Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A plea to my church elders for financial transparency

This letter to my church elders was positively received and as a word. I believe there needs to be financial openness in many churches in America. Hence I am posting this here - you may want to copy part or all of it to write to your leaders. I have removed my church's name.

The Elders of our Church

John 3:19-21 “ loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Luke 12:2-3 “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3What you have said in the dark will be heard in the day light and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

This is a plea for more transparency in our finances. Please institute a mechanism and procedure for more open access to financial information by every giving member of the congregation. This should be neither to please any person nor to acquiesce to anyone's request for information, but as a matter of policy toward every giving member.

I strongly emphasize that I do want our pastors to enjoy a decent standard of living and not worry about paying their bills. I love, and am indebted to our senior pastor.

Background: We are disturbed when we read of financial scandals among Christian organizations. For example, the six charismatic ministries investigated by Senator Grassley, and also at Jerry Johnston’s First Family church (Kansas City).

Audited statements are not enough. A few of the above mentioned hide behind audited statements even though there are plenty of indicators of corruption or excessive wastefulness. Perhaps auditors too, are not shown details; perhaps they cannot comment on excessiveness. The key point is that they refuse to open their books. Emphatic protestations of innocence mean nothing - if there is nothing to hide, why are they hiding?

I observe that at our Church, our records too, are not open. Details are obscured when they are rolled into broad headings; for example, only the total combined amount given to all the visiting speakers for the year is shown. Only auditor statements are released. We are not members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability –incidentally, a recommendation of Sen. Grassley.

Why should there be transparency?

1. To safeguard the ministry from traps by the enemy. Every one faces temptations and given the opportunity, is corruptible. When things are done in darkness i.e. our financial records are kept in darkness, accessible only to a few, then I believe, according to the Word of God in John 3:19-21, that sinful deeds will begin to happen especially because they will be accorded the secrecy of concealment, will grow and grow. One day, there will be scandals including financial and sexual, that will hobble our church and stain the reputation of our leaders and the life-transforming message that we preach will be obscured. We shall become a stumbling block. Many will be spiritually wounded and "a root of bitterness will grow up to defile many" (Hebrews 12).

2. The kingdom of God will continue to advance through our church. When scandals happen around us, our confidence in our leaders will remain unshaken. Our confidence will not be based upon, "our elders and pastors are good people" nor even, "our pastor sounded convincing when he said that everything is done with integrity" but, "I looked at the account statements myself and am satisfied". In Luke 12:2-3, what is done openly and transparently will not need to be exposed.

3. So that our giving is not inhibited. To keep our hearts clean, and to avoid bitterness. When we give out of love, it is sacrificial. However the thought immediately enters - are they careful stewards, how do I know they are good stewards? I am certain that many in our church out give us - but for us, our church giving statement is our third highest expense after our mortgage and household expenses. I personally do not want to give out of blind trust to any organization that is not open. From the parable of the ten talents, God expects us to be shrewd investors in the kingdom of heaven.

Again, I have no interest in digging through our church records. This is a plea to institute a process just as the apostles did in Acts chapter 6 to safeguard the spiritual health of the church.



Bruce Karlson said...
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Anil Philip said...
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Bruce Karlson said...
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Anil Philip said...
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