By G. Edward Reid
Stewardship Director, North American Division
How is your investment portfolio? This is a common question in the minds of many today. Where can we find a safe and productive investment? Today, many with these questions are concerned primarily with their own personal situation. But over the years we have been counseled to also make it a high priority to invest our means in the never-failing bank of heaven by helping others and helping to advance the cause of God. Please note the following encouragement to get involved in investing:
“Every believer should be wholehearted in his attachment to the church. Its prosperity should be his first interest, and unless he feels under sacred obligations to make his connection with the church a benefit to it in preference to himself, it can do far better without him. It is in the power of all to do something for the cause of God. There are those who spend a large amount for needless luxuries; they gratify their appetites, but feel it a great tax to contribute means to sustain the church. They are willing to receive all the benefits of its privileges, but prefer to leave others to pay the bills. Those who really feel a deep interest in the advancement of the cause, will not hesitate to invest money in the enterprise whenever and wherever it is needed” (4T 18).
But the devil doesn’t want the work of God to move forward so He offers an alternative. “It is the purpose of Satan to make the world very attractive. He has a bewitching power which he exercises to allure the affections of even the professed followers of Christ. There are many professedly Christian men who will make any sacrifice in order to gain riches, and the more successful they are in obtaining the object of their desires, the less they care for the precious truth and its advancement in the world. They lose their love for God, and act like men who are insane. The more they are prospered in material wealth, the less they invest in the cause of God” (CS 213).
A little-known fact is that the funds coming in from Sabbath School Investment projects have silently grown into a major factor in the funding of new mission work around the world. In 2003 $4.3 million came into the church from investment projects. Statistically speaking, as many as one out of every six converts won through the use of Sabbath School offerings could be credited to the Investment Fund.
Early in our history church members were invited to make an “investment” for missions in some earning project, and to give the proceeds as a special offering. The investment idea was followed as early as the 1880s and 1890s when certain church members dedicated such projects as an acre or more of a crop, some cattle, or some cash to provide camp meeting equipment. In the early 1900s the plan was promoted for various projects in many countries of the world. At the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Committee of 1925 the plan was named “Investment Fund” and officially given to the Sabbath School Department to promote, with the understanding that the money received would go into the regular mission budget with a special emphasis given to establishing new work. Thereafter the Investment Fund was reported separately. The idea went around the world. In Burma they called it the “Different” offering. In the Solomon Islands they called it “Business belong God.”
Some of the first projects were quite interesting. For example, in 1905, in the little town of Hamilton, Missouri, Lottie Lohman gave five pennies to five children. The children bought seeds, planted them, and sold the produce. They also raised chickens and sold them, until the five pennies grew to $11.52. In another instance, a husband of one of our members, who himself was not yet a member, gave up tobacco and gave his tobacco money to Investment. He also walked to work and gave his trolley expense to Investment. Children gathered newspapers, bottles and junk to sell. Others dedicated a portion of their time, a tree in the orchard, a calf, or part of their garden.
The Mission Investment plan was developed in order to encourage further giving to the mission program and to raise mission funds through various individual or family projects. The Mission Investment plan is alive and well today and is continuing to inspire church members in all age groups to invest in the great mission outreach of the church. Investment is special in that it is an intentional effort to dedicate projects to God’s work that allow giving beyond the normal or regular mission giving. Investment projects can be carried out seasonally or year-round. There are no time constraints on when the projects must be done or the funds turned in. All the investment funds that come in during the calendar year are credited to the Investment Fund. Periodically special promotional appeals are presented in the Sabbath School. Many churches have an investment leader who promotes the plan and encourages members to become involved. But even if your church does not have a leader or any promotion you can still have a special Mission Investment project and turn the funds in at Sabbath School with “Investment” marked on the envelope.
A special formula has been established for the use of the Investment funds. Seventy-five percent of the Investment funds go directly into the World Mission Fund. The remaining twenty- five percent is divided between the world divisions of the church for new or frontier outreach projects and large city evangelism. Twenty-two and a half percent of the Investment funds go to the divisions outside the North American Division in proportion to their regular annual base appropriations. The remaining two and a half percent goes to the North American Division for use in promoting its special projects. The portion of Mission Investment funds received by the North American Division each year is divided between two unions on a rotating basis.
The projects that are funded in the North American Division are actually chosen almost two years before the projects begin so that there is time to advertise the projects to the church membership and that adequate planning time is given for the projects to move forward once the funds are available. For example, the special projects which were promoted for 2005 receive their funding in early 2006 once all the Investments funds have been sent to the General Conference that came in during 2005.
To a man who had invested heavily in mining stock and lost a lot of money, Ellen White wrote, “You have made large investments in uncertain enterprises. Satan blinded your eyes so that you could not see that these enterprises would yield you no returns. The enterprise of securing eternal life did not awaken your interest. Here you could have expended means, and run no risks, met no disappointments, and in the end would have received immense profits. Here you could have invested in the never-failing bank of heaven. Here you could have bestowed your treasures where no thief approacheth nor rust corrupteth. This enterprise is eternal and is as much nobler than any earthly enterprise as the heavens are higher than the earth.” (2T 280).
As pastors, we should be informed in this area of ministry – and also involved personally! Would you like to invite God to be a partner in your business or project? Why not join thousands of others in becoming involved in an investment project soon.
It is easy to learn more about investment. There is a book available from AdventSource at (800) 328-0525 or the local ABC at (800) 765-6955 entitled, “Getting Excited about Global Mission” by Dorothy Watts. This book has an entire section about Investment, including projects, suggestions and stories from those who have tried it. AdventSource also prepares a special promotional tract each year that is available in bulk to promote Investment. The title of the tract is “Step into a Life of Miracles.”
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