Don E. Crane, co-director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries, Seventh-day Adventists World Headquarters, Silver Spring, MD 20904.

The Origin of Planned Giving

What is "Planned Giving?" Where did it come from? Why is it important to Seventh-day Adventists? These questions are of fundamental importance and form the basis for this presentation.

  • Planned Giving originated early-in the heart and mind of God. He planned His giving of "the Lamb . . . from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). God planned His gift of creation. By careful design, He brought forth something from nothing. (See Heb. 11:3)
  • Jesus planned the giving of the gospel to all the world. He also planned the method of delivery of this gift. He said to His disciples, ". . . you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Note the symbolism of the four target areas where twenty-first century disciples proclaim the gospel:

Jerusalem—represents our witness in the local church and the community,

Alljudea—illustrates the responsibility that is ours to impact the peoples and territories of local conferences or unions,

Samaria—represents our unity in sharing the gospel in the international communities of our world divisions,

To the ends of the earth—represents our global assignment as a world church.

  • The Gospel commission, as proclaimed by the Seventh-day Adventists, is gathering momentum as we approach the grand climax of earth's history. Statistician Dr. F. Donald Yost, Director of the GC Department of Archives and Statistics, estimates that by the year 2000 our membership will reach 12 million and the world population will be 6.3 billion. What a challenge to Seventh-day Adventists!
  • A major responsibility of Stewardship Ministries in the coming years, will be to work with church leadership in providing and implementing a religious education curriculum for church members and church leaders. An important segment of this religious education curriculum needs to be Christ-centered, wholistic, stewardship, and tithe and offering education. As we face the challenge of an exploding world population with millions to be reached with the everlasting gospel, we recognize that Planned Giving for Global Mission is not an option but a fundamental essential to carry out our complex global assignment. Jesus indicated the need for planning when He said, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:28)
  • Planned Giving is a Divine plan. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). "It was by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who gave His life for the life of the world, that this plan for systematic giving was devised" (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 66). "I was pointed back to the days of the apostles, and saw that God laid the plan by the descent of His Holy Spirit, and that by the gift of prophecy He counseled His people in regard to a system of benevolence" (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 190).
  • Planned Giving is also contemporary. God's modernday Word of Prophecy describes the plan clearly and precisely. "God has devised a plan by which all may give as He has prospered them, and which will make giving a habit without waiting for special calls. . . . Until all shall carry out the plan of systematic benevolence, there will be a failure in coming up to the apostolic rule" (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 411).

As a young minister, I studied the "apostolic rule" and searched for its New Testament roots. Finally, I came across this clue: "In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul gave the believers instruction regarding the general principles underlying the support of God's work in the earth" (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 335). We find the "apostolic rule" in Scripture: "On the first day of every week, each 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" (1 Cor. 16:2). Since the days of the Apostles and the early Christian church, this important Bible text has been used to teach regularity in giving on a personal or family level, and to teach giving to God based on blessings received.

Seventh-day Adventists Follow the Plan

Based on the "apostolic rule", the Seventh-day Adventist Church recommends and encourages systematic giving for gospel sharing in five important areas: 1. Tithe, 2. Local Church, 3. Conference Development, 4. World Missions, 5. Special Projects and Miscellaneous Offerings. Let's take a closer look at each of these major areas of Planned Giving.

STEP 1-Tithe

Step 1 if to return God's holy tithe. The tithe reminds us of our partnership with God. "The greatest lesson to be taught and to be learned is the lesson of co-partnership with Christ in the work of salvation" ( Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 434). The tithe, according to Scripture, is ten percent of our increase. It is interesting to note that the Sabbath and the tithe are described in the Bible as holy. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Ex. 20:8). "A tithe of everything is holy to the Lord" (Lev. 27:30). God's modern-day Prophet says of this: "The very same language is used concerning the Sabbath as in the law of the tithe: . . . the validity of both is assumed, and their deep spiritual import explained" ( Counsels on Stewardship, p. 66). Today God's remnant church needs to unashamedly proclaim these two "holies. "Although these two identifying marks of our stewardship relationship with God are "holy", they are still subject to man's freedom of choice. God will not force anyone to do His will. It is the right of every individual to either honor or reject these Divine requirements.

Where is the tithe to be deposited? This is an important question. Today many Christians are inventing their own storehouses. Many feel at liberty to direct the tithe as they would their voluntary offerings. But God says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in myhouse" (Mal. 3:10). According to this text, it is clear that God has His own storehouse. Many may be surprised to learn that from the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our pioneers instructed both converts and members that the local church was the "door" to the storehouse, and the conference/field office was the "storehouse." Today we follow the same time-honored practice and advise local churches to fund local church activities and projects through voluntary free-will offerings.

Returning the tithe sets in motion the Tithe Sharing Plan. The Tithe Sharing Plan is unique to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Tithe sharing reminds us that we are members of a world church with a global assignment to proclaim the everlasting gospel to all the world. Do church leaders have a responsibility to teach tithing faithfulness? "It is part of your work to teach those whom you bring into the truth to bring the tithe into the storehouse as an acknowledgment of their dependence upon God." (Evangelism, p. 250). Frequently people ask: "What is the best method for returning God's tithe?" The best plan is to follow the "apostolic rule" by setting aside the tithe at home. As soon as we receive income, we place God's tithe, together with our gifts and offerings, into a Tithe and Offering envelope. Then we take God's tithe and our offerings to church and give them to God in an act of worship. The regular use of Tithe and Offering envelopes is the single most important tool in religious education for Planned Giving.

STEP 2-Local Church

Step 2 is the Local Church Budget Plan and Building Fund. The Seventh-day Adventist Church recommends that each local church develop its own spiritual and financial plans on an annual basis. What would you like your church to accomplish during the next twelve months? What about the next five years? Set aside specific times during each calendar year to study local church needs and to prioritize them. The goal of every Seventh-day Adventist church should be:

1) to help church members deepen their personal relationship with Jesus Christ;

2) to nurture members in a clearer understanding and practice of God's Word;

3) to be a loving and caring fellowship;

4) to be an outreach/witness training center.

To allow adequate time to develop "group ownership" of plans, the Seventh-day Adventist Church recommends that all local church committees begin the planning and budgeting process three months before the end of the church fiscal year. This should take place immediately following the election of new officers. After local church committees have developed their spiritual and financial plans, these plans are frequently integrated into a Church Budget by a Church Board or Stewardship/Finance Committee. The Church Board recommends the Church Master Plan and Budget and calls a local church Business Meeting. At the church Business Meeting, the pastor, with the help of lay leaders, presents the church's short- and long-term objectives for nurture, fellowship, and outreach. The Church Master Plan, together with the Church Budget to underwrite it, are then voted and church members are invited to do their proportionate part in supporting the local church.

This is only the first stage of a successful local church planning and budgeting process. A coordinated plan of education, information, and invitation must follow. Church members need to be invited to commit themselves on an annual basis to the local church Master Plan and Church Budget.

Step 3—Conference Development

The third step in Planned Giving is Conference Development. Conference Development unites the sisterhood of churches within the conference territory in spiritual and financial enterprises far greater than the ability of a single member or church. Some of these long-term spiritual and financial objectives could be as follows: Global Mission plans for entering new territories, evangelism, church construction, evangelistic centers, youth camps, elementary school subsidies, homes for pastors, medical clinics, and academy capital improvement. The conference/field president is responsible for directing Conference Development with the help of a Lay Advisory and a small, resident Conference Development Committee of four to six members. Conference Development spiritual and financial plans are usually on and approved at a Constituency Session. Church members develop a feeling of "ownership" as they become involved in the process. The Seventh-day Adventist Church's Calendar of Special Days and Offerings makes provision for a Conference Development Report and an offering for Conference Development to be received monthly in every church.

STEP 4-World Missions

The fourth step in Planned Giving is World Missions. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a miracle of modern missions. In 1900 there was only one Seventh-day Adventist for every 20,000 people in the world. Today, it is the most widespread Protestant denomination in the world. Fifty percent of all Seventh-day Adventists are under the age of 21. This tells us that the Seventh-day Adventist church is a strong and vigorous first-generation church in many countries. What is it that has made the difference?

From the very beginning Seventh-day Adventists, like the early primitive Christian Church, have had a world vision. The apostle Paul, for example, commended the Corinthian church for their confession of the gospel of Christ and for their generosity in sharing. "Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints" (2 Cor. 8:4). "Unselfish liberality threw the early church into a transport of joy. .. " (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 344). Referring to the need for world vision in our day, the prophet's pen writes: "This spirit of unsectional liberality should characterize the churches of today. They should continually keep the burden on their souls for the advancement of the cause of God in any and every place" (Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 175).

Yet, despite these advances, the Seventh-day Adventist Church faces a great unfinished task. Three and a half billion people have never heard the gospel. There are 14 times as many unreached people as in the days of the Apostle Paul. While we stand on the threshold of God's eternal kingdom, we see a decline in systematic and planned giving to God for world missions. Some of the reasons follow:

1) increased giving to local needs,
2) elimination in some countries of the weekly Sabbath School World Mission Report,
3) rise in popularity of "project giving",
4) growth and support of independent ministries,
5) increase of non-SDA appeals,
6) secularization of some church members,
7) habit of many Adventists to give a "tip" rather than a sacrificial gift to World Missions.

STEP 5—Special Projects and Offerings

The fifth step, Special Projects and Offerings, is an increasingly important part of Planned Giving within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Some people choose to direct some of their gifts and offerings. Planned Giving provides for this important need. We recommend that Project Giving be in addition to Steps 1-4. There will always be special projects and personal and miscellaneous offerings that are not included in the regular offerings for the Local Church, Conference Development, and World Missions. Following are some examples of these special projects and offerings: food for the sick or unemployed, a donation to your local church or conference, annual General Conference and Division offerings, ADRA, Adventist World Radio, Religious Liberty, College and Alumni Fund, etc. We must always be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we seek to provide balanced support for both regular church needs and special projects. ( We must also be sure that we have the means to sustain these special projects after the birthing process) The final choice is still yours . . . whether you give and for what! That's the way it's always been! And this is what makes Planned Giving a deeply personal, spiritual experience.

The Planned Giving Advantage

The benefits of Planned Giving are many: 1) Planned Giving is a means of expressing the covenant relationship we have with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master, 2) Planned Giving provides members with the opportunity to follow the biblical directive of systematically putting God first, and giving to Him just as soon as the blessings are received, 3) Planned Giving makes it possible to project a "rate of anticipated income" for church needs (worship, fellowship, nurture, outreach, and construction), 4) Planned Giving makes provision for members to give to special projects, 5) Planned Giving reduces the number of special promotions and multiple calls for money, 6) Planned Giving ensures fair and proportionate distribution of funds. But the advantages of Planned Giving are even greater than those just listed: "Whenever God's people, in any period of the world, have cheerfully and willingly carried out His plan in systematic benevolence, and in gifts and offerings, they have realized the standing promise that prosperity should attend all their labors just in proportion as they obeyed His requirements" (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 395).

The Simplicity of Planned Glving

The simplicity of Planned Giving is what gives Planned Giving universal acceptance. Planned Giving appeals to busy, modern professionals, new members, and converts, as well as churches and organizations who want to be self-reliant. The diagram on page 26 lists the three basic steps in implementing Planned Giving.

Whether you choose to follow Planned Giving as recommended by the Seventh-day Adventist church, or the more traditional plan of responding to multiple promotions and appeals, remember that it is a decision based on personal choice a choice between overpromotion or unity in promotion a choice between investing in independent ministries OR investing directly in your church's global mission (where financial books are open to review and funds are carefully audited).

Thank God for His divine plan of systematic be nevolence. Thank God for this simple plan that unites Seventh-day Adventists around the world. Thank God for biblically-based principles that make possible the global mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"The gospel of Christ is the water of life. And this water of life is free: But it costs for the plumbing and all of the pipes To bring it to you and to me."

-Adlai A. Esteb

Texts in this article are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers

Don E. Crane, co-director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries, Seventh-day Adventists World Headquarters, Silver Spring, MD 20904.