Frequently Asked Questions: Personal Financial Participation
What are you asking me to do?
Prayerfully consider a larger, two-year financial commitment to fuel a new decade of gospel ambition, deepening our core ministries and widening our outreach. We are asking every covenant member to cheerfully embrace the covenant commitment we made with each other to “contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.” We are asking attenders and friends who have been helped by and value the ministry of Bethlehem to prayerfully consider linking arms with us.
We fully realize that we can’t micromanage how the Spirit will move, but we are asking you to prayerfully consider this question: “What is the maximum we can give cheerfully and harmoniously without compromising other God-assigned stewardship responsibilities?” Because our sense is that the South Campus should be built on the front end of this decade-long effort, we are asking that all members, attenders, and friends of Bethlehem would prayerfully seek the Lord as to their cheerful participation. In addition to considering an increase in our proportional giving, let’s each consider an over-and-above substantial gift out of our assets to help accelerate spreading.
Is $38,000,000 over the next two years outlandish and unreasonable?
Our normal Church & Missions (C&M) operating budget over the next two years will likely be in the neighborhood of $23,000,000. We are increasing this budget to $38,000,000 for these next two years because of our need for the South Campus and the desire to accelerate church planting and engage unengaged people groups. If every covenant member and attender gave 10% of their income to support our C&M budget, one estimate is that $20,000,000 per year would be given. Our sincere desire is that through this extraordinary effort, those who have yet to discover the joy of proportional giving would discover it and continue it through the decade and beyond.
We long for all the people of Bethlehem to engage in the joyful obedience of regular proportional giving. We also realize that there are extraordinary times in the life of the church where God leads some to give in extraordinary ways out of assets that God has entrusted to them (Acts 4:34). The faithful obedience of every member is needed. But the reaching of this extraordinary goal will not be met apart from those with the spiritual gift of giving (Romans 12:8).
How long is my commitment?
We are asking that everyone make a 25-month commitment. The fulfillment period for your commitment will begin December 1, 2016, and will culminate on December 31, 2018.
What if I am new at Bethlehem?
We are so glad that you are here! And we are excited that you are considering partnering with us! The local church is God’s “Plan A” for conforming us to the image of Christ, reaching our community, and bringing the gospel to the nations. Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25 is a great time and a great way to identify with us and to say, “I am all-in with Bethlehem for the gospel!” As with each person at Bethlehem, more than your giving, we want your faith to thrive and be bolstered through corporate worship, our small group ministry, and the use of your gifts in the current and future ministries of our church.
What if I’ve never even given to Bethlehem before?
If you have never given financially to Bethlehem, this is a great time to begin. It is too easy to come into a large, thriving church like Bethlehem and think they don’t really need my participation, whether it’s giving or serving. Our prayer is that God will use this season to dispel that myth. Every part of the Body of Christ is there by God’s design (1 Corinthians 12:11ff; Ephesians 4:16).
How does the One Fund approach to Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25 change my giving to support the general budget, missions, facilities, campus expansion, and other special offerings?
During this two-year period, every non-designated contribution to God’s work through Bethlehem is a contribution to this initiative which incorporates our traditional C&M budget. Each aspect of the ministry vision God is calling us toward will be funded through this One Fund. Therefore, every weekend becomes an opportunity to celebrate and contribute to what God is doing across our entire expanse of ministries.
Will giving for mission trips or support-raised positions be counted as a part of Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25?
God leads people at Bethlehem to give to many things, and we are thankful for each one. However, for budgeting and planning purposes, gifts designated for something other than this vision are not counted as a part of the initiative. For example, the One Fund does not include giving for Helping Hand, short-term ministry trips, or support-raised staff positions, just as our C&M operating fund has not included these areas. As you generously respond to these Bethlehem opportunities outside of Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25, your gift will be recorded and reflected in your annual giving statement, in addition to your commitment to the One Fund.
Are there additional ways besides cash that I can give?
We love thinking outside the box. Be creative as you explore ways you and your family can give. Don’t overlook other assets that you own. Gifts of appreciated property like stocks, real estate, mutual funds, jewelry, artwork, collectibles, baseball cards, etc., often make great gifts with significant tax advantages. Please consult with a professional advisor about your particular circumstances. If you need assistance with making a gift of property or stock, we would be delighted to help. You can contact Steve Walmsley, Financial Secretary, with questions about and instructions regarding how to accomplish this: steve.walmsley@hopeinGod.org.
What if I’m a college, seminary, or graduate student?
God has blessed Bethlehem by allowing us to invest in the lives of students through our Campus Outreach ministry and through Bethlehem College & Seminary. Although students are known for living on tight budgets, the student years are an ideal time to develop a Kingdom-focused plan in the areas of personal budgeting and generous giving. This is a time when students from all the colleges, universities, and graduate schools represented at Bethlehem can join forces and go “all-in” by giving generously over the next two years to help us accelerate the next decade of spreading.
What if I don’t have a job right now?
Fill These Cities is about your total, radical, sacrificial generosity for the advance of the gospel. God knows our every need, and Bethlehem wants to help meet the needs both in our church and in our community. If you do not have a job and are actively seeking one, we’d love for you to share this with your small group leader or one of our elders so that we can be praying for you.
We believe that God calls us to action in times of hardship just as much as he does in times of abundance, and that looks different for every person. It may mean that you are being challenged to sell things, to pick up odd jobs, or possibly even to trust God in faith by making a commitment that you don’t quite know how to fulfill right now, but that you believe God will provide for as you seek ways to sacrifice and work toward that commitment. Our goal is that 100% of those who call Bethlehem home will make a Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25 commitment.
What if I can’t afford to give right now?
Even in times of scarcity, God wants our hearts. The widow who gave her last mite did not make a very big financial contribution, but Jesus said she gave the largest gift of all. Fill These Cities is about all of us coming together, giving generously, and trusting God to do the rest. It may mean that God is asking you to trust him by making a faith commitment that you do not know how to fulfill right now. God has supplied our every need in Christ, and we trust that he will honor a heart that wants to give generously in response to the gospel. There may also be ways to be sacrificial with your lifestyle to create margin for generosity in your life.
Find ways to involve your entire family in the process of giving generously. Use this season as an opportunity to teach children and grandchildren to obey the Lord with a generous heart and to trust him. Take the opportunity to look at your overall stewardship of all that God has entrusted to you.
Pray for the kind of grace that was poured out on the Macedonians who gave in the midst of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8).
What if I’m severely in debt right now? Am I still supposed to give?
It’s important for generosity to be a part of our lives at every point. If you are in the process of paying off debt, we commend you, and you should continue to do so. But, the Bible does not teach that we withhold giving until we are debt-free. As we honor God first with our giving, he promises to be involved with every other aspect of finances (Philippians 4:19). Prayerfully consider how you might participate. We care about the burden of indebtedness. If you need counsel, there are many individuals at Bethlehem who are equipped to give guidance on how to handle debt and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you. Please seek out your campus pastor or one of the elders.
What if my spouse and I are not in agreement about giving?
After praying together, listening to God and one another, sharing, and more prayer, then ask: “What amount can we give cheerfully and harmoniously?”
What if I still have questions?
Please communicate questions to your campus pastor, an elder, or any member of the Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25 Committee: Ken Currie, Jon Grano, Jon Hendricks, Dan Holst, Tim Johnson (chairman), Mike Meloch, Jason Meyer, Mitch Pearson. Rick Segal, Chuck Steddom, Tom Steller, and Kenny Stokes.