Don't Forget, We Pay Your Salary
A few days ago we had what was thankfully an unusual occurrence at our North Pacific Union office. One of our "saints" came into the lobby and asked for a certain service. Our receptionist graciously responded that because we were an administrative office we unfortunately weren't able to provide what she wanted but explained where she could find it.
The "saint" grumbled about how she "gives the church all this money, and we didn't have anything that was of use to her." And then as a parting shot, she remarked, "You won't be getting any more of my money!"
I don't know who she was or if she'll read this editorial, (evidently she doesn't read the GLEANER since that is a service of the NPUC) but if she does, I'd like to apologize for not meeting her expectations.
No You Don't
There is another complaint that you might have heard people make when someone doesn't like the way things are going in the church. "Don't forget, we pay your salary."
With all due respect I'd like to disagree with both of the above sentiments. I'm very thankful for the divinely inspired financial structure of this church. It is the envy of other denominations. You and I don't pay the salary of our local pastor, or our conference president for that matter. This is not a congregational church. If it were, churches would hire their own pastors and pay them accordingly. When they liked what they heard from the pulpit they would give them a raise. If the pastor stepped on their toes…they could fire him.
No, thankfully we have conferences or, in Biblical terms, "the store house." We return our tithes and offering to the Lord and then through a strictly governed, carefully audited system our financial policies are managed by the conference leadership and its conference committee.
So as a church leader does that make me less accountable? Absolutely not. Does it mean everything is always handled perfectly? Unfortunately, the answer is also no. But take heart in the same assurances I do. Ellen G. White, who helped structure this church under divine inspiration, wrote some great counsel.
"Some have been dissatisfied and have said, ‘I will no longer pay my tithe, for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work.' But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right? Make your complaint, plainly and openly in the right spirit, to the proper ones…but do not withdraw from the work of God, and prove unfaithful because others are not doing right."1
Then she also stated in no uncertain terms, "Cannot you see that it is not best under any circumstances to withhold your tithes and offerings because you are not in harmony with everything that your brethren do? If the conference business is not managed according to the order of the Lord, that is the sin of the erring one; the Lord will not hold you responsible for it, if you do what you can to correct the evil. But do not commit sin yourselves by withholding from the Lord His own property."2
So, in financial terms, what's the bottom line? The tithe and offerings that you and I return to the Lord are sacred. They are the Lord's. As a leader I must be extremely careful in how these monies are used. I am accountable to a higher Authority than even our members. And, likewise, you and I must be extremely careful to return faithfully our tithes and offerings. If we are, he will bless us and His church accordingly.
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, 249.
2 Ibid., Manuscript 3, 1890, 6-7.