As most of us know, because of the COVID-19 global pandemic world offerings were down more than 20 percent (in some divisions the reduction is as high as 50 percent), as observed in the drop of mission offerings, while the tithe income was more or less staying at the expected level.
What does this fact indicate? Because the tithe income is relatively stable, we may correctly suppose that there was no significant decrease in the overall income of God’s people. So, how can we explain the decline in offerings during the same period? It should lead us to ponder some possibilities:
1. Offerings are not taught as being as important as the tithe.—If the lockdown could not prevent church members from returning their tithe, why didn’t all members return their offerings? Maybe a significant proportion of church members still don’t consider offerings as having the same level of importance as the tithe, even though both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy do teach that they are equally important and required. Our main publications (Bible study guides, for example), when addressing the subject of tithes and offerings, usually emphasize only the tithe as holy and mandatory, while the Bible applies the designation “holy” to both. 1
In the biblical book of Malachi, it is clear that God expects us to return both tithes and offerings (see Mal. 3:8-10). Ellen G. White also clarifies that “this matter ofgiving is not left to impulse. God has given us definite instruction in regard to it. He has specified tithes and offerings as the measure of our obligation. And He desires us to give regularly and systematically.” 2
Suggestion: To provide continuous education on the holy nature of offerings, and the mandatory nature of the regular and systematic offerings (we call it “Promise”.) 3
2. There is a lack of education on regular and systematic giving and a strong emphasis on project/special offerings giving.—A large number of members seem motivated to give offerings only in response to project promotions or appeals. In that sense, the “destination” for the offerings has become far more important than the “motivation” for giving them, which should be to worship God as Giver and Provider. While overemphasizing project giving in detriment to regular and systematic giving as an act of worship, leaders may inadvertently be replacing God with projects as recipients for offerings and leading potential worshipers to see themselves only as donors. We should give regular and systematic offerings not primarily because the church or the mission needs them, but mainly because we gratefully want to worship God, recognizing His giving, every time there is an income. He must be honored as the Recipient of our offerings.
Suggestion: Continuous education on regular and systematic giving (Promise). To teach that the act of giving should be triggered by the grateful perception of blessings already received, as an act of worship, instead of being generated by calls, appeals, or project promotions, as good or necessary as they may be.
In line with this approach, any call or appeal for special offerings (occasional or sporadic offerings for projects, ministries, etc.) should always be followed by the suggestion of giving to it only in addition to, or beyond, Promise (regular and systematic giving). This suggestion is so important that it was voted by the GC 2002 Spring Meeting as part of the General Conference’s suggested offering plan.⁴
If the above concepts are implemented, even in the case of a lockdown (with limited opportunities for public calls, appeals, or project promotion) the offering income would likely keep a similar growth pattern as the tithe income. Members would give not in response to a circumstantial need of the church but in response to God’s giving. Speaking about this, Ellen G. White says: “The followers of Christ should not wait for thrilling missionary appeals to arouse them to action. If spiritually awake, they would hear in the income of every week, whether much or little, the voice of God and of conscience with authority demanding the tithes and offerings due the Lord.”⁵
Tip: As an educational tool, present the Offertory Devotional Videos⁶ in your church every Sabbath before the offering collection.
3. There is a mistaken belief that offerings should be given only in response to the good feelings of the heart.—A significant portion of church members may still not understand gratitude as a principle, or concept, that implies far more than simply a good feeling. Ellen G. White says, for instance, in Testimonies to the Churches, volume 1, that “God must be served from principle instead of from feeling.”⁷ In the next paragraph she adds that we should “confound not faith and feeling together. They are distinct. . . . This faith we must keep in exercise,” she says, then adding that “your feelings have nothing to do with this faith.”⁸
So, gratitude should be demonstrated by an act of faith in God’s Word, rooted in principles, not necessarily based on feelings or mystical impressions. God’s messenger also says that because of the natural selfishness of the heart, “it is unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse.”9 She then adds that because this natural selfishness is so strong, “to give or to labor when our sympathies are moved, and to withhold our gifts or service when the emotions are not stirred, is an unwise and dangerous course,” and that is why, “Christians should act from fixed principle, following the Saviour’s example of self-denial and self-sacrifice.”10 So, this means that I must give not because “I just feel something good,” but because “I just received something good” (an income or increase).
Suggestion: To teach the difference between sporadic, occasional, or special offerings, and the regular and systematic offerings (Promise), which are triggered by the income and given every time there is an income. Sporadic/special offerings should also be given, but as a “second mile” and in addition to, or beyond, Promise.
4. There is a lack of education on vowing a proportion of income to be given as regular offering (Promise).— Maybe many of our members have not yet been taught to develop the habit of giving offerings as a previously vowed percentage of their income, calculating it immediately after they calculate the tithe, and delivering both at the same time. After stating that tithes and offerings are the measure of our obligation (yes, this is the word that was used), Ellen G. White says that each one should “regularly examine his income . . . . “After the tithe is set apart, let gifts and offerings be apportioned, ‘as God hath prospered’ you.”11
Suggestion: To regularly conduct renewal- of-vows ceremonies, using a commitment card 12; at the same time, to teach the concept of Promise. The next step will be to lead members to “purpose” (2 Cor. 9:7) or to a vow 13 a percentage of their income to be regularly returned to God, as regular and systematic offerings.
5. Members are suggested to keep all their offerings at the local church.
—Maybe some local church leaders are fearing not being able to pay the local church’s expenses. So, oblivious to the Reflex Influence Principle,14 they believe it a gain to encourage members to keep all their offerings in the local church, selfishly disregarding all regional and international missionary necessities, most of them not covered by the tithe fund. This behavior ignores how harmful this self-interested diversion is, not only for the international missions finances, but also for the spiritual health of the local church. As said Randy Alcorn, “One way church leaders can inspire giving is by committing the church to give away a higher percentage of its [church’s] own income.”15 “Give, and it shall be given to you” (Luke 6:38), said Jesus.
Suggestion: to promote the Reflex Influence Principle among pastors and church leaders; to explain to church members how the missionary endeavor of the world church is dependent on offerings; to specify to church members how to contribute also to the regional and international missionary work, in addition to supporting the local church (name of the offering fund displayed on the envelope, etc). Maybe many more would like to contribute if they would know how.
Reminder: The Combined Offering Plan recommends an equitable distribution of the offering funds: 50-60 percent directed to the local church budget; 20- 30 percent to regional missionary projects; and 20 percent to the World Mission fund. All those moneys sent “up” to the higher organizations, will come back to the local fields as allowances for missionary projects and institutions.
Education on Promise (regular and systematic offering) is maybe the most important initiative to promote a steady offering income. But it is critical to remind ourselves it will only thrive in a given field if officers, department directors, pastors, and other workers will also live and proactively promote the concept (it is also true concerning the local church). By the way, are you already a “Promisor”? Have you already purposed a percentage to give regularly as offering, as regularly as God’s blessings are?
Ellen G. White clearly equates regular and systematic offerings to the tithe in importance and obligation. Both are equally expected by God and will lead His people to develop a relationship of faith, gratefully recognizing Him as the Originator of their income. It will increase their trust in the Lord and prepare them to do exactly what they are supposed to do in the time of the end: “In the last extremity, before this work shall close, thousands will be cheerfully laid upon the altar. Men and women will feel it a blessed privilege to share in the work of preparing souls to stand in the great day of God, and they will give hundreds as readily as dollars are given now.”16
God is calling us to prepare a people for this occasion, and we may not have a second chance. The time is now! £
1 Some offerings are even considered as being “mostholy” (see Lev. 6:25; 7:1). Others are declared as the “most holy part” or “too sacred” (see Lev. 2:3; 22:10). See Barbe, A. (2020, July), “Offerings: Holy to the Lord,” Dynamic Steward, vol. 24 (3), p. 2.
2 Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, May 9, 1893 (emphasis provided; also in Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 80, 81).
3 See https://stewardship.adventist.org/promiseofferings for more resources on “Promise.”
⁴ See Faiock Bomfim, M. (2019, October), “Combined to Grow: Reasons for the ‘New’ Offering Plan,” Dynamic Steward, vol. 22, (4), pp. 17-19.
⁵ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 474 (emphasis provided).
⁶ Access https://stewardship.adventist.org/tithe-andofferings-readings. Different language options available.
⁷ Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 167.
⁹ Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Dec. 7, 1886 (also Counsels on Stewardship, p. 25).
11 Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, May 9, 1893 (also on Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 80, 81).
12 Find Commitment Card options on https:// stewardship.adventist.org/commitment-cardpromise.
13 About vows on regular and systematic offering, see Faiock Bomfim, M. (2020, July), “Why and How to Vow Regarding Offerings." Dynamic Steward, vol. 24 (3), pp. 21-23.
14 This principle is presented in Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, page 465: “To show a liberal, selfdenying spirit for the success of foreign missions is a sure way to advance home missionary work; for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, upon the reflex influence of the evangelical work done in countries afar off. …” (emphasis added).
15 Randy Alcorn, “How Pastors Can Model and Teach What God’s Word Says About Financial Stewardship”; https://churchleaders.com/pastors/ pastor-articles/318360-pastors-can-model-teachgods- word-says-financial-stewardship-randyalcorn. html?utm_source=outreach-cl-dailynl& utm_medium=email&utm_content=textlink& utm_campaign=cl-daily-nl&maropost_id= &mpweb=256-5780859-713116051. Retrieved on February 24, 2021.
16 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 40.