I have been asked, “What will the Church of God International Offices do to stand with and assist the local church and its pastor as we move through the Covid-19 crisis?” Specifically, I have been asked if it is possible to temporarily discontinue the tithe of tithes paid by local churches, as directed by the General Assembly, to the State/Region and International Offices. These are very appropriate and understandable questions. People are concerned, apprehensive, and right now, many are simply afraid. Again, this is completely understandable.
By Tim Hill
I think it’s important to remember that the Bible is our ultimate source of what and what not to do in times of crisis. For several days now, I’ve personally looked to Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
And while I don’t usually cite passages from the Church of God General Assembly Minutes, I think the paragraph about “Interdependence,” found on page 39, Item 7, is very significant in times like these. It reads as follows: “We commit ourselves to the principle of interdependence, acknowledging our interconnectedness and dependence on all the members of the Body of Christ.”
I also applaud and support the “Priority Statement” about the local church, found in the Minutes on page 42: “The Church of God recognizes the local church as the foundation of all ministry activities and will renew efforts to acknowledge, affirm, strengthen, and support the central importance of the ministry of the local church.”
With this in mind, I believe there are at least three areas we must focus on as we navigate through these uncertain waters.
First, we must be Dedicated to Sustain current efforts that place funds directly into the field. In other words, we will not stop doing what the International and State/Regional offices are already doing to assist local churches and pastors at every possible opportunity.
Second, we must be Devoted to Strengthen the local church and pastor with further committed auxiliary resources. In other words,
• We will seek to expand our financial resources and capacity to strengthen local churches.
• We will immediately refocus available funds to flow to areas of critical need.
• We will individually review each church loan from a Church of God entity for possible short-term modifications that brings immediate relief to congregations who need it.
• Upon the recommendation of the State/Regional Administrative Bishop, we will responsibly execute and administer covenant agreements for reporting challenges as they arise.
Third, we must be Determined to Secure the future of the church by facing this crisis with wisdom, knowledge, trust in God, and partnership with one another. Clearly stated, we will go back to, and remain focused on, the basics. From this perspective, I will say that prayerful responses, true to God’s Word and in keeping with our mutual covenants under the General Assembly of the Church of God, must guide our steps.
International and State/Regional offices exist for the purpose of Great Commission fulfillment carried out through the local church. Our budgets and resulting monthly allocations cannot wait on a crisis to reflect that purpose. It must be reflected every day, even in the best of times.
While some well intentioned people desire for me to simply say, “Don’t tithe and don’t send in the tithe of tithes for a month or two,” it would be irresponsible for me to make such a declaration. Yes, such a decision initially sounds noble and even heroic. However, that is a determination beyond the purview of any one individual and could indeterminately injure a God-honored and time-proven method of sustaining ministries around the world. Most everyone is aware that other than the tithe of tithes from churches, there are no funds that permit the International and State/Regional offices to help support local congregations, and provide funding back to those local churches in times of need.
We must be in this together, bracing ourselves for the shock of the economic downturn created by the coronavirus. It will likely create an impact on the church at every level. As individual giving affects the local church, so the local church’s response will affect what is received through the tithe of tithes at both the International and State/Region offices. If we are going to continue strengthening our financial stability and placing funds back into ministry, I trust that even in times of crisis, we can do our best to maintain our tithe of tithes structure, locally, regionally and internationally. Many anticipate significant reductions of giving at every level. If that happens, we are committed to maintain our moorings and equilibrium during this unprecedented time.
So for today and in the future, we are Dedicated to Sustain, Devoted to Strengthen, and Determined to Secure financial resources for our states and regions as much as possible so that our Administrative Bishops and State Councils will be able to assist in helping local pastors and churches where and when called upon.
It may be hard to see it right now, but I’m convinced that this current situation of the Covid-19 pandemic will pass off the scene. When it does, the Church of God must be poised to seize every Great Commission opportunity the Lord has placed before us. We will get through this victoriously through Jesus Christ and we will FINISH the Great Commission.
To read the latest on the Church of God’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, please visit coronacog.com.
Tim Hill is General Overseer for the Church of God.