Give Me That Mountain!
brown on green, A Regular column about finances
A study of the miracles Jesus performed reveals something interesting. In several cases, someone had to do something for the miracle to occur. The water turned to wine in John 2 required servants to fill the jars with water for the miracle to happen. In John 9, the blind man had to wash away the mud Jesus put on his eyes in the pool of Siloam before he could see. In Mark 8, the blind man required a “double dose” of miraculous healing before he could see clearly.
All four Gospels record the intriguing story of the feeding of the 5,000. Perhaps most interesting about this miracle is the size of the crowd. It would have been impossible for those at the back to see exactly what was happening, and they may not have even known a miracle was in progress. All they knew was they were receiving food.
Another interesting aspect of this miracle was the amount of time required. No one knows precisely how the miracle was performed, but most people assume it happened as they passed out the food. Every time they shared the last of the fish and bread, they reached into the basket to find more fish and bread. It takes a while to feed 5,000 people, so this miracle happened gradually, perhaps taking an hour or more. If a miracle can take an hour to unfold, is it possible a miracle could occur over 30 years?
What has happened over the last 30 years at Free Will Baptist Foundation can only be described as a miracle. Consider the facts: in 1992, the Foundation’s total assets were $937,000. In 2022, total assets are close to $120 million. The Foundation impacts the annual income of denominational ministries directly through grants and endowment income and indirectly through the earnings ministries receive from trusts invested on their behalf. In 1992, the income generated annually to ministries was $71,000; today, the annual impact surpasses $3 million.
We are also impacting the future of our ministries. Individual trusts require a 20% Free Will Baptist ministry designation. We manage planned gifts from which individuals receive income during their lifetime, but when they die, the remaining principal goes to ministries. Recently, we developed an estate planning program. Many families have committed to leaving a portion of their estate to ministry. Thirty years ago, we only had ministry designation from individual trusts and a few planned gifts, and our total impact on future FWB ministry was $66,000. Today future gifts still include ministry designation and planned giving proceeds, but the estate planning program has supersized future gifts to over $53 million.
It would be difficult to describe this growth as anything other than a slow-motion miracle occurring over 30 years. Remember, the folks in the back had no idea Jesus’ miracle of feeding the crowd was taking place. In a similar way, perhaps many Free Will Baptists have been unaware of the slow-motion miracle taking place since 1992 at the Foundation.
About the Columnist: David Brown is director of Free Will Baptist Foundation. To learn more about the grants program, visit www.fwbgifts.org.