This is an article from the January-February 1998 issue: A Pastor with a Passion for the Unreached Peoples

Faith Promise

A Biblically-Based Instrument for Mission Vision That Works Village Baptist

Faith Promise

There are three great truths about God:

  • God loves the world.
  • God has unlimited resources to reach the world.
  • God channels these resources through His own people.

One of God's favorite ways to channel His resources is the “Faith Promise Offering” which is a modern way to describe the way churches in the New Testament gave to help people in distant places. According to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 it had several characteristics:

  • It was an offering over and above local church support.
  • Rather than being a cash offering, it was a faith offering, promising in faith to contribute a certain amount over a one-year period.
  • It was given in faith. The reward in ability to give during the year was seen as being directly proportional to the commitment made in faith. Paul illustrated this in 2 Corinthians 9 by a farmer who reaped what he sowed in faith, believing that the sun and rain God provided would prosper the amount of seed he had sown.

God honors the “faith commitment” of a Christian by making His grace abound (2 Corinthians 9:8), enabling financial involvement in missions. This grace generally comes in one of three ways:

  • The grace of new opportunity. Sometimes God gives special grace through new opportunities such as overtime work, “moonlighting,” or increased business profits. Often God will allow a sensitive Christian with a burden for the world to work creatively and diligently in order to provide additional revenue for missions.
  • The grace of discipline. God often gives His people the special grace of discipline. This involves a change of life-style.
  • The grace of the unusual. Sometimes God supplies His grace in unusual ways. In response to prayer, God still does the spectacular and unexpected.

A Summary of Faith Promise Faith Promise is...

  • Giving the Lord an opportunity to work in our lives to bring about greater support of missionaries.
  • Saying, “In dependence on God I will endeavor to give $ ______ (a weekly or monthly amount).”
  • Scriptural in focus: Its target is the church's God-given task to make disciples of all nations.
  • A Scriptural means of encouraging weekly, disciplined, consistent giving for world evangelization.
  • An extra gift which you would not be able to give apart from trusting God to provide it.

According to what Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, a Faith Promise is an amount...

  • More than one can afford (8:2-4).
  • That follows personal commitment (8:5).
  • That is optional, but is a test of love (8:8).
  • Previously promised (9:5).
  • Personally purposed (9:7).
  • That you can give cheerfully (9:7).
  • Provided by God (9:8).

Does Faith Promise Work? Testimonies of God’s Faithfulness Harold Ockenga, Former Pastor Park Street Church Boston, Massachusetts

While Dr. Harold J. Ockenga was pastor of Park Street Church, Boston, he actively promoted the Faith Promise Plan. They had about 550 in Sunday School, 1,000 normally on Sunday morning and about 750 in the evening service. He, being dead, speaks in glad spirit about Faith Promise giving:

“In 1936 our annual missions giving was $3,300. The real increase in our giving began when we started our missionary conference in 1940. That year giving leaped from $9,500 to $21,000. It has gone up every year since.

“I could give you illustration after illustration of the faithfulness of God to people who have sought first the kingdom of God, but denied themselves. Last year a lady deeded over to us—I did not know whether to read it aloud or not—quite a parcel of land and a good lot out in the suburbs. And it has all come through.

“One young man promised $10,000. I didn’t know he had a cent. The people get blessed for what they have done.

“One man gives 10 percent of the first $10,000 he makes, 20 percent of the second $10,000, 30 percent of the third $10,000, 40 percent of the fourth $10,000, and so on. This man has prospered tremendously. He has testified a number of times what God has does in his life.

“A young doctor made a very big Faith Promise for missions. He told me, ‘There four of us together in our offices. My colleagues don’t have the clients I have. Their income is not as big as mine. This thing is wonderful. There is absolutely no explanation for this but missions.’

“Another man is a professor. One day he was appointed to a great scientific institution. His picture was on the front page of The New York Times. I called him up and said, ‘Doctor, I think this is wonderful.’ ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘you know you have been telling us that God will be no man’s debtor. That is true! I am not that good...’ Now he has made a foundation. His books are many textbooks in scientific institutions The profits from his books are going to missions through Park Street Church.

“I can tell you person after person whom God has blessed. I bear witness in my own life to what God has done.

“I am not talking about our church only You can go to Long Island, Decantur, Atlanta, Chattanooga, or other places where they have started this program and see what has happened. You say this is unusual. It is not unusual. Have faith in God! Believe God’s Word! Believe! I do not say it is going to happen in the same way in every church. What I Say is this: When a man needs something in his own church, if it is down in a trough, give him a missionary vision. Get people looking out yonder. What happens? They say, ‘ if that preacher and the church is concerned about Asia and Africa and places where people are in need, if they need a Steinway piano I will give it to them.’ That is what happens.

“When we need something I let it be known that we need it and let it rest. God will commend it to somebody’s heart to meet that need sooner or later. If you had to raise all these things, and kept your eyes on them first you would never get to the missionary program. This is what most ministers are doing. They think that if they give two-thirds or more of their income to missions, then they won’t get their salary. Don’t you believe it! Commend your work to everybody who looks at it and God’s law will work right back to the benefit of your own church.

“I here testify that we get greater revival, greater inspiration, greater joy, greater sacrifice, greater dedication through [our annual missions conference] than any deeper life conference or evangelistic campaign we hold in Park Street Church. We have scores of our young people on the mission field. Lift up God’s standard and you lift the blessings. And they flow back on the individual, on the church, on the whole work that you are doing. God just multiplies them again and again.”

This simple plan will result in rewards here and hereafter. It is linked to the unalterable purpose of our Lord who said, “I have come that they may have life (John 14:10).” Knowing that Faith Promise is for life, use the Faith Promise plan to offer life in Christ worldwide—life eternal.

Stanley R. Allaby, Former Pastor Black Rock Congregational Church Fairfield, Connecticut

The church began using the Faith Promise Plan in 1962. The example of Park Street Church, Boston, was an influence, as was Norm Lewis' book, Triumphant Missionary Ministry in the Local Church. The book was distributed to all church leaders before launching the Faith Promise program.

Even though there had been a great deal of preparation before instituting the Faith Promise plan, few were ready for the spectacular results. Giving to missions increased by 25 percent the first year and has been growing ever since. Missionary giving has risen from $17,000 in 1961 to $429,000 for 1989. During this time a new sanctuary and a Christian education plant have been built, costing over $600,000 and a $500,000 addition in 1986. Average attendance has grown from 300 to 700. Also, a branch church has been started. It, too, has developed a fine missions program.

The chart demonstrates how the general fund has grown during the same period. Our church has learned that when missions is put first, God blesses the local work abundantly.

Not only has there been numerical and financial growth, but significant spiritual growth has also occurred. Many have testified of blessings received as they have increased their Faith Promises. Benefits have been felt by the whole church.

As the goal is prayerfully set, everyone is challenged to trust God to help meet that goal. One of the most exciting moments in our church life comes at the end of the annual Missions Conference when the Faith Promise total is announced.

David Gales, Pastor Plaza Baptist Church Charlotte, North Carolina

In 1971, the Lord called me to Plaza Baptist Church. Recently recovering from a church split, she was not a ministerial plum. Only $8,000 was given to missions the year before. The church was heavily in debt.

I had never seen a missionary in person. Having pastored six years prior in a denominational church, missions was impersonal and a token activity. During the last year of that pastorate, I read the biography of J. Hudson Taylor. A fire was lit in my soul for faith missions.

In 1971, I experienced my first Missions Conference and personalized the congregation with missionaries. Faith Promise was adopted to support them. The church caught on quickly as the Lord touched many with a missionary vision. Young people began to go out from the church into missionary work.

Plaza Baptist Church is located in a depressed, declining area of the city. Church consultants gave gloomy assessments about the survival of the church. They knew the difficulties in the neighborhood. The membership realized they would never be a “mega church.” But they did have a goal to be a “missions” church. Could God bless and build a missions church in such a location?

The Lord has done just that. Plaza now gives over $100,000 annually to missions. Since 1971, over one million dollars have gone out to missionaries. God seems to be showing that a church does not need to be in a thriving location to be a thriving missionary church.

With an average attendance of 220 lower-middleclass members, the church has an excitement in it that breathes missions. The church uses the Faith Promise method of missionary support. So many young people are going from the church into missions that we have had to enlist other churches to help support our young people. It is a good problem for a church to have.

Implement the Offering Advice for Pastors and Church Leaders

People respond generously with Faith Promise missions giving for world evangelization only after they understand it and see it modeled and practiced by their church leaders. It was this way in the New Testament and it is this way today. What are some specific ways that church leaders can prepare their people for a successful program of Faith Promise giving?

Preach and teach world missions. The Bible is a missionary book. The greatest example ever of crossing a cultural barrier for the benefit of an alien people group was in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to die for the sins of mankind. He was sent from heaven's glory to needy people on Planet Earth. Every book in the Bible underlines this theme. In all of your preaching and teaching, be sure to highlight these great truths so that your people will not and cannot forget them. Do everything within your power to help your people understand that the Bible is about the Lord Jesus Christ coming to express His love for us by enduring the Cross—so that we might be forgiven.

Make sure your people understand that the only reason God has left us here on earth, rather than immediately taking us home to heaven, is to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ. Remind them that Jesus made His mission to the world the model for our mission to the world. He said in very precise and unmistakable words, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (John 20:21).” The Father was the Sender and Jesus was the Sent One. The Sender provided all the strength, support and sustenance for the Sent One. This pattern is still valid today.

Show your people that you are concerned about evangelization both locally and worldwide. Be diligent about personally and publicly exercising intercessory prayer for your missionary family.

There are obviously various ways to collect the commitments for a Faith Promise offering. Some churches will do this through their Sunday school classes, others through small groups. Some will encourage those not present during the conference to send in their commitments so that they can be included in the total. Sometimes there will be opportunities during the week of the conference to bring a Faith Promise offering. However and whenever it is done, most churches will emphasize it at the conclusion of their missionary conference—usually as part of the regular Sunday services. When this is done, it is important that the pastor lead in explaining and encouraging the offering. The pastor must be seen by his people leading the way in this faith endeavor.

A Biblical Foundation

In the early years of the Christian church, a real concern was expressed for “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26).” These particular Christians were poor for a number of reasons. They were severe-ly affected by the famine of A.D. 46 during the time of the Emperor Claudius (see Acts 11:27-30). They also experienced persecution at the hands of the Jewish religious establishment in the form of social ostracism and economic boycott. Besides this, the mother church in Jerusalem had heavy obligations to care for their widows and a large number of itinerant teachers and leaders, as well as providing hospitality for Christian visitors who frequented the city. To this was added the heavy taxation imposed upon the citizens from both Jewish and Roman sources. All of this affected the Christians living in Judea.

The apostle Paul was a primary force behind the drive to gather a special offering from the Gentile churches for these Judean Christians. This was an offering over-and-above local church expenses, which were funded by the tithes of each congregation.

The special fund-raising effort on behalf of those living in Judea began when a man named Agabus came as a guest speaker to the church at Antioch. This was during the time when Barnabas and Paul were part of the pastoral staff of that responsive church. Agabus predicted that a famine would come, and that it would affect primarily the people in Judea.

The Christians of Antioch took this prophecy very seriously. They trusted God to provide them the additional funds needed to give to those who would be affected by the famine. When they raised an amount that matched their goal, they sent it to Judea by Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:27-30).

How did Paul set out to facilitate the offering? He must have begun by reflecting upon the way the church at Antioch had initially responded. That response is described for us in Acts 11:29-30:

** Each believer decided personally whether or not to be involved.

** Each participated according to his or her ability.

** They followed through and did it.

Using that first Faith Promise offering as a model, Paul encouraged all of the churches he established to participate in such offerings—pooling their resources to meet the needs of people outside their local church communities. Churches in Galatia, Corinth, Macedonia, Rome and all over the Roman Empire participated in this type of offering, which, as we have seen, was over-and-above the tithes the people gave to support their local work.

This special offering was global in scope. Paul, from Tarsus in Cilicia, was an apostle to the Gentiles. He wrote to the church at Corinth, which was in a Roman province, using the Macedonians as an example to help stimulate their faith. We know he also received offerings from churches in Rome and Galatia. Titus, from Crete, and men selected from churches planted on all three of Paul's missionary journeys (e.g., Berea, Thessalonica, Derbe and the province of Asia) were asked to help gather and carry the offerings from their congregations to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4, 24:17). It would be difficult to become more international than that! This global aspect of Paul's method commends it to us today for funding missionary endeavors.

An examination of the Scriptures dealing with this particular offering shows that the motivation for giving was multifaceted:

** First of all, it was a love response to our Lord because of His love for us: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)!”

** Paul was careful to point out, secondly, that the offering was to “honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help (2 Corinthians 8:19).”

** It was an expression of an obligation on the part of the Gentiles, who had shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings (Romans 15:27).

** There was a felt need to help the Jews with their material needs (Romans 15:27).

** Finally, Paul viewed this undertaking as part of his desire to finish the race and complete the task given to him by the Lord Jesus—“the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace (Acts 20:24).” Paul said this while on his way to Jerusalem to deliver the offering.

This offering is directly mentioned in a number of places (see Acts 11:27-30; 24:17; Galatians 2:10; Romans 15:23-33; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9). The major passage, in terms of its length, is 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.

The Corinthian believers were aware of the special offering even before reading Paul's detailed instructions recorded in 2 Corinthians. This is clear from 1 Corinthians 16, where Paul specifically asked that a special offering be taken to Jerusalem. Verses 1-4 give us a number of specifics:

Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

Today we sometimes see one local church stimulating another local church by its example. This same dynamic took place among first century churches. According to 16:1, the Galatian churches had established a practice that became a good example for the Corinthians.

All of these details depict Paul’s outline regarding this offering included in Scripture so that we would practice those same principles today. They are all elements of the modern day “faith promise missionary offering.” In the first century, such offerings were taken to relieve famine-stricken people. Today they serve to relieve a greater, spiritual famine—a famine of the Bread of Life.

As 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 demonstrates, the special offering of New Testament times was promised a year in advance. It was promised in faith, depending upon God to provide it. Paul reminded the people of it, so that no one would be embarrassed when the time came to collect what they had promised.

How much should we be giving? C. S. Lewis said it well: "I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little."*

* C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, MacMillan, New York: 1975, 81. Intro., implementation and biblical foundations printed by permission from Donald Jensen, Your Church Can Excel in Global Giving, Churchmart, Wheaton, 1994. Testimonies printed by permission from Norm Lewis: Faith Promise: Why and How, OM Lit, Waynesboro, GA, 1992.


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