single department, the Adventist Church has created many ministries, or departments—like Education, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, Health, Family Ministries, and Women Ministries, just to mention a few—all doing their part in nurturing people to embrace the principles of stewardship, or management, at large.


“Inviting people to trust God as Owner and Provider, and to partner in His final mission through regular and systematic giving.”

Our mission statement has to do with the specific contribution of the Stewardship Ministries Department to this broad “God first” vision, which should also be carried out by all other church departments. Since its inception, the Stewardship Department’s mandate has been to focus, but not exclusively, on “inviting people to trust God as Owner and Provider, and to partner in His final mission through regular and systematic giving.”

There are several key elements in this mission statement. First, the Stewardship Ministries Department is not in the business of inviting people to give, but to trust God, as Owner and Provider.

A second point to be highlighted is about partnering with God and acting as His agents on earth. This partnership, which is proposed by Him and embraces privileges and responsibilities, also includes our finances (Proverbs 3:9, 10; Malachi 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 16:2). In line with those Bible verses, Ellen G. White says that “the Lord made a special covenant with men, that if they would regularly set apart the portion designated for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, the Lord would bless them abundantly, so that there would not be room to receive His gifts.”⁸ She also adds that “if men will become channels through which heaven’s blessing can flow to others, the Lord will keep the channel supplied.”⁹

The final emphasis in the mission statement is that people are invited to exercise trust in God primarily through regular and systematic giving. Why an emphasis on regular and systematic giving? Why not simply suggest that people always give “following your heart”?

Even though the heart may be impressed by God in many circumstances, impressions alone should not be the only criterion for making choices. Those who trust too much in their feelings, always allowing their impressions or inclinations to command their actions, frequently ignore that the heart is naturally selfish and “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Ellen G. White says that because “selfishness is the strongest and most general of human impulses, . . . in our labors and gifts for God’s cause, it is unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse.”10

Therefore, instead of acting purely upon feelings, we are encouraged by God to “act from fixed principle, following the Saviour’s example of self-denial and self-sacrifice.”11 At the same time, we need to pray for a change of heart, which is promoted by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26, 27)—a heart inclined to do what is right. Then, “the cause of benevolence would no longer be dependent on the uncertain gifts of impulse, and vary according to the changing feelings of men.”12

Because “possessions are carriers of affections,”13 we are encouraged by God to place our resources, regularly and systematically, where we want our hearts to be (Matthew 6:21). And what should be the regularity and the system by which we give tithe and regular offerings? The regularity is determined by the receipt of an income or increase, and our primary giving system, even for offerings, is proportioned to the income, or percent-based (Deuteronomy 16:17;

1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:12). This kind of regular and systematic giving is called Promise giving,14 and those who give under this system are called Promisors.

In a paradigm shift, God becomes the center of giving, and Promisors are no longer “controlled by feeling or impulse,” because they know it would be dangerous. They no longer give as donors or philanthropists, to help, sponsor, or support something or someone when they feel like giving, nor do they yearn for any human recognition after giving. They give as a response to God’s blessings, and not in expectation of them.


“At the start of each year, an additional 2% of the local church membership is participating in tithing and regular and systematic offerings.”

How do we know if we are succeeding in inviting people to trust God and partner in His final mission through regular and systematic giving? How do we assess our progress? Should we consider the increase in tithe and offering income in a congregation or field as an indicator of increased trust in God on the part of its members? Not at all.

Tithe and offering income growth is not necessarily an indication of spiritual growth in a congregation. It may be just a reflection of the blessing that one single person has received in that congregation or field. And as our mission statement is focused on spiritual growth instead of financial growth, we are supposed to count people's participation, not money, i.e., the proportion of those engaged in regular and systematic giving. As the saying goes, “We count what we value, and we value what we count.”

So, if you are a stewardship leader, the most important question at this point is what proportion of the total membership is currently giving regular and systematic tithes and offerings? Is that proportion of Promisors growing or shrinking? Those questions must be thoroughly answered; data must be accessed, and plans accordingly devised, otherwise, the vision of “people putting God first” will never be accomplished.

But how can we assess this information? The General Conference has made available the ACMS (Adventist Church Management System),15 which is able to synchronize treasury and secretary information, revealing the current percentage of incognito members of a given congregation or field that are Promisors, or regular and systematic givers. If your field is already using that system, you can assess that information in seconds.

By primarily assessing people’s participation, stewardship leaders reveal that they want more than simply to promote an increase in the church’s financial income, as important as it may be for the accomplishment of Christ’s great commission. They would want to see more and more people knowing God more intimately, trusting Him, learning how to live by faith, and, finally, populating heaven after Jesus’ second coming. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

(As a continuation, read Aniel Barbe’s article about the lead measures for Adventist Stewardship Ministries.)

*** Watch the video of the full presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_wTlthd1BA.

¹ All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

² Mel Rees, Basic Stewardship Manual (Singapore: General Conference of SDA, Far Eastern Division, Department of Church Ministries, 1990), 7.

³ Ibid.

⁴ Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), 24.

⁵ Ibid.

⁶ Ibid.

⁷ Find the “I Promise” God First Commitment Card here: https://stewardship.adventist.org/commitment-card-...

⁸ White, Counsels on Stewardship, 77.

⁹ Ibid., 36.

10 Ibid., 25.

11 Ibid., 25.

12 Ibid., 199, 200.

13 Marcos F. Bomfim, “Nurture and Heart Retention,” Dynamic Steward 22, no. 2 (2019): 16.

14 See more about Promise offerings (regular and systematic) here: https://stewardship.adventist.org/promise-offering....

15 In 2022 the ACMS was already in use in 10 divisions and 89 unions.

Marcos Faiock Bomfim

Pastor Marcos F. Bomfim is director of Stewardship Ministries Department at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.