I Am the Church Budget
November 4th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
I AM THE CHURCH BUDGET
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 9:10
11-4-87 7:30 p.m.
As a background text, reading in 2 Corinthians chapter 9 beginning at verse 8; 2 Corinthians 9, verse 8:
God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; He hath given to the poor: His righteousness remaineth for ever.
Now He that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness:)
Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
While by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection into the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distrbution unto them, and unto all men;
And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.
[2 Corinthians 9:8-15]
A background text for the subject of the message tonight, I introduced myself, I Am the Church Budget. I am the church budget! Although many people claim my acquaintance, there are few who actually know me. I am misunderstood by some of my closest associates. There are some who think of me merely as a list of confusing figures and dollar signs. To others, I am a challenge and a blessing. To some, I have ever remained the red flag of disturbance. To others, I stand for conviction and guilt.
May I introduce myself? I am known intimately by the missionaries home and far and alike. I am a world traveler and a very important part of our Southern Baptist mission fields. Just yesterday I made it possible for a missionary doctor to relieve pain in a hospital in Nigeria. I was present when a small boy learned to read in a school, deep in the interior of Mexico. I stood by a fine young man as he received his theological degree in South America. I accompanied many God-called men as they preached in a language so strange to me, yet it was full of meaning to that congregation who listened. I have relieved hunger, clothed chilled bodies, preached the gospel message, given courage to countless thousands whose hope was gone. I have furnished passports to missionaries serving the Lord today. But I am not confined to this task alone.
In support of home missions here in our beloved America, I am welcomed in the swamplands of Florida and in the hill country of Kentucky; from the Arctic waste of Alaska to the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Just last week I was held in the hands of a Navajo Indian. At that moment, I had lost my dollar sign and had become the precious Word of the gospel directed to a lost and lonely soul. I am the church budget.
That same day I assisted in organizing a Baptist church in one of the states of the far West. You see, without me, no missionary could have been assigned to that state. To tell of all of my activities would take more time than I have. But there is still another aspect of my ministries that I would like to mention. For this church to which I belong, I am a part of every visit, every sermon, every telephone call. I make it possible for the pastor to preach and to comfort our people in their deepest need. I am part of each letter from your educational director’s desk. I make it possible for the secretary to write out the bulletin you hold in your hand.
You would no doubt be interested in the recent experience here in your very midst. Just last Promotion Day I was visiting in the Primary department and saw a boy whose parents I do not know. But I saw him receive a gift Bible from me. I was the only one who heard him whisper under his breath, “This is my very own.” I learned that this was the only Bible his home had ever possessed. I am puffed up with pride to see that this same boy has a quarterly, a piano to accompany his singing, and adult leaders dedicated to his well-being. For the citizens of tomorrow, I dare not do less than my very best. I am the church budget.
My continued growth through the past years evidences your acquaintance with me, and your understanding of my many problems. I seem to have endless needs. But these needs indicate my every expanding service and reflect your wisdom and far-sighted planning. The demands of a lost world can never let me become static or satisfied. As long as there are spiritual problems, I must continue to suffer from growing pains. Like all growing things, I become more complex year after year. Like a child who becomes increasingly more useful and has accepted more duties, I too have accepted my maturing responsibilities. I am the church budget.
Just suppose that I was absent next Sunday. The Sunday school pupil would be without a quarterly. The Training Union would have no guide for its program nor suggestions for daily Bible readings. The choir would have no songbooks. No organ or piano music would be heard, and the classrooms would be dark from the lack of electricity and cold from the want of heat. The rooms would be void of furniture or equipment. There would be no flowers for the ill or the bereaved. The personnel who depend upon me would go without pay. I am your church budget.
Though this prospect is already unpleasant, little suppose that I stay away—suppose I stay away a whole year. No thought is as sobering as this to me. All that has been true of one Sunday—nothing! All that has been true of one Sunday would be multiplied fifty-two times with increasing devastation. In just the period of one year we would see our creditors in possession of the church property. All that we have gained in growth for our last century and we’re a hundred-and-twenty years old, would be lost in twelve short months. This indeed is a sad picture, but it is dark and still more when we consider the prospects for future generations. The community would not be blessed with the ministry of the church. There would be no church here.
If nothing else I am the hope of the future. I do not build for today alone, but for tomorrow as well. I am the church budget. I apologize for appearing to laud myself. I had been planning to reveal my dependence as well as my strength. It is not news to you that I am utterly dependent; I am nothing without you. I am just as strong or as weak as you make me. I can only serve as you provide. I am strengthened as one of you helps and participates, and I am weakened as one of you may fail. It does not take a philosopher to understand that in the last analysis I do not exist at all apart from you. I am not a budget at all. I am you and yours, transformed into a common denominator, to serve. This is the giving program of our dear church. The church is we. For three hundred years, there was no church house. And yet those three first centuries were the most dynamic in the history of Christendom.
The church is the people. If we were to meet in a cave or in a den, we would be the church. The church is God’s people. We are the church. And the giving program of the church is we. It is not dollar signs. It is not bank deposits. The giving program of the church is our ministering loving congruent. It is we. I give myself, a part of me when I give to this dear church. I transform myself into coined personality. It is I that is being given.
If I work for you and you pay me a hundred dollars, that hundred dollars represents me. If it is a day, it represents a day in my life. And if I give that hundred dollars to God, it represents a day of me that I’m dedicating to the Lord. And it is the combined dedication of all of our people that make possible our ministries around the world, as I have so poignantly felt visiting our mission fields, watching a doctor: he’s there because of us, you and me. We sent him out. We paid his salary. We bought that medicine. We made it possible for him to minister.
All of the many, many facets of this wonderful church, I look at them in amazement sometimes! There is no day but that something like two-thousand people are down here at this church. These young people and these children and all of these ministries that combined to help our families, and our fathers and mothers, and our singles, in that I have a part. Without us, it wouldn’t exist. And I am so blessed and so happy in my soul when I see what God is doing through our wonderful church.
And when the Lord’s Day comes and we’re preaching the gospel and singing the songs of Zion, baptizing our converts, teaching the Bible in all of these classes, training our people to love and serve God, O Lord, how happy I am in my soul that I have been counted in. And on Wednesday night, all of these people in this vast complex meeting in officers and teaching groups and prayer groups, coming together into this sanctuary seated here and now, praying for the sick, listening to the Word of God, O Lord, how indebted I am to Thee. God has given into our hands the blessedness of this ministry. He didn’t have to. He could have turned it over in administration to the angels, to the seraphim and the cherubim. God could have done it in some other way. But in His goodness and grace, He turned it over to us. We have it all together. It is ours. Under His love, and surveillance, and inspiration, and direction, all of it is in our hands. God has committed it to us.
I think of a story that I have told here in recent days. When our Lord returned to heaven, after His crucifixion [Luke 23:26-46] and then His glorious resurrection [Luke 24:5-7], after His ascension to heaven [Acts 1:9-10], the angel Gabriel met Him and said to Him, “Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus, what You have done, dying for the sins of the world [1 John 2:1-2], and raised for the justification of Your people [Romans 4:25, 6:3-5], to present them someday here in glory. Lord Jesus, how it is that they are to know what You have done?”
And the Lord replies, “Gabriel, I have committed it into the hands of eleven men. And I’m depending upon those men to tell others who will tell others who will yet tell others.”
And Gabriel asked the Lord, “But Lord, what if they fail?”
And the Lord replies, “Gabriel, I have no other plan.”
That is so true of the Word of God. God has no other plan. It is committed to us wholly, completely, absolutely, foreverly. And Master, in God’s grace and goodness, may He find us faithful. “I will be there, Lord. And a part of me, I will dedicate for the many, many ministries that make up the programming, the budget of this dear church. And I will not do it as a slave driven to his galley seat. I’ll do it gladly, Lord, and just praise Your name for letting me share in the ministry.”
This coming Wednesday night, as announcement was made, we’ll add ourselves up. This coming Lord’s Day will be the ultimate and triumphant day when all of us are to have our part pledged. And then the following Sunday, we’ll make the announcement how much we weigh to the pound, how much we measure to the yard, how much God has done through us. And, O God, may it be a triumphant and glorious Sunday when we announce to our people what we have done. God, grant it in His precious name, amen.
Before we sing our song, I want to pray, and I want our people to lower those kneelers once again. And I want us to bow before the Lord. All of us on our knees—our orchestra here, get on your knees. All of our people get on our knees, and we’re going to ask God for an incomparable victory.
Our Savior in heaven, what You have done for us, leaving Your throne of glory [Hebrews 10:5-14], made in the likeness of our human flesh [Philippians 2:7-8], subject to all the ills, and hurts, and sorrows that we know in this human life [Hebrews 4:14-16]. Does any one of us cry? You cried [Luke 19:41; John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7-8]. Is any one of us hurt? You were hurt [Isaiah 53:5]. Any one of us in sorrow? You sorrowed [Isaiah 53:3]. Any one of us stricken with grief? You knew what it was to be filled with agony and grief [Mark 3:5]. Does any one of us face death? You faced death [Hebrews 2:9]. Does any one of us die? You died [Matthew 27:32-50]. Ah, Lord, what grace and love that God Himself in heaven should come down to earth, be made like one of us, live our lives, die our death [Hebrews 10:5-14]. Great God in heaven, how could it be? But, O wonderful Savior, what a triumphant, glorious gospel; victorious end to the message. You not only suffered and died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], but in power and glory You were raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], to declare us righteous [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25], to open the doors of heaven, to make it possible that we also be with You in that glorious world yet to come [John 14:1-3], to see to it that we make it, that we are not lost by the way but kept by the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]; and someday to be welcomed by the angels of glory, with the saints of heaven, to be with Thee forever and ever [John 14:3]. O God, how much we owe to Thee! How rich we are in Thy love and grace [John 3:16]. Master, may we, in our dedication and consecration and commitment, Lord, may we offer Thee the whole strength of our lives, and if I have anything, Lord, that God can use, then, Master, use me. And if in this great assembly there is a common denominator of love and consecration, dear God, all of us offer ourselves to Thee. And in this time of the fall when we share in that consecration, a part of us, dedicated to the service of God, O Lord, when the announcement is made, and that triumphant time arrives, may there be rejoicing in heaven, and blessing of God in earth, and a shout of praise in this dear church, thanking Thee for what You have done through this dear people. God be praised forever and ever. You mean so much to us. Through Jesus our precious Lord, amen.
Now we are going to sing us a song, and while we sing the hymn of appeal, I’ll be standing right here. And a family you, coming to the Lord; a one somebody you, accepting Him as Savior; or a soul moved of God to answer the appeal of the Spirit in heart; on the first note of the first stanza come, and a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.