“In times we may consider as turbulent, in times we may consider as troubling, God is in control, and He will supply all that we need for us to do what He has called us to do,” Paul H. Douglas, treasurer of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said as he opened his report during the 2023 Spring Meeting, highlighting the strong financial position of the General Conference as of December 31, 2022.
Douglas’s report went on to emphasize how, in spite of prevailing negative economic conditions around the world, God continues to financially sustain His church for mission.
Mobilizing Resources for Mission
Using the pre-COVID year of 2019 as a reference point for the last “normal” financial year, tithe income over the past three years has consistently exceeded budgeted expectations, Douglas said, except for the year 2020, which saw the biggest financial impact as a result of the pandemic. Nonetheless, the year 2021 saw an immediate rebound as tithe income surpassed the income received in the reference year of 2019 by US$1 million.
Offerings, too, have continued to exceed budgeted expectations and, in 2022, offerings were $11 million more than the reference year of 2019, a direct result of increased support from church members everywhere. Undoubtedly, this increase allows the church to allocate funds to focus even more heavily on reaching “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” with the everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6), Douglas said.
Douglas pointed out the realization of the anticipated pattern of funding the General Conference and its activities from tithe (50 percent) and world mission offerings (50 percent) that is now evident due “in large part to the generosity of our members to support our global mission and not just the local mission that is administered by the churches where they fellowship.”
Committed to Investing in Mission
As Douglas reminded GC Executive Committee members of the church’s commitment to invest in mission, he recapped the changes in financial reporting announced during the treasurer’s report at the 2022 Annual Council. “As part of our commitment to invest in mission, the new descriptions [on financial statements and reports] provide better information on how we are focusing the use of resources towards mission.”
Taking these new descriptions into consideration, the year 2022 saw the majority of program expenses (43 percent) spent on mission strategy and support, clearly representing the church’s emphasis on supporting the mission and intentionally aligning its financial resources to focus on our calling as Seventh-day Adventists to proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom [to] … all the world as a witness to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14, NKJV).
Douglas went on to discuss the current positive condition of available working capital and liquid assets, the biblically centered investment strategy of the church, and the remaining allocations of the extraordinary tithe fund, before turning to Ray Wahlen, undertreasurer, to report on the operating expense cap.
“This report is a testimony to the power of God and the faithfulness of Christian stewards around the world,” Wahlen said as he took the stage and addressed General Conference Executive Committee members to highlight the continued pattern of the General Conference to operate under the operating expense cap. Due to an increased tithe income of more than $400 million above the budgeted amount, vacant positions were filled and cost-of-living increases for existing personnel were put into place.
Moving Forward With Confidence
While every division of the world church has reported increases in local currencies for tithe and offerings, and most have reported increases surpassing 2019 levels, we can be confident that God is in control, Wahlen said. Yet, though God continues to sustain His church as it engages in fulfilling the great commission, it is not immune to the economic turbulence facing the world around it. Douglas reminded church leaders of five challenges the church is facing and will continue to face as the second coming of Jesus approaches:
Quoting from the book Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, p. 9, Douglas emphasized that, as the church moves forward with a focus on mission, it must recognize that “the Lord desires to see the work of proclaiming the third angel’s message carried forward with increasing efficiency. As He has worked in all ages to give victories to His people, so in this age He longs to carry to a triumphant fulfillment His purposes for His church. He bids His believing saints to advance unitedly, going from strength to greater strength, from faith to increased assurance and confidence in the truth and righteousness of His cause.”
As he concluded, Douglas took the time to motivate and encourage church leaders everywhere to remain focused on the mission God has given for this time as they continue to move forward with placing every component of ministry under the umbrella and true emphasis of “Mission Refocus.”
Mission Refocus includes assigning missionary personnel to move to the frontlines of mission work; supporting the entry of church organizations into non-entered and low-entered places in the world; aligning financial resources toward mission impact; and establishing and applying a digital strategy that “facilitates the effective use of technology for mission.”
“Mission Refocus is not a slogan,” Douglas said. “Mission Refocus is about analysis, and it is about action. Mission Refocus is not just about a set of criteria, but a culture of thinking to ensure that everything and everyone is aligned to the urgent and end-time mission for which God has called His church.”
Douglas challenged leaders to engage in the necessary critical thinking to make everything about mission. Besides simply analyzing, he called them to take action with the assurance, “As we go about this work, God is on our side! Let us be positive, let us be purposeful, and let us be prudent!”
View the full Treasurer’s Report, including the auditor’s report, on the General Conference Executive Committee news site.