Church Communication and Update

Dear BPWAians, Today, I will give the final summary of the other matter which we communicated after our worship services on 22 November. This was regarding a query raised about the mission fund that used to be printed on our church bulletins in the past.

Church mission fund query. There was a query concerning a reported vow that the church made to permanently set aside 10% of our general funds for the support of missions. This setting aside was printed on our bulletins for a period of time before that was stopped. Joshua 9 was also cited in the query as to whether we have broken our vow which we should be keeping.

The findings. To check on the background to this and in order to decide what to do, we searched up bulletins, Session meeting minutes, and past Annual Congregational Meeting reports. It is important to be thorough and sure because what we conclude will have an impact on what BPCWA will or will not do moving forward. From our investigations, these were the conclusions reached: 1) The church did not make a vow to immovably set aside 10% of our general funds for mission work. The reason is that there were 2 bulletins that documented Rev Tow’s sermon at BPCWA on 18 July 1999 in which he wrote in his own words, “I suggest that we apportion one tenth of all offerings brought to the Church for the cause of missions” (italics added for emphasis). This sermon, entitled “The Imperative of Global Missions” was printed in both bulletins. Both of these were written by Rev Timothy Tow, with his own writeup of the sermon he delivered at BPCWA. By God’s providence, we recovered an original BPCWA bulletin for the 18 July 1999, which contained an insert of his sermon that day. Also, we obtained a scanned copy of Life BPC’s 25 July 1999 bulletin where it reflected an after the fact report of his sermon at BPCWA. Hence, it is clear from these that before the sermon and after the sermon, his intention was to suggest to BPCWA, not to lead BPCWA in a vow. Being a precise theologian, Rev Tow’s suggestion was also based upon 10% of offerings, and not 10% of our general funds (which is made up of both tithes and offerings). 2) The consensus of the Board of Elders was not present. In Joshua 9, the leaders of the children of Israel represented Israel in making the vow in the name of the Lord to the Gibeonites. According to our church polity and Constitution as a Presbyterian church, decisions must be made by the church’s Board of Elders, and these agreements must be unanimous. From our bulletin dated 4 April 1999, BPCWA’s Board of Elders were Dr SH Tow (as Advisory Pastor) and Rev Pang Kok Hiang (as Pastor). As noted from the bulletin on the day of the sermon on the 18 July 1999, Rev Pang KH was still away in Saipan. From a search of BPCWA’s bulletins in July 1999, though there were multiple mentions of visits of various preachers and elders coming and leaving Perth, there was no mention that Dr SH Tow was in Perth in July 1999. Rev Timothy Tow was an experienced Presbyterian church planter and would not have led BPCWA to make a binding vow in the absence of the church pastor. 3) How did the setting aside of 10 percent stop? From the minutes of the Session meeting dated 21 March 2015, Elder James Wong made a decision to remove from the weekly what had been printed regularly till then that “Mission Fund: (10% of General Fund is set aside for missions)”. This decision was put into effect immediately since “the church has more than enough accumulated for missions”. Elder James Wong was also a Deacon in 1999 and from July 1999 bulletins was likely to have been in Perth and present at Rev Tow’s sermon and he was also the Chairman of BPCWA’s Board and Session during the 21 March 2015 Session meeting.

What needs to be done moving forward ? Since it was printed in our bulletins until 21 March 2015, BPCWA should keep to what was published in our bulletins to set aside 10% of our general funds until that ceased to be printed, and use these accumulated funds as designated for missions. After calculating the amount of collections to be set aside for missions during that period, the amount spent on missions was also deducted from that set-aside amount. Moving forward, the amount remaining will be maintained in a separate account to be used for the purpose of missions support.

Key principles regarding stewardship and mission support. BPCWA must maintain a Scriptural principle of giving, which is a) help sound missions who need support. b) exercise responsible stewardship through proper assessment, and not just give for the sake of giving. c) should not need a published statement of “10% of funds” to give to missions. d) must be ready to spend beyond 10% for missions if needed. e) understand the distinction between tithes (which are for the upkeep of the local church) and offerings (which are freewill offerings above the 10% tithing). General funds consist of both of these amounts. f) not to hoard money, but also not to spend it indiscriminately for the sake of using up accrued funds. It was also stressed that missions support is not only about the support of Christian work in 3rd world countries. It would include, for example, support of other likeminded fundamental separatist churches, help to a church in need, support of particular ministries, love gifts to ministerial workers, support of FEBC students in need, or even an expansion of BPCWA beyond our present building and location to reach out to more in WA.

In conclusion, BPCWA should still be concerned about giving to God’s work. But a church’s giving to missions must not be less stringent than how we would give to any individual. Our giving must not encourage those who are irresponsible, lazy, or whose behaviour is contrary to the truth (2 Thess 3:10,11). For God’s work to progress beyond our walls, beyond our shores, beyond our generation, let us seek to give to those who are faithful to His work, who will hold forth His truth, in places where He has placed those whom He has called into His vineyard.

Ac 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Yours in our Lord’s service,