by George A. Hilgeman
Because of U.S. give-away programs, national churches get the idea, “We’ll set up our program, and all we have to do is go to the mission. They have the money if we could only get hold of it.” The mission has become an impersonal thing supposedly with unlimited financial backing of wealthy North American Christians.
Because of U.S. give-away programs, national churches get the idea, "We’ll set up our program, and all we have to do is go to the mission. They have the money if we could only get hold of it." The mission has become an impersonal thing supposedly with unlimited financial backing of wealthy North American Christians.
There should be an understanding that the mission is more than an organization. It is personal and depends on the sacrificial giving of many. Funds are not without limit. We have an obligation to explain just what the mission is and how it operates: that a mission is people and God the supply; that faith and sacrifice are the operating principles. I have done this and found a new attitude and cooperative understanding, where before there was resentment and suspicion.
It is true that the national organization has a large financial need. It has its program, but it needs money to see it through. Bolivian Christians are poor and haven’t been able to come up with enough to support their pastors, to say nothing of supporting an organization even though its programs are for the benefit of the churches. This program has plagued me for a long time. The national work cannot be divorced from the mission. Take away the nationals, and the mission has lost its reason for existence. Therefore I believe that the mission has a financial responsibility toward the nationals.
To meet this need, we as missionaries decided to give a certain sum with each quarterly allowance. This was not adequate, although it was a help. I do not have the answer, but this led to further study. In any case, I am persuaded that we ought never to underwrite a program. This in itself destroys the faith principle which we desire to instill in the hearts of our believers.
The national organization should carefully plan and draw up its budget for the coming year the same as we missionaries. As far as possible, we should let them know that we will stand behind that program in prayer, active cooperation, and, as God supplies the funds, with financial help.
If some parts are not practical, take time to explain, but don’t criticize. If there is something that is impossible to accept, be courteous but frank and explain why. They will appreciate it and probably make the necessary changes. To treat the program as childish, unworkable, or to take the attitude, "I am busy with my own program and can’t be bothered" is inexcusable. Even if you think your program is superior, you may find that you have alienated the nationals, the very ones to whom God has sent you to minister.
So think long range in your relationship with nationals. You might find that the Lord was leading them in some of those "crazy" plans of theirs. But the child will never learn to plan for himself when Dad makes all the decisions and simply asks him to ratify them.
In Bolivia I was extremely disturbed over this financial situation. We had given to the national pastors through the UCE (Christian Evangelical Union), expecting our giving to be on a diminishing scale while the churches would by the same ratio increase their support of their pastors. But it didn’t work out like that. We came to the difficult conclusion that we had made a mistake. The churches had never assumed their responsibility and mainly because we were trying to keep the ship afloat. They were satisfied that we should continue to do so.
When we gave them autonomy (they had asked for it), we decided that this was the moment to make the break. Autonomy would demand responsibility as well as privilege. Therefore the help that we had given them was withdrawn. Some churches did respond to some degree, but the majority still coasted along as before. It was the pastors who suffered -these men who were faithful to God’s call.
It broke my heart to hear how the church in Caipepe had reneged on its promise to take care of Jacinto’s garden and family so that their pastor could go to Bible school. By the time he had nearly completed his schooling, he had had to sell all but one of his cows. The church was giving him a total of 10 pesos a month-less than a dollar.
This church was evangelistic and active in many ways. It is one of the oldest congregations on our field. It had sent out young people into the ministry. What was wrong? It wasn’t that they hadn’t heard any teaching about giving to the Lord and His work, or the responsibility to support their pastor. They had heard it for many years in their own church from the missionaries. The same truths had been presented repeatedly at the annual UCE conventions from which the church delegates were to return and explain these matters to the congregation.
I began to realize that training meant far more than just preaching the Word and frankly presenting the truth. Discipling went much farther. It was showing them in a practical way how they could pest the teaching into practice.
The Lord began to burden my heart and to open up a plan of action. At our annual UCE convention in Camiri, I was asked to present several messages on tithing. Not wanting the thing to die there as it always had, I made the suggestion that we consider setting up a program for the coming year with the goal, "Every Believer a Tither in 1968." From there the suggestion became a motion and was voted through unanimously.
The responsibility for this new program was given to the new board of directors. A couple of months went by. I saw the president of the UCE and inquired how the program was coming. As I had expected, he had forgotten all about it. It was past time to get everything in motion if we were to start in January. I told him I would be in Camiri, and if they liked, I would be glad to discuss plans for the program.
I am not a member of the board and have no right to force them to do anything. He was grateful for the suggestion and called the meeting. In broad outline I presented how they might put the program in operation. They seemed enthusiastic, but I never let enthusiasm fool me. Concrete steps had to be taken, so the work for the first months was put into operation. Later on, they saw that the work would be more effective if put into the hands of a three-man committee, headed up by Enrique Rocha. They also wanted the counsel and guidance of Glennie Wry, a missionary whom they had also elected to the board of directors.
This program, you understand, is not running through the entire UCE organization but just those churches of the Evangelical Union of South America. Like Evangelism-in-Depth, we learned the value of united action and also that this effort must be bathed in prayer. It must reach the heart and not just the head.
The campaign was set in motion New Year’s Eve with a watchnight prayer meeting in all of the churches. We wanted them to realize that tithing would not necessarily make them spiritual Christians. There were other factors involved. Therefore, the outline for the Watch Night service was: (1) I will be obedient to the Lord in faithfully attending the services; (2) I will be obedient to the Lord in having daily family worship; (3) I will be obedient to the Lord in prayer; (4) I will be obedient to the Lord in testifying; (5) I will be obedient to the Lord in supporting the Lord’s work with my tithes and offerings.
You will notice that the emphasis was not put upon the needs of the pastors, the churches, the UCE or anything else. It was personal obedience to the Lord. This overrides any such objections as, "We’re too poor," etc.
A poster was drawn up which would serve for the entire year as both a reminder and instruction on how to tithe. It showed a garden with a tenth part set aside for the Lord, ten chickens, ten eggs, ten pigs, each with one set apart. It also pictures money placed in the offering with the text, "God loveth a cheerful giver." The theme throughout all the printing was, "I Will Be Obedient."
This larger poster had to be printed in Cochabamba, but all the rest of our material, which was considerable, was done on our own press at Hebron Bible Institute in Camiri. The printing included announcements of various phases of the campaign, but especially our monthly bulletin, "La Meta," or "The Goal." This contained articles that provided instruction concerning tithing. An essential feature included testimonies of tithers, those of their own people who have experienced the joy of giving to the Lord and have seen Him undertake for them. This was a great factor fn encouraging others. And then there were news items from the various churches. "La Meta" was essential to the success of this program.
Instruction is not enough. There must be a time of decision. Wherefore, April 7 was designated "Decision Day." The previous Sunday the pastors distributed decision cards to each believer (not just to each member). They explained once more what the Word teaches as to our responsibility. Also, they showed them the seriousness of signing the card. This was not a promise to the pastor, the church, or the UCE It was a promise to the Lord. It was better not to promise than to promise and not fulfill that pledge.
The card reads like this, "God being my witness: Recognizing that all that I have belongs to God, and in gratitude for His great love manifested in Christ on the cross and also in his multiplied daily blessings, I promise to give Him my tithes and offerings from this day forward."
The believers were then to take the cards home, where they kept them for a week as they considered this matter carefully. Then they were to bring the cards signed or unsigned on April 7. Those who signed would receive a wall text-Matthew 6:33. However, if an entire family signed, they would also receive Joshua 24:15.
A report sheet given to the pastors was then turned in to the committee in Camirf. Of the first report of 23 churches, slightly over 50 percent lead become tithers. If nothing else happened, tie effort would have been well worth it. In Charagua, more than 90 percent signed the pledge cards. The offerings in Charagua more than doubled since April 7.
"La Meta" continued to instruct and encourage especially in the areas where the effort may be weak-adults, young people, children, etc. Thermometers showed the progress of each church, a visible reminder that there still remained some who were not obedient.
Perhaps if there are outstanding results, the entire UCE may adopt the program. I hope that the other fields will do so as well. The possibilities are unlimited and can transform our entire ministry.
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