R. Steven Norman III
Submitted by: Nate Dubs
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”
I think about those words often. You see, I was on a journey many years ago that was about me, my life, my future: what college degree I was going to earn, how much money I was going to make … me, me, me. Then my brother, who was baptized the summer before, told my younger brother and me about an evangelistic series that was going to start in a matter of weeks, and that he wanted us to attend. Since we thought we were fine without religion, we told him we had absolutely no interest.
Not taking no for an answer, he brought 10-15 evangelistic brochures into our house and put them in every room. Somehow the Holy Spirit used my older brother and numerous brochures to spark interest in our hearts. We attended these meetings, accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and shortly thereafter were baptized. That decision changed my life and continues to change my life every day.
That’s why tithe and offerings are never just money to me, and they never will be. Someone paid for the evangelistic brochures my brother placed throughout the house. When I drove to the church, I parked on a paved lot, and walked into a church building that someone else paid for. Someone paid for the electricity and the air conditioning expenses. Someone paid for the evangelist and pastor. The point is, because others before me were faithful in giving their tithe and offerings, I had the opportunity to hear the Gospel and accept Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believe the same is true for you.
You’ve heard of the “Circle of Life.” I believe in the “Circle of Giving.” God is love, and God so loved that He gave. The giving always starts with God and flows to everyone, and His followers are to continue this practice of giving for future generations. I believe, in a large part, that you had the opportunity to hear the Gospel because others before you were faithful in the giving of their tithe and offerings. Whether it was through an evangelistic series or you consider yourself born into the Church, the influences that led to your decision for Christ, in the Church or Church school setting, were opportunities available in part through the financial faithfulness of others.
The process is simple. God richly blesses His people. His people, you and I, then return a faithful tithe and in addition, give our offerings. Those funds go far and wide toward the proclamation of the Gospel. Most of these funds support our pastors and teachers, who dedicate themselves to full-time ministry in the churches and schools. We also fund many ministries, from summer camp to evangelistic efforts. We also purchase school and church buildings. Why do we do all this? We do this because all of our lives have been changed, and we want others to be given that same opportunity. What a legacy!
Last year in the Southern Union, there was a special emphasis on the “Year of Evangelism.” Almost 10,000 precious souls said YES to Jesus to change their lives, and were baptized or joined the Church by profession of faith. Jim Davidson, executive secretary of the Southern Union, and I had the privilege to spend a few nights with Ron C. Smith, D.Min., Ph.D., president of the Southern Union, during each of his evangelistic crusades last year. Listening to his presentations and seeing the people’s response is a great reminder to me that tithe and offerings are about giving others the opportunity to change their lives forever.
The eight conferences and three universities of the Southern Union were all involved in evangelistic endeavors last year. Administrators, support staff, pastors, and lay members held public evangelistic and reaping meetings. The Word was proclaimed with much power, and people in our communities were given the opportunity to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are many ways to do outreach, but one thing for sure: growing churches do evangelism, serve their communities, and are outward focused.
We have more than 150 Seventh-day Adventist schools and universities in the Southern Union that bring a Christ-centered, academic education to almost 17,000 students on a weekly basis. Our dedicated teachers and support staff bring God into everything they say and do. Besides my attendance at our seminary, I never had the opportunity to attend Seventh-day Adventist schools like many of my colleagues. In my public educational experience, God was not the center. God never even entered the picture nor even a cursory dialogue. Praise the Lord for our strong Seventh-day Adventist, Christ-centered education system. Please make sure your children are attending our schools.
I also had the opportunity to visit the Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, August 12-17, 2019. There were more than 65,000 people in attendance, and more than 10,000 were from the Southern Union, under the leadership of Ken Rogers, Southern Union youth ministries director. Our children fellowshipped with other young people, earned honors, and listened to and watched testimonies and skits. Best of all, praise God, more than 1,000 were baptized. It’s a once-every-five-years meeting worth experiencing.
The Southern Union and conference publishing departments and their team members distributed more than two million tracts last year. The Lord uses the publishing ministry to put His Word in the hands of individuals who may never step inside a church. Seeds are being planted inside the souls of individuals, and we may never know the results this side of Heaven. But, we must keep planting the seeds.
AdventHealth reaches millions of people every year with the healing ministry of Christ. Providing the best wholistic care, at the best price, to people who come at their most vulnerable time is their ministry. In addition, they provide support to our universities, who provide future leaders to our health care system.
The Southern Union — all eight conferences; AdventHealth, Oakwood, and Southern universities; our many AdventHealth hospitals and clinics; all 1,350 churches and companies; and more than 150 schools — is working to proclaim the love of God. We have more than 300,000 members in Southern Union, whose mission is to lift up Jesus.
I have been a pastor and in conference treasury/administrative work for more than three decades. I’ve been treasurer of the Southern Union for the last year. To me, tithe and offerings will always be about changing lives, starting with my own. By being faithful to God in the giving of our tithe and offerings, we are giving others the opportunity to hear the Gospel, and to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. If they accept that invitation, we know their lives will be changed forever. That brings God joy, with celebration in Heaven and celebration on Earth. That brings me joy, which makes me a cheerful giver.
is the treasurer of the Southern Union Conference in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.
Southern Union | April 2020