By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Tennessee Baptist Convention churches are practicing good stewardship as they continue to give generously through the Cooperative Program, the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions and other mission offerings.
That’s the observation of Matt Tullos, special assistant to the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and stewardship specialist.
“This is a difficult, difficult time, but I think God is using it in some powerful ways to help us get our focus back on what is really important,” Tullos said during a podcast on Radio B&R (see Episode 46).
Tullos observed many people are looking closely at their purchases and making decisions about how they are spending their money and placing emphasis on what is really necessary while at the same time being generous with their resources.
“It’s a biblical concept. God loves a cheerful giver and I believe we are happier when we give,” Tullos noted.
Debt is a major factor when people do not give, he continued. “We in America are spending a lot of money on auto debt. We’ve got a $1.2 trillion debt budget just on the cars that we drive.
“And it’s no wonder people have difficulty giving away when they’re strapped with so much debt. So what we really want to encourage people is, look at your finances, get rid of the things that you don’t need, settle for less and give more.”
In order to help churches promote stewardship and generosity, the TBMB has developed free bulletin inserts (both printed and in pdf format): “Eight Reasons to Tithe” and “Eight More Reasons to Tithe.”
“We just give them to churches to use because we really want people to understand how important generosity is,” he said.
Tullos is passionate about giving and stewardship. “It’s contagious to give and it can be the joy of your life if you are able to give,” he noted.
The stewardship specialist noted that while some people dislike sermons on stewardship or tithing, the opposite should be true. “If your pastor preaches on tithing or giving, you really need to thank him because he’s giving you the greatest blessing that you’re ever going to receive here on this earth.”
As people are generous in their stewardship, churches need to take the same approach, Tullos continued. He noted it has been amazing how churches have stepped up to the plate during the pandemic and have continued to meet missions and ministry needs across Tennessee and the world. “They have given sacrificially.”
Tullos credited TBMB leadership, beginning with president and executive director Randy C. Davis, in tightening the “budget belt” when the pandemic started to peak in mid-March.
The TBMB leadership team developed several models of what would happen if the Cooperative Program experienced a significant dip in giving because CP is the “lifeblood of all that we do from church planting to compassion ministries to disaster relief and everything in between.
“Everything we do is about serving churches. We wanted to make sure we came through that and continued to meet the needs of our churches,” he added.
Instead of seeing CP giving dip by 40 percent (which the TBMB was prepared for), giving has remained about the same and currently is only a percent and a half below budget needs, Tullos said.
“We can’t take credit for that. That is due to Tennessee Baptist Convention churches that have stepped up and given sacrificially,” Tullos said.
He acknowledged the first few months “were tight” financially for most churches in the state as live services transitioned to virtual settings.
He recalled that one church leader told him that after the first online service, the church received only 15 percent of its normal offering.
“But once our great Tennessee Baptists got used to the idea of electronic giving, they gave to the churches and the churches courageously continued to give through the Cooperative Program and we are very grateful for that,” he said.
Tullos shared a story about his aunt and uncle who were Southern Baptist missionaries in Thailand for 33 years. “Not once did they have to ask for money for their ministry from individual churches,” he said. “They promoted the Cooperative Program, but the whole point of the Cooperative Program is that we can take the resources of thousands of churches, and we can distribute it in an equal and fair way to missions in Tennessee, North America and around the world.”
And, the giving has not stopped with the Cooperative Program, Tullos continued. Tennessee Baptists are continuing to give generously through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Baptist Missions.
He cited First Baptist Church of Martin, a church that had given more than $25,000 through GOTM earlier in the giving cycle. In the middle of a pandemic, First Baptist recently sent another check for $20,000 for GOTM. “What an amazing act of faith and encouragement to us,” Tullos observed.
He recalled that he called the pastor (Mike Sams) and asked, “What’s going on?” His reply? “We just believe in the ministry, and we want to win Tennessee for Jesus, and we believe that this is a part of our strategy.”
Tullos agrees with an often-used quote by Randy C. Davis: “Any way you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field.”
One of the most significant things about GOTM is that every dollar goes to some type of ministry that is making a difference in the state. None of the money is used for salaries, he stressed.
Like CP giving, there has not been a significant drop off in GOTM giving even during the pandemic. As of now, GOTM giving is slightly ahead of what was given during the same time frame last year, he related. “It’s been amazing to see how Golden Offering has continued, and all the things that we’re doing from planting new churches, meeting human needs through compassion ministry, reaching students through Baptist Collegiate Ministries, disaster relief and so much more,” Tullos said.
Tullos gives all the credit for what is happening to God and to Tennessee Baptists and their commitment to give to the Lord’s work in their home state and around the world. “They are awesome.”
He has talked to his counterparts in other state conventions and they have not been so fortunate. “In talking with CP representatives in other states, they’re really hurting.
“And we pray for them and want to support them through this. But God has just been so gracious to us, through our churches, the faith of our churches. We celebrate what He is doing.”
— For more information about stewardship and available resources, contact Tullos at email@example.com.
8 REASONS YOU’LL LOVE TITHING
1. IT’S WORSHIP
Whether you’re in a church with electric guitars or pipe organs, everybody should have an opportunity to give because from Genesis to Revelation giving is true worship. You are saying, “Lord, above everything, I believe in You. It all belongs to You? This is a symbol of my complete belief, trust, and dependence on You to be my everything.”
2. IT’S A PROMISE
Here’s the deal, the Lord says, “If you’ll be faithful in this area of obedience, I promise you that take care of everything you’re going to need. Trust me in this. You cannot out-give me.”
3. IT’S A TEACHER
If you want to teach your kids the best way to handle money and to be financially responsible, teach them about the tithe. Tithing teaches us how to avoid the virus of materialism and learn the bliss of generosity.
4. IT’S A BLESSING
Once you begin the journey of tithing and generosity, it will enrich your life far beyond any money you hold on to.
5. IT’S A PROVISION
When you tithe, you’re taking care of the facilities of your church, the minister(s) and their families. If your church gives through the Cooperative Program you are a blessing to ministries and missions all over the world.
6. IT’S A TEST
Throughout scripture, God is continually testing those who follow him. From Genesis to Revelation we see men and women struggling with a God who dares them to trust Him a little more every day. But there is one area of our lives where God invites us to test Him. It is in this thing called the tithe. He says, “Test me! I dare you! I will come through.”
7. IT’S AN INVESTMENT
So much of the resources we spend are slippery. They’re spent on things that will be broken, consumed, experienced, expired, and cast aside. The investment of the tithe is sure.
8. IT’S ETERNAL
We are investing in a kingdom that is built to last. And last FOREVER!