Faith Promise Program
Melbourne E. Cuthbert
The mention of this subject can evoke smiles or frowns. After having practiced faith promise giving for ten years and having introduced the concept to many churches, I am convinced the frowns are caused by either misunderstanding or mismanagement. Ninety-five percent of the faith promise programs with which I have been associated have resulted in blessings to churches as well as blessings to missionaries.
Three things are indispensable for the successful implementation of any program. First, there must be an understanding of the program. As much as possible, all doubts and confusion must be removed by a careful explanation of the purposes, operation, and desired results. People are hesitant to support wholeheartedly that which they do not understand. Second, a program must have the confidence and appreciation of those who are asked to participate. Those introducing a new program are obliged to explain how the new program is better than the existing program. Third, once the program is understood and appreciated, the final process is to lead people to unreservedly embrace the program. Using these three points allows us to take a careful look at the faith promise plan for missionary giving.
Sometimes negative attitudes surface because of misunderstandings. Before explaining what faith promise giving is, let us explain what it is not. A faith promise gift is not a one-time gift. In this program no one is encouraged to survey his or her assets and make a one-time offering. That would be a sight gift, not a faith gift. Faith promise is not synonymous with a pledge. It is not a legal contract between a person and the church. Rather, it is a promise between a person and his God. A vital fact to remember is that a faith promise offering is not a tithe. It is not to be a part of the tithe or to replace the tithe. A faith offering is over and above the tithe and offering already being given. If this simple fact is remembered the faith promise plan will not hurt the budget of the church. Careful research proves it will help. Faith giving is not a matter of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The faith promise plan for missionary giving is a method of missionary giving in which the members of a church are encouraged to give a predetermined amount of money each week over and above tithes and offerings already being given. Members are first given information regarding faith promise giving. Then they wait on the Lord for His direction. At the faith promise tally service, members write on a card the amount they promise to give each week as the Lord enables.
Making a promise is a concept with which most people are familiar. But add the word “faith” to promise and a new, unknown concept emerges. If people are to be comfortable with the faith promise plan, a satisfactory explanation of faith promise is essential.
Faith promise giving requires four exercises of faith. To give a tithe requires only arithmetic and obedience. Giving a regular faith promise offering week by week requires an added dimension of faith coupled with faithfulness.
The first exercise of faith is asking God’s direction in determining the amount of one’s faith promise offering. Of course, factors such as salary, dividends, and assets, as well as obligations and debts must be considered. No one should enter faith promise giving without praying about this important matter. Hebrews 11:6 says, “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Note well that a person’s faith promise gift is not only determined by assets and obligations, but also by love for Christ and a willingness to sacrifice.
The second exercise of faith is trusting God to supply this amount each week. Now we have arrived at the “nitty-gritty” of faith promise giving. Most people live by a budget. Faith promise offering should go into budget along with the tithe and other offerings. Faith promise giving should be incorporated along with your other giving. But where does faith come in? Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In other words, give your faith promise offering first by faith, then you can claim the promise that these things (the necessities of life) shall be supplied. The promise is that if you put God first in your living and giving He will not allow the money to run out before the month does.
An alternative view of faith promise giving is sometimes presented. The idea is to make a faith promise offering, providing that God will supply it. If you make a faith promise and God does not supply, then there is no obligation to give. No, a faith promise to give must be honored just as a mortgage payment, insurance premium, or any other commitment. Successful faith promise giving is structured on the twin virtues of faithfulness and sacrifice. The third exercise of faith, then, comes in recognizing how and when God supplies our needs after we have fulfilled our faith promise commitment. Hundreds of testimonies could be told of how God has blessed and prospered those who have committed themselves to a weekly faith promise offering. This prospering comes in different ways: raise in salary, decrease in expenses, unexpected dividends, and absence of doctor or repair bills, just to mention a few.
The fourth exercise of faith requires increasing one’s faith promise offering each year. Do we not need to grow in the grace of giving? If each member increases each year and new members join the program, the church experiences a gradual, continual increase in faith promise giving.
Let me share four valid reasons why the faith promise plan for missionary giving is worthy of consideration. First and foremost, the plan is scriptural. The confines of this article forbid a detailed study. However, a study of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 reveals faith promise principles. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Every man according as he purposeth [promises] in his heart, so let him give.” Faith is a scriptural principle, not only in living but also in giving. Is it a distortion of biblical truth to insist that not only shall the just live by faith, but they shall also give by faith? Faith promise contradicts no biblical principles.
Second, this plan is successful. It works! In my own experience, I could tell of dozens of churches whose missionary giving has been rejuvenated by the faith promise plan. Churches that seriously enter into this program not only “lengthen the cords” (missionary outreach) but they also “strengthen the stakes and enlarge the tent” (work at home, cf. Isaiah 54:2). Success is not an accident. Faith promise giving is successful, because it is based on Luke 6:38, which sets forth a simple but profound principle, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” The principle is not just give and get, but rather give and get in order to give more.
Third, because it is systematic, the faith promise plan commends itself to us. Our God is a God of order and system. God commands in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” Experience proves that the faith promise plan promotes regular, sacrificial, proportionate, and love-prompted giving. This dramatically expands the church’s missionary giving in an orderly manner.
Fourth, successful experience in hundreds of churches proves this program is sound for the following reasons:
1. Faith promise giving enjoys God’s enablement. Do not be surprised that God blesses and prospers an endeavor which is so integrally a part of His great program of preaching the gospel to a lost world.
2. Faith promise giving is unselfish. The money does not stay home but is sent abroad to support missionary endeavors. A good way to kill a faith promise program is to hoard the money.
3. The faith promise plan, as the name implies, uses the faith principle. It enables a church to do by faith what it could never dream of doing by sight.
4. Faith promise giving unites a church. It is not a panacea for church problems, but the very nature of this program promotes unity in a fellowship of believers.
5. The faith promise plan blesses a church. How? By helping church become what God meant for it to be, a sending agency sending the gospel via faithful missionaries to needy, neglect areas of God’s vineyard.
The third and crucial step, implementation of a faith promise program, requires careful planning to insure maximum participation. Optimum results depend upon adequate understanding and true appreciation. The pastor must be well versed in all aspects of the program. Next, he must sell the idea to the church leaders. The leaders are then able to help the pastor explain the program to the church members. Bulletin inserts, messages dealing with faith promise principles, and question/answer periods will aid in preparing the congregation for the faith promise program. Churches using the faith promise plan for missionary giving usually conduct an annual faith promise missionary conference.
The faith promise missionary conference does three things relative to the faith promise program: it informs, inspires, and allows participation. The conference should feature a speaker experienced in mission affairs and in faith promise programs. During the course of the conference the subject of faith promise giving is summarized and clarified. Along with the main speaker, the conference should also feature missionaries and appointees who are capable of communicating the urgency and value of their work.
Designate the Sunday morning service as the time for tallying faith promise gifts. After a challenging message on missions and giving, the speaker leads the congregation in making their faith promise commitments. Faith promise cards are distributed by the ushers. The speaker explains the content of the card and leads in prayer. At that time the congregation is urged to participate in the missionary outreach of their church via faith promise giving. The cards are collected and, with the help of the pastor and a person using a calculator, the results are tabulated. Then the congregation can sing a song of praise and go home.
Once the commitments are made, the pastor needs to provide faith promise envelopes and explain how the faith promise gifts will be handled. A visual display showing the amount promised per week and the amount received is a continual reminder. Every program that works must be worked. Faith promise programs are no exception.
Some churches use faith promise giving alone to support their missionary interests. Other churches let the faith promise gift supplement what is given through the church budget. Each church can work out these details to its own satisfaction.
Two dangers are to be avoided, over commitment and under-commitment. To commit 100 percent of what was promised would probably be unrealistic and may cause some missionary to suffer lack. The greater danger is hoarding faith promise money. People give by faith; the church must dispense by faith. Reluctance to use faith promise funds will stall the program.
The secret to a successful faith promise plan for missionary giving is an awareness of the purpose, the method, and the satisfaction involved. The purpose is to evangelize the world, the method is to give by faith believing that God in turn will give to us that we may give more to Him; the satisfaction is to realize that by our gifts we are co-laborers with those who go into all the world to preach the gospel. “How shall they preach, except they be sent? (Romans 10:15).
The above article, “Faith Promise Program” was written by Melbourne E. Cuthbert. The article was excerpted from chapter three in Cuthbert’s book, Managing Missions in the Local Church.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones”