The connection between accountability and generosity can be traced back to the biblical pattern set by the Apostle Paul in his international orchestration of the Jerusalem collection from A.D. 53-58. In his correspondence, we find these four practical points for modern application. I suggest God’s workers all over the world follow Paul’s example to promote accountability and encourage greater generosity.
- Provide Consistent Directions for God’s People – Notice Paul did not beg for money, which would imply they were owners of financial resources. Instead, he taught them basic financial stewardship. He instructed people set aside whatever extra they earn to have resources to share. What stewardship messages are you communicating?
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
- Appoint Credentialed Administrators to Handle Ministry Funds – Paul instructed the Corinthians to identify trusted couriers to deliver the gifts. The term “approved” in ancient sources points to credentialed people. Financial mismanagement could discourage participation in the collection, so this reveals that the integrity of the gift administration mattered to Paul. Do you have trustworthy, credentialed people handling ministry funds?
“When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.” 1 Corinthians 16:3-4
- Implement Financial Controls to Exhibit Transparency – Having financial controls is accounting language for making sure more than one person handles the money. It’s extra work, but Paul takes such precautions to be sure the collection would glorify God. Do you have controls or standards for responsible gift administration?
“But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord. We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” 2 Corinthians 8:16-21
- Affix a Seal to Build Confidence in the Integrity of Gift Administration – Before Paul sends the gift he puts his seal on it. Affixing a seal was an ancient practice to authenticate the contents of a letter or delivery. When a seal is present, it gives onlookers confidence that the collection process was handled properly. Do you affix a seal?
“But now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” Romans 15:25-29
God is raising up men and women to champion faithful ministry administration and to set up peer accountability groups in countries like Australia (CMASC), Kenya (AfCAA), Philippines (CCTA), South Korea (CCFK), Egypt (NABLA Initiative), Guatemala (CONFIABLE), India (EFAC), Canada (CCCC), and the USA (ECFA). Join one of these accountability movements or start one in your country to help encourage generous participation in God’s work.