This article is about a fund raising endeavor used by many Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches to raise money to support missionaries. This fund raising endeavor is called Faith Promise Missions (FPM) giving, and was conceived by Oswald J. Smith. An aspect of FPM that should be of a concern to IFB pastors and members is its widespread use among other denominations, considering the IFB philosophy of separation.
Historically, churches would use a portion of the general fund to support missionaries, or take offerings dedicated to missionary support, and use these funds to financially support foreign missionaries. Many churches still do this, having not bought into the Faith Promise Missions philosophy. Then, in the late 1920s, came Oswald J. Smith. In 1918 he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Canada, but resigned from them in 1918 and started his own church in Toronto. In 1928 he started the People’s Church in Toronto, and became an avid missions advocate. His history should be enough to keep IFB preachers away, because the IFB teaches that a man cannot start a church without authority from another church. However, there is so much money to be made through FPM that preachers overlook many things, including the lack of a Biblical precedent for Faith Promise Missions.
Oswald’s idea was that if people only gave what cash was in their pockets, he was not receiving as much money as he could. He developed a plan where people would make a promise to God to give a certain amount of money each week. He found 2 Corinthians Chapter 8, and twisted it to meet his needs. (More on the perversion of Biblical principles later in this article.) He began to preach that a man must make a promise to God, based on his faith that God will supply his needs, of what he will give each year for World Evangelism. The process was simple; pray and ask God what He would have you give, promise that amount each week, and make the payment to the church each week thereafter. Tithe first, Faith Promise Mission giving next, then any other offerings, and finally pay your bills, buy food, gas, other needs, and then waste whatever is left on your wants; that is the IFB way these days.
Now concerning the Biblical basis for FPM, I mentioned earlier that preachers use 2 Corinthians Chapter 8. Since the IFB is KJV only, that is the version I will quote from in this article.
Then they usually skip to Chapter 9:
5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.
In context, these verses are a message from Paul asking the people to give sacrificially to the Saints who have need due to a famine in Israel. Reference Acts 11:27-30. Out of context, which is what IFB preachers do in order to preach FPM, we are told that these verses tell of a desire for the churches to give sacrificially for the support of missionaries. The verses clearly show that this was a onetime gift, but it is preached at Faith Promise Missions conferences as an annual requirement for churches, based on chapter 9, verse 2.
IFB preachers then, teach that we should be in a perpetual state of sacrificial giving in order to support missionaries. They completely ignore 2 Corinthians chapter 8 verses 13 and 14, “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality”. This program is lucrative; most IFB churches raise tens of thousands of dollars through this method. My own church raised around $200,000 in 2012, and that’s less than 200 people. Preachers now have a way to boast of the amount of money collected, and of those members whose Faith Promise Missions giving is more than their tithe.
Another aspect of FPM preaching that I find disturbing is the effect of the guilt trip. The preachers always say things like, “There is no faith in $5 a week, or $10 a week.” You will often hear them say to give up your sodas, coffee, or dining out, and use that money for your Faith Promise Missions giving. You will hear how someone, usually the preacher, received a check in the mail that was exactly the amount needed for FPM gift, and how that if he hadn’t given his FPM gift he wouldn’t have received that check. Many preachers also use 2 Corinthians Chapter 8, verse 8 to help with making the congregation feel guilty. That verse states, “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.” Preachers use this verse to guilt the people into giving according to their love for Christ and others. It’s a ‘Give little, and you have little faith and little love’ message. In context, this verse is Paul once again exhorting the church at Corinth to cease being selfish and prideful. While it is entirely possible that Christians today can be selfish and prideful, and often are, a preacher’s use of this verse to guilt people into giving is wrong. The preachers always say that you don’t give to get, but then in the next breath they say that God will give it back to you and bless you for giving – just as they do for the tithe. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a basis for FPM giving, which is to say, give by faith more than you can afford. 2 Corinthians 8:12 clearly states we are to give of what we have, not of what we don’t.
I hope you as a reader have found this article informative and helpful. I personally struggled for many years with the concept of Faith Promise Missions giving because I never received an amount from God when I prayed, and so gave an amount that seemed to ease the guilt I felt after the mission conference was over. I suffered many financial problems due to tithing and FPM because I took the preachers at their word, thinking they had some special message from God. Fortunately I decided to start doing some self-studying, and found that both tithing and FPM are invalid programs for the New Testament Church. I still struggle at times with guilt because for various reasons I still attend an IFB church, but I am able to give, or not give, based on my own convictions, and not some commandment to give 10%, and some amount I expect God to give me in order to support missions.
Additional reading, sources, and references for this article:
http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/faithpromise.htm - Steve Van Nattan gives an excellent history of Oswald J. Smith, the Faith Promise plan in comparison to true Biblical principles, and a personal story of how he “fleeced the sheep” in regards to Faith Promise Missions.
www.libertygospeltracts.com/biblecrs/money2/money1.htm - This bible study course covers Faith Promise Missions very well.
“Contra the ‘Pray and Pay’ Model of Giving”, by Jason Dulle – An excellent article, though I am no longer able to find a link for it, but you are welcome to search for the author for his contact information.