Even though I was a pastor’s kid, I was not very “religious.” So, I never would have suspected that Sabbath morning in the 1970s that I was about to listen to a sermon that would end up making me a Promisor (this story was told in another article). Under strong conviction, I was hesitant to make a vow, knowing how serious it is to vow and not fulfill it (Eccl. 5:4). Somehow, I was impressed that if I lost that conviction, I would never have another opportunity. Additionally, by vowing, I knew that I would be encouraged to trust more in God. And this was my greatest need.
Josino Campos, who was a wise and godly pastor, tried to encourage his large congregation. For those fearing to vow, he said that if it is true that we can do nothing without Jesus (John 15:5), it is also true that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us (Phil. 4:13). Especially for accomplishing what is good, would not Jesus help?
That day I understood that by not vowing specifically about regular and systematic offerings (Promise), I would leave a door open for my heart to take control of the giving process, with dangerous consequences, because the heart cannot be trusted. After a painful process, I finally vowed that day to become a Promisor for the rest of my life. Looking back, I can see how great the impact of that decision was on my spiritual life and on the spiritual life of my family.
So, if you also are prayerfully considering vowing to become a Promisor but want to know how to do it, let me share with you six points, or principles, that have been adopted by a significant group of Adventists from all around the world, including myself:
1. Purpose (2 Cor. 9:7)—Campos told us on that Sabbath that the best moment to decide if we will give offerings or not, or how much should we give, is hardly inside the church when the offering plate is coming. By not deciding beforehand, using heaven-revealed principles, we may end up giving more than would be reasonable, or even not to give at all, when it would be right to do so. But if in response to God’s invitation, I vow to adopt heaven-revealed principles on giving, I will be able to avoid the frequent burden of deciding “if” I will give that time or not; and if I give, “how much” it should be.
While reading 2 Corinthians 9:7, Pastor Campos taught us about the importance of previously “purposing,” or making a steady “purpose,” in our heart about offerings, something that would last. In my vow that day, I decided to include the remaining points.
2. Regularity (Prov. 3:9, 10)—By explaining Proverbs 3:9, 10, and Malachi 3:8-10, Pastor Campos made it clear that the regularity of my giving (offering) should be based on the regularity of God’s giving. We give after He gives us an income or increase.
If regulated by my emotions, sympathy for someone or something, or even by the necessities of the church, my giving would risk no longer reflecting the recognition of God’s giving. Instead, it would become sporadic, intermittent, or even absent, depending on my faulty impulses or perceptions and based on my inconstant emotions, which are changeable and unreliable. It could also become restricted by my limited knowledge of missionary needs, or subjected to occasional calls from the pulpit or to my sympathy for missionaries or ministries. But what if there are no calls from the pulpit, if the churches are closed, if my emotions are not responsive, or if I simply don’t know about any relevant missionary project?
Campos said that according to the Bible, my offering must be as regular as the Lord gives me an income or increase, as an act of worship to God, and not as an attempt to “help” the church. Actually, we should give in recognition of having already been helped by Him. By adopting a regularity based on God’s giving, and recognizing that He is ever the first to give, my offering will never become an attempt to earn merit. Instead, it will be a grateful answer to His giving.
3. System (Deut. 16:17; 1 Cor. 16:2)—Another thing I learned from my pastor is that the Bible alludes to the proportional system (percentage-based) as a fair way to honor the Lord with my regular offerings. (Later I discovered that Ellen G. White's writings are even more explicit about it.) By adopting that fair proportional method, the amount given will adjust as my income, or increase adjusts. When I receive more, I give more; when I receive less, I give less. “And if you receive nothing (or zero),” said the pastor, “you give nothing, and you are faithful,” because any proportion of zero is always zero.
Even though tithes and (regular) offerings are under the same (proportional) system, the difference here, the pastor told us, is that for the tithe God had already fixed the percentage, while for the regular offering, we are given the privilege to prayerfully choose it, according to our gratitude. It can be less, equal, or more than the tithe. While the tithe percentage can never be adjusted, every believer should consider enlarging their offering proportion.
By deciding to give in proportion to the blessing (a percentage of it), we recognize ourselves not as the owners of the resources, but as partners of the Owner, conduits of His possessions that transit through our hands. Then, every time God needs to supply His work with means, He will send them through us, God’s unclogged pipelines. In that way, we will also be blessed, as “he who waters will also be watered himself” (Prov. 11:25).
4. Priority (Matt. 6:33; Prov. 3:9, 10)—In Proverbs 3:9, the Lord also encourages me to bring Him “the firstfruits of all your [my] increase,” which I consider to be the first and the best In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to give the first place to God in every aspect of life, which obviously includes finances. And if I do that, by returning my tithe and Promise to Him “before any portion is consumed,” the door will be opened for Him to fulfill those two promises: “and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33), and “your barns will be filled with plenty” (Prov. 3:10).
5. Period—You must decide on how long your vow or the chosen proportion will last. Although I have decided to be a Promisor for the rest of my life, I usually renew my vow every December 31 at sunset.
6. Distribution (Acts 1:8; Rev. 14:6)—The way I distribute my regular offerings was greatly impacted by the understanding of the territorial and ethnical broadness of the missionary commission of Acts 1:8, also confirmed in Revelation 14:6. And the main reason we group ourselves in churches, and churches group themselves in conferences, and conferences in unions, is to gather our human and material resources together, like an army, to fulfill this commission. We would never be able to accomplish it alone or divided, either in heart or in the pocket.
That commission establishes that our missionary outreach should comprise three instances: (1) Jerusalem, which represents the missionary work done where I live (our local church and its missionary projects); (2) Judea and Samaria, which stand for the regional missionary work (done through my conference/union/division); and (3) the end of the earth, which can represent the international missionary work. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, that international work is coordinated by the General Conference. The missionary work in those three instances must be supported by my offerings, as tithe, according to God’s indication, should be used exclusively for the support of the authorized ministry.
And that tripartite distribution is exactly what is suggested by the Combined Offering Plan (also called the One Offering Plan), which I adopted. Voted in 2002 by the General Conference as the recommended offering plan for the world divisions, this plan is already practiced by 10 divisions and attached fields, comprising more than 90 percent of the world's Adventist population. It was devised to provide equitable support to all authorized missionary endeavors and territories around the world, but with a special provision for the local church, whose operational cost also cannot be supported by the tithe. After all, the local church is where most of the members are generated and nurtured.
According to this wise plan of distribution, a suggested 50-60 percent of all nonassigned offerings is applied to the local church to support its operation and local missionary endeavors; 20-25 percent should be directed to support missionary initiatives on the regional level (conference/union/division); and 20 percent is to be sent to the General Conference missionary fund called “World Budget,” coming back to the local level as allowances or services. Those resources are applied where most needed, even where there are no Adventist members to give offerings, or where the offering income is very low. This distribution plan, resembling the tithe distribution, may be one of the reasons (along with the tithe distribution plan) why the Adventist Church is present in 213 out of 235 countries and areas of the world recognized by the United Nation.
But what about Special Offerings? According to what is proposed by the Combined Offering Plan, I am free to give them, but ideally, only above and beyond my Promise. Why? Because we cannot risk the entire body while trying to help a limb. No member’s need will justify leaving the whole body unattended. By investing our resources together, we become stronger and bigger, we do it better and faster.
But as my offering will be merged with offerings of my sisters and brothers from all the world, I need to give up my natural desire to be recognized and praised as a “donor” or “benefactor,” and so, no final recipient will recognize and praise me. Maybe I will never receive a call of acknowledgment, a thankful letter, have my name written on a wall of honor, or be invited to a donor’s dinner. But I am sure that this is exactly what I am called to do. Actually, I have a different “dinner” in mind, the one that will gather all the ransomed reached by the offerings from all of us!
By adopting this plan, a blessed flow of resources will never cease, and the gates of heaven may be opened for many still in this generation! I am pleased to know that particles of my offering, if so distributed, will reach even places and projects that I will only know about in heaven. And, by the way, heaven will notice it (Acts 10:4)!
I want to be part of this selfless, uninterrupted current that will provide the resources for the final proclamation of the gospel to every nation, tribe, people, and tongue, and in every possible way, because Jesus is coming now! What about you?
[i] Someone who has voted to give Promise, which is a name used to identify the regular and systematic offering. It is proposed to God by the promisor as a percentage (this is the system) of every income or increase (this is the regularity). Read more on Marcos Faiock Bomfim (2020, January-March), “What Is ‘Promise?’” Dynamic Steward, vol. 23. no. 1, pp. 12, 13; also available in https://stewardship.adventist.org/what-is-promise.
[ii] Faiock Bomfim, M. (Oct. 2016), “The Day I Became a Promisor,” Dynamic Stewards, vol. 20, no. 4 (October 2016): p. 3 (https://stewardship.adventist.org/2016-20-4.pdf)
[iii] See, for instance, Jer. 17:9 and Prov. 14:12, as well as Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), pp. 25, 80, 81.
[iv] When writing about proportional giving, Ellen G. White frequently mentions tithes and offerings together and identifies both under the same system. See, for instance, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), pp. 73, 80, 200; and Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1855), vol. 1, p. 546.
[v] Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940) p. 73 (last paragraph).
[vi] Ibid., p. 200.
[vii] Ibid., p. 81.
[viii] About how the tithe can be used, see Num. 18:21, 24; Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), pp. 101-108; and General Conference Working Policy 2019-2020, V 14, p. 628.
[ix] See Marcos Faiock Bomfim (Oct.-Dec. 2019), “Combined to Grow—Reasons for the ‘New’ Offering Plan,” Dynamic Steward, vol. 22. no. 4 (October 2019): pp. 17-19 (https://stewardship.adventist.org/2019224.pdf).
[x] See endnote #8.
[xi] Among the recipients of the World Budget are the world divisions (various appropriations; applied where tithe budget is not enough or new places), Adventist World Radio, Hope Channel International, Global Mission, Andrews University, and Loma Linda University.
[xii] Seventh-day Adventist World Church Statistics 2016, 2017 (https://www.adventist.org/articles/seventh-day-adventist-world-church-statistics-2016-2017/), retrieved on June 16, 2020.