December 9, 2021
This week is an important one for the Church. By the time you receive this letter, we will have completed the annual meeting of the Ministerial Board of Directors. To refresh your memory, the Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD for short) consists of seven senior ministers, each selected by the Church elders for a term of eight years. You don’t hear much about these selections in the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, since they only occur on a rotating basis once every four years.
One of the specific responsibilities of the MBOD is to approve the Church’s annual budget and strategic plan. Each year, as I present the strategic plan and proposed budget, I discuss the “State of the Church” with the MBOD. The purpose of this message is to present a realistic and accurate representation of the Church’s finances and overall health. I must admit that we have found it challenging over the past two years to navigate the pandemic while doing our best to maintain the “normal” activities of the Church—Sabbath services, holy day services, youth camps and special gatherings, such as the Winter Family Weekend. We believe strongly that all of these activities are important for the well-being of the Church.
In this letter I would like to share with all of you a few items from our discussion that I hope you will find interesting and inspiring. Even though the world is in a very dark place, the opportunity for the Church to spread the gospel is extremely bright. Because of our current financial standing, we are in a very strong position for advancing the preaching of the gospel, while not neglecting the care of the Church. It isn’t all about money, but having a strong financial position opens the door to opportunity.
The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, will celebrate 11 years of operation on Dec. 23, 2021. And January 2022 will mark the beginning of our 12th fiscal year. We have experienced challenges due to the pandemic over the last two years. Nevertheless, the two words I used to describe the Church to the MBOD at this point in our history are extremely blessed. Our financial position is very good and beyond what we anticipated. We paid off two mortgages this year and are now completely out of debt. That alone was quite an accomplishment, saving the Church annually more than $238,000.
During the course of this year, the Church has been the recipient of several unexpected donations, but two stand out because of the stories behind them. The first one was a property donation from a group in Portland, Oregon, that is not associated with the Church. It came as a big surprise.
Earlier this year, our pastor in Portland, Jon Pinelli, was contacted by the board of the church where our local congregation meets for services and informed that, with the death of their pastor and only three or four members attending, they wanted to donate their property to COGWA. They were disbanding as a 501(c)3 nonprofit and wanted to donate the property to another 501(c)3. They explained to Mr. Pinelli that they chose to donate the property to COGWA because of their relationship with us and because of the example our members had set. This was truly unexpected. The property consists of a nice church building that can seat about 100 people, with a full kitchen, classrooms and other meeting rooms downstairs. In addition, there are two houses on the same property that will be part of the donation. Given the price of real estate in the Portland area, this was a substantial donation to the Church.
The other story I want to share is equally inspiring. For me, the story began during the summer when I received a two-page letter from someone I had never met, letting me know that he was sending a rather large donation of cash to the Church. In his letter he wrote about his brother-in-law and sister, who were members of COGWA in another state. He wrote in glowing terms, describing his brother-in-law as being more like a father to him. Over the years he had spent a lot of time with the couple, even attending church services a few times. He wrote that he had never known people who truly lived their religion as his sister and brother-in-law did, and as those he met while attending did. Because of the examples of his sister and brother-in-law, and the local COGWA pastor and congregation, when his brother-in-law died, he decided to send us a large cash donation in his brother-in-law’s name to express appreciation. This, too, was totally unexpected. I wish I could share his letter with all of you. It brought tears to my eyes to read how this individual’s life was profoundly affected by the example of his sister, brother-in-law, and the pastor and members of a local congregation.
These are just a couple of the stories from this year. I could fill several pages with similar ones. In putting together the annual statistics for the MBOD, we found it surprising that this year more than 8 percent of our annual income came from individuals not associated with the Church (and this does not include the Portland property donation, which will not be completed until early next year). They either found us through the Internet and decided to support our mission, or they became aware of us through one of our members.
Because of these financial blessings, we have included a 30 percent increase in our Media budget for 2022. This is the largest one-year increase in our short history. We have also budgeted to hire four men for the full-time U.S. ministry this coming year. We have budgeted for the restarting of the International Leadership Program and the beginning of a new program for pastoral development for the U.S. ministry. These are just a few of the opportunities that we are looking forward to in the next fiscal year.
I am often asked by members what they can do to help further the mission of the Church. It is easy to overlook the one thing we can all do—live the life that we profess, thereby becoming lights in the darkness. I cannot emphasize enough how important our examples are for the preaching of the gospel and furthering the mission of the Church. I am reminded of what Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16).
In the midst of all the challenges and sadness during the pandemic, 2021 has been an extraordinary year for advancing the mission of the Church! And we are poised for even greater opportunities in 2022! First and foremost, we give God the credit for all these blessings. I also want to thank you for your support, your dedication and your commitment to this way of life. It doesn’t go unnoticed!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,