Source: Adventist News Network
[April 18, 2007] Put a finger on the financial pulse of the world Seventh-day Adventist Church, and you'll find it strong and steady. "God is blessing his faithful members as, with joy, they bring their tithes and offerings to the Lord," world church treasurer Bob Lemon told delegates at world church headquarters on April 11.
Members of the church's General Conference Executive Committee gathered from across the globe to attend the Spring business meeting of the world church.
Despite a 52--rather than 53--Sabbath year, worldwide tithe advanced steadily, checking in at $1.6 billion for 2006, a 10 percent increase from last year's $1.45 billion. The portion of worldwide tithe that goes through church headquarters, where it covers operating costs and helps fund the church's work across the globe, totaled nearly $84 million, up almost sixpercent from 2004's $79 million.
Slightly tempering these "tremendous" tithe statistics is the declining value of the U.S. dollar, Lemon noted. Currency conversion rates affect the approximately 46 percent of global tithes received in legal tender other than the U.S. dollar.
However, Lemon said the substantial, consistent growth of mission offerings as a percentage of tithe over the past two years is reassuring. Worldwide mission offerings for 2006 indicate the steady upswing continues. In fact, between 2002 and 2006, mission offerings from outside the church's North American (NAD) region grew from $24 million to $32 million, a 33 percent increase.
Commenting on the 70 percent increase in non-NAD tithe returns over the same four years, Lemon said, "Even though the increase [in non-NAD mission offerings] has not entirely kept up with the increase in tithe, it is heading in the right direction."
Lemon noted that for 25 years, mission offering rates in North America hovered around $21 million, even though tithe increased each year. But since 2005, the percentage increase in mission offerings in the region has surpassed the percentage increase in tithe, a trend Lemon finds promising.
This year's numbers also reveal NAD offerings increased six percent from 2005, while non-NAD contributions continue to sprint ahead at a 13 percent increase.
Gary Krause, director of the Office of Adventist Mission at world church headquarters, said the rise in mission offerings indicate a "growing passion among church members for mission, and a growing confidence that mission offerings are making a difference."
"[We] are using every communication avenue we can find to 'put a face' on mission offerings and show the amazing impact they're having around the world in changing lives for Jesus," Krause added. One of those avenues is the department's Web site, www.adventistmission.org, where church members can 'meet' the people their offerings directly impact.
"There is still a great work to be done in reaching all nations," Lemon told delegates toward the conclusion of his report. In particular, he singled out parts of the world where, according to world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen, the Adventist church is "thin on the ground."
Lemon urged church officials to redouble the church's outreach budget allotment to the 10/40 Window, a region encompassing largely unentered areas of West Africa, the Middle East and Asia where more than 60 percent of the world's population is concentrated.
During the 1940s, Lemon explained, as much as 40 percent of the church's total tithes and offerings flowed through and were administered by church headquarters, where funds were then channeled to areas of greatest need.
Now, however, local church offices oversee the majority of tithe and offerings distribution, leaving less than seven percent for church headquarters to allocate. While church officials applaud administering as much as possible at local levels, insufficient local church infrastructure in the 10/40 Window means there are fewer funds to support developing work in the region.
"We need to give special attention to directing a larger and larger portion of our pooled resources toward parts of the world where we have very few members, but where a major portion of the world's population live," Lemon said.
Lemon also called for a shift in the church's missionary sponsorship in 10/40 Window territories. He commended the church's interdivision missionary program for helping to maintain church unity through a common mission, but suggested it not be viewed as the primary method of outreach in world regions dominated by faiths other than Christianity.
The church might do well, Lemon urged, to consider stepping up funding for more alternative outreach efforts that may ultimately prove more effective, such as training local people in outreach and sponsoring Global Mission pioneers.
Closing the 2006 fiscal year treasurer's report, outgoing world church under-treasurer Steve Rose outlined the church's proposed use of its $10 million supplemental budget for 2006. Church officials moved to direct $2 million of the surplus to the 10/40 Window. The remaining $8 million will go toward various church entities and initiatives, many of which also directly impact the 10/40 Window.