November 9, 2023
By all accounts, it was a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles! Sharron and I traveled to two sites—Orange Beach and Greenville. Between the two, there were more than 1,400 in attendance, including many old friends we enjoyed spending time with. This was my 62nd Feast to attend, and it has never gotten old, with new experiences and new friends each and every year.
We are now several weeks past the Feast, and it is time for us to submit plans (budget, strategic plan and operation plans) to the Ministerial Board of Directors for the next fiscal year of 2024. God continues to bless us financially, even through one of the strangest times any of us has ever seen—the COVID pandemic! We were amazingly blessed for the four years of the pandemic and post-pandemic, ending each year with a cash surplus when actual expenses were subtracted from actual income. These would be the years 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Although this year still has two months to go, we are once again projecting a surplus—not as much as the previous three years, but still a surplus.
Since the Feast, we have launched our new video program: Life, Hope & Truth Presents. We plan to post a new program to our YouTube channel every two weeks. Our first program, “Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?” with Joel Meeker as the host, was posted on Friday, Oct. 13. Our second program, “Three Rational Proofs God Exists,” with James Capo as the host, was posted on Friday, Oct. 27. After only three weeks, we have already had over 9,000 views. Prior to the second program we sent an email advertising the program to 181,000 addresses in our database. The responses to the program so far have been very positive, with a number of individuals writing to thank us. One person specifically credited the program on why God allows suffering with “saving my life.”
All of this is happening as the world is consumed by a brutal war in the Middle East and the seemingly unending war in Ukraine. Focusing on the Middle East, we see events developing that seem to come right out of Daniel and the Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24. In spite of these world conditions, through the Internet, God has given us an open door to preach to the entire world. We have increased our Media budget by 70 percent since 2018. It is our goal to reach as many people as we can with the message of the good news of the coming Kingdom of God and the need to repent. And in our new budget proposal for 2024, we are proposing another increase for Media. Please pray that our new program and our ads will be effective in spreading the gospel in a world that is being ripped apart.
Now I would like to take the remainder of my letter to focus on an important decision that will be facing the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, between now and the end of this fiscal year. This letter will be longer than my normal letters, but please bear with me just this one time!
In less than a month, I will be presenting material to the Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD) regarding a proposal to complete our original master plan that was presented to the city of McKinney in 2017. That master plan proposed two buildings—an office building and an auditorium/education center. We are in a position now to fulfill those plans by building an auditorium/education center on the remaining property (approximately 3 acres), if we choose to do so. We have now completed all the plans, reviewed and approved those plans, and are now ready to take the next step of getting bids for constructing the building.
The size of the building being proposed is approximately 12,000 square feet, which is actually smaller than the Church office. The exterior of the building will be similar in appearance. As proposed, the building will consist of an auditorium capable of seating 500 people, along with additional training rooms, classrooms and a catering area for food service.
At the annual meeting of the MBOD in December of 2022, approval was granted to secure the services of an architect and develop a building plan, and now, one year later, that has been completed. We have taken a full year to get to this point. It has been our desire to be thorough in our planning, considering it more important to get it right than to be quick. The decision of what to do next—to go forward, to put the process on hold or to stop entirely—will be made during the upcoming MBOD meetings, scheduled for Dec. 4-6, 2023.
Since this decision could involve the expenditure of funds for a building project, we need to ask a very important question: Will such a building further the work of the Church? If so, how? How such a building could be of benefit to the Church is something we have thought long and hard about.
We have approximately 500 members who attend in the greater Dallas–Fort Worth–Sherman area. When combined, this is the largest group of members that COGWA has anywhere in the world. Such a building would accommodate this combined group for an occasional holy day or a special occasion. In addition, it would provide a location for weekly services for the Dallas congregation, which currently meets in a rented hall on the north side of the city of Dallas.
We also hold ministerial conferences here in McKinney every other year and need seating for approximately 350 people. During the off years, between ministerial conferences, we conduct special training classes for the U.S. pastoral ministry. We have 47 U.S. pastors, so a total of more than 90 individuals are involved in this program when wives and instructors are included.
As well, we hold continuing education classes for members here in McKinney each summer, but currently we must divide the attendees up into two or three sessions because our classroom can comfortably seat only 45 people. The building could be used for this kind of program and more—a possible Feast site, Young Adult Leadership Weekends, youth sports weekends, family weekends, education weekends, FI graduation and more.
Based on the current cost of rental space in the Dallas area, an auditorium on the Church property would save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a decade. Keep in mind that more than 20 percent of COGWA’s U.S. members reside in Texas. Access to an auditorium and training center in the Dallas area would certainly benefit members spread over a wide area.
We also need to ask and answer another question: How do we plan to pay for such a proposed building? Our goal in building any additional structure would be either to pay for it outright with cash from the surplus we have accumulated over the past four years or to obtain a small mortgage that can be paid off in a year or two. We currently have no debt, having paid off the office within two years of completion.
So, brethren, it isn’t a matter of whether we can build such a structure, but a matter of should we build it. In other words: Is it a wise use of our resources?
During the first week of December, the board will receive all the financial and logistical information that has been collected for building an education center. At that time a decision will be made by the board with the input of the administration. There are seven board members: Joel Meeker (chairman), David Baker, Arnold Hampton, Larry Salyer, Richard Thompson, Leon Walker and Lyle Welty. (Just recently the ministry confirmed David Baker, Joel Meeker and Leon Walker to serve an additional term of eight years.) And there are also five administrators: Jim Franks, Doug Horchak, Clyde Kilough, David Myers and Britton Taylor.
There are three possible decisions under consideration during the upcoming meetings: (1) go forward with building by using the cash saved from the past four years of surplus, without affecting the annual budget of the Church; (2) put any building on hold and wait, while considering the possible financial impact of world conditions on the Church in the months ahead; or (3) decide not to build at all and hold on to our cash reserves for future investments in other areas of the work of the Church—in Media or Ministerial Services. Please pray that God guides us to the right decision. We must continuously ask ourselves: What does God want us to do? We are praying for God’s answer as we get closer to our December meetings.
Before I conclude, let me give you one more statistic. When COGWA began in December of 2010, 100 percent of our income was provided by Church members. Over the past 12 years, we have seen our nonmember donations grow to equal more than 10 percent of our annual income. This is very encouraging, and since there has been slow growth in the number of members, this category has positively affected our annual income and promises good potential for the future. With the new video program and the ads for booklets, which are aimed at reaching new people, we expect this area of our income to continue to grow. So, we are in an excellent financial position that allows us to consider investments for the future. By spreading the message around the world, we will continue to expand the work God has given us to do, whether or not we construct another building on the Church’s property.
We believe what the Bible tells us—that Christ is building His Church and the “gates of Hades” will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Are we capable of making poor decisions? As human beings, we are very conscious that we are. But by depending on God and putting ourselves in the hands of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, I believe we will reach the right decisions for the future of the work. Please pray for us as we prepare for the annual MBOD meeting scheduled for Dec. 4-6, which is just a few weeks away!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,