NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–My dad pastored smaller churches the majority of his ministry and, therefore, never made a lot of money. Nevertheless, he taught us stewardship values such as giving, saving and investing money.
My mom died this past year at 88. Truthfully, the three of us children were somewhat shocked at the resources that dad had provided for mom. There was enough for her care and more! You see, dad had practiced what he had preached.
It is easy for us to make excuses for why we are unable to save or invest. First, we can argue that we don’t have enough money to worry about investing. While I was president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I enjoyed telling the story of the black woman who took in washing to provide for her family. She not only provided for her own children, but she also managed to save a large amount of money to endow a scholarship for poor black children to attend a major university. First, you must make a commitment to save and invest. If the motivation is high enough, you will find the resources. You may have to change your present lifestyle, but you can do it.
The second barrier for many is the practical question of how to invest. You think you have options with a remote control in your hand. When you see all the investment tools available to the average investor today, you can suffer investor’s paralysis. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, savings accounts — these only scratch the surface. Once you have decided on an investment vehicle, you must determine if you have enough to balance your portfolio with large caps, mid caps and small caps.
Plus, when you consider the fee for buying the stocks, the average investor doesn’t have adequate resources to buy a sufficient number of stocks to create a balanced portfolio. In recent years, mutual fund companies have attempted to solve our dilemma by employing a team of experts who will select stocks and funds for us. The dilemma is not over. The plethora of funds available to the average investor can compound the problem and cause us to toss our good intentions out of the window. We are paralyzed, because we assume we don’t have enough money or time to make saving and investing worthwhile.
The solution many have discovered is to begin investing by buying a well-balanced mutual fund that has been managed for years by a trusted advisor who has a proven track record. Such a strategy usually minimizes risk and maximizes return.
Perhaps you have surmised that my real interest in this article is not simply financial investing, but investing in the Kingdom. I’m actually talking about both personal investing and corporate investing by the local church. What if there was a mutual fund of missions that allowed you to minimize risk and maximize return for the Kingdom of God?
This is a critical topic for us to address if we are serious about advancing God’s Kingdom on earth. Giving through the local church is embarrassingly low. Only about 25 percent of the members of the average local church invest in the ministries of the church in a systematic fashion. The average individual gift is 2.7 percent of one’s income. I know this figure is shockingly low, and we must ask ourselves why.
We must first establish a few basic axioms:
(1) If the King owns all the resources of the earth and His heartbeat is that every nation and people group would have the opportunity to know Him as King, then we can surmise that sufficient resources exist for this task to be accomplished.
(2) Scripture teaches that God desires to make His resources available to a people who will embody His name, embrace His mission, and obey His Word (see “A Forty Day Experience, EKG: The Heartbeat of God” for more information).
It is true that the task of sharing the Gospel with all nations and people groups is a mammoth one. It is also true that there are many vehicles for the investing of our mission dollar. We could allow this complexity to paralyze us and provide the excuse to invest our mission’s dollar right in our own back door. Researchers have discovered a frightening trend: Since the 1950s, Protestant churches have spent increasing proportions of their money on local operations and programs and decreasing proportions on missions.
This is particularly frightening when we understand axiom three.
(3) We are going to be held accountable by the King for how we have invested His resources to advance His Kingdom.
The issue of accountability is both personal and corporate.
— Begin with a commitment.
So where do we start in our quest to invest wisely in the Kingdom? First, we start with a commitment to do so. Individually, I must acknowledge that the time, gifts and finances entrusted to me by a sovereign King must be invested to advance His Kingdom. We must also confess there is a corporate responsibility. The church, the association, the state and the national convention entities must always seek to maximize Kingdom returns.
— Find a balanced mission mutual fund.
Southern Baptists have a Kingdom investment advantage. We have the balanced mutual fund of mission — the Cooperative Program. We have a means whereby the individual and the local church can ensure that they are using their God-given resources to reach Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Ends of the Earth (see “The Acts 1:8 Challenge” by Nate Adams for more information). This task has been given to the local church and not to any state or national convention. But if the local church is going to accomplish this task, it must develop trusted partnerships which will enable it to employ its God-given resources wisely and efficiently.
It dawned on me one day that if we didn’t have the Southern Baptist Convention organizational structure -— associations, state conventions and national missions organizations (NAMB and IMB), we would have to invent them to assist the local church in accomplishing its Acts 1:8 goal.
When we give through our local church and our church generously supports mission causes through the Cooperative Program, we are making an investment in all four quadrants — Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Ends of the Earth. So, you can have a balanced mission portfolio by investing in missions through the Cooperative Program. We can honestly tell our people that our church has a strategy and the existing partnerships to touch the world.
I believe that many of our people give based solely on their concept of what the church needs to operate locally. They don’t give with the conviction that the local church is the key to Kingdom advance. We must present a convincing case for Kingdom advance through the local church and its Kingdom partners if we want to see abundant resources made available through the local church. If we fail to do so, many of our people will give mission resources to causes outside the local church. Some may be good investments, while others clearly are not. Here we have an advantage, because we have an incredible tool that can allow any size church with any size budget to have a balanced mission giving investment strategy.
— Find a trusted advisor.
Wouldn’t you love to have someone like John Templeton personally investing your money? I have been privileged to work at virtually every level of Southern Baptist life. I served for two years in a joint venture with the Home Mission Board and the Sunday School Board. I served for nine years at Southwestern Seminary. My wife now serves as a consultant with IMB, and I serve with the Executive Committee. Southern Baptists may not be perfect, but we are bound together by a devotion to Christ, a commitment to the Bible, a passion for the world, a comprehensive strategy to reach the world and a means of funding the whole enterprise. In other words, we have a trusted team of missions investment advisors with accountability.
I have chosen to invest the bulk of my missions resources through Southern Baptist missions for four reasons:
— I have confidence in our missiology. Missiology defines why we cooperate. We cooperate because of our loyalty to the King and our commitment to the world.
— I am committed to our polity. Our polity defines how we cooperate and allows us to ensure accountability.
— I am committed to our theology. Theology affirms our center and ensures that our resources are used to preach an authentic Gospel based on God’s Word.
— I have confidence in our strategic plan. As I have been privileged to travel across this convention, I have detected a genuine desire among associations, states and convention mission entities to work in partnership to accomplish the Acts 1:8 Challenge.
Often we can be moved by a particular need accompanied by a compelling story. We may feel led to give or participate in a particular mission, but we must be careful not to invest the bulk of our mission resources in that singular task. That would be like investing in a sector fund — hot one minute, cold the next. We must invest the bulk of our mission resources strategically to reflect God’s strategic plan articulated in Acts 1:8.
The Cooperative Program provides us with a balanced mutual fund of missions. Our mission strategy is a faith-based venture. It simply allows the large church and the small church to play an equal role, while no one gets the credit or glory except God alone. What else could you ask for in a Kingdom investment strategy?
Kingdom commitment demands that we recognize our privilege and our responsibility to use the resources given us wisely and strategically. Kingdom commitment demands that we choose a lifestyle that will enable us to provide unusual resources for Kingdom advance through our local church. Kingdom commitment demands that the local church provide adequate resources for all four quadrants of mission concern. Kingdom commitment demands that we pray for and expect exponential and not incremental increase in mission giving and involvement. God has the resources to accomplish His Kingdom purpose; He is looking for a people who will be generous and wise in investing them with His heartbeat.
(A special note of appreciation goes to Jack Kwok, executive director-treasurer of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, for providing inspiration and a portion of the outline for this article.)
Kenneth S. Hemphill is the national Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention.