Treasurer’s Perspective: “In Service to God”
September 7, 2010
[The following article appears in the September issue of United News and is reproduced here for our “Inside United: Realtime” readers.]
UCG’s new treasurer recounts spiritual and physical miracles from his own life experiences that taught him a strong faith in Jesus Christ as the living Head of the Church.
In Service to God
by Aaron Dean
Many of us likely remember the trying times in 1979, when a receivership was imposed on the Worldwide Church of God by the attorney general of the state of California. What most do not know was that an important transaction was taking place 6,000 miles away on the very days the legal battle started. The Ambassador College Bricket Wood campus had sold, and the proceeds from the sale of the former campus were being transferred to the Church’s bank in the United States.
About $3 million were in danger of falling into the hands of the receiver, who would then control the funds and spend them as he wished. Attorneys retained by the Church tried to stop the transfer and keep the funds out of the receiver’s hands through every legal means possible. To do so, however, would have locked the funds and started a chain of events that would have led to bankruptcy and reorganization. To everyone’s surprise, neither option came to pass. The fund transfer went through.
An Unexpected Blessing
The Church’s bank, instead of holding it for the receiver, deployed a special, seldom-used legal allowance. To both the receiver’s and the Church attorneys’ surprise, the bank used the funds from the sale to pay off and close the Church’s total outstanding lines of credit and current bills of —guess what—about $3 million. Meanwhile, tithes from members and coworkers went to Herbert Armstrong’s office in Tucson, Arizona, where the Church’s work was carried on by paying bills as they were due day by day.
Newspaper headlines did create fear, however. Some Ambassador Auditorium performers, not understanding the different types of receivership, refused to perform unless paid up front in cash. For weeks we carried a briefcase full of cash to pay performers right before they went on stage. Except for these odd situations, the Church managed to function fairly normally.
Looking back, it’s obvious to me that Christ decided that the receiver would not be given that choice.
The outcome? The Church never went bankrupt, which kept the integrity and honor of the Church and God’s name throughout that crisis. The lawyers thought we had lost the battle when the money transferred. But actually God won and protected the Church in His way for His purpose, putting the Church in a stronger financial position than before. This unanticipated act of God prepared the Church for the remarkable growth it had beginning with Mr. Armstrong’s return to Pasadena in 1980 until his death in 1986.
God’s plan is always done, often in a manner that tests all of us. It creates a positive opportunity for us to see ourselves and understand others, to grow in grace and knowledge and become more like God. Likewise, it gives God a chance to sift through those who wish or claim to “decide” God’s will for Him. God directs things in our personal lives as well, using little events to prepare us for future things.
The God I wish to serve as treasurer knows the future and guides things to His glory and purpose often beyond human reason. I’ve never felt qualified for any job in God’s service. In 1974 I was asked to work on the Church’s corporate aircraft. That job required chef skills, but Mr. Armstrong wanted an Ambassador graduate. While a student, I had asked the food service director, a culinary arts graduate, if I could help prepare the many special formal dinners at Ambassador—for food—not in preparation for any job. When the need arose on the G-II jet on the day of my graduation, I was drafted to serve, although cooking ended up being the least of my duties.
Training Following Near Tragedy
As many will remember, Mr. Armstrong suffered a heart attack in 1977. While he recovered over the next few years, I was asked to take accounting and law classes to expand my skills so that I might ultimately be of better service to the Church. I took a few law classes and began pursuing an accounting degree at California State University–Los Angeles (CSULA) with the goal of sitting for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam after graduation.
When Mr. Armstrong returned to Pasadena in 1980, I had taken most of the accounting classes in the program at CSULA. Mr. Armstrong had me withdraw from school to once again help him with his far more important mission—carrying the gospel to world leaders. My work with him as his aide never allowed me to finish the program or take the CPA exam, but the added education did help when he was presented with budgets and wanted to discuss other financial decisions during those years.
With Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, new leadership took the Church in a different direction doctrinally and organizationally. Disregarding promises he made to Mr. Armstrong, within months his successor systematically removed me from certain positions and duties for what are now obvious reasons. I was reassigned to be over Ambassador food services and also asked to teach in the business major.
To fulfill accreditation requirements for the college, a number of faculty members needed to upgrade their academic credentials. The accounting discipline already had the necessary advanced degrees for accreditation, so I returned to CSULA, this time to acquire a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Management and Finance. That degree was completed just prior to the consolidation of the college in Big Sandy, Texas, where I taught various business classes until Ambassador’s close.
I didn’t ask for or expect the current assignment as treasurer. It uprooted me from a pleasant life in Texas, an enjoyable job, a wonderful congregation with friends I cherish and away from our comfortable home and first grandchild to be born in January.
I didn’t want to move. But from personal experience I know that God prepares us throughout life for His service, and it sometimes takes us in directions we cannot see.
Where Will God Now Lead?
Only God truly knows the direction He is taking us. We have to have the faith to know that He is leading. Our plans, though often with noble intent, only truly work when they conform with His plans. As I have personally witnessed, when we are not in alignment with God’s will—however well-intentioned—God creates events that override the decisions made and influenced by human reason, sometimes to our frustration, but always for our benefit and according to His will. I have seen that happen time and again.
The president has asked that I review all of our financial operations to see whether improvements can produce additional efficiency and effectiveness in helping him oversee the use of God’s tithes and offerings. I provided a similar service when I was working for Mr. Armstrong.
In fact, all of the funding for the highly successful overseas Ambassador student projects and some support of international youth camps worldwide came by creating new efficiencies from existing funds and programs associated with Mr. Armstrong.
Despite what many thought were limited funds at the time, God provided amazing global growth for The Plain Truth magazine between 1980 and 1986; and by 1986 the Church was spending $27 million annually on television media buys. Having this example and knowing what we now know and have experienced, how much can we do now?
Fulfilling Our Dual Commission
We can maximize the funds that God inspires the members and coworkers to tithe and donate. We still must train ministers and help members; we must preach the gospel. Can we do it in a more cost-effective manner?
We will look at insurance, travel and other overhead costs to free up funds for our dual commission of preaching the gospel and preparing a people. We will use advances in technology to help lower meeting costs.
Most of all, we must do our part in yielding to Christ and having the faith that He will guide us. Having this attitude is far more important than any credentials or human ability. But make no mistake; our Church must operate within history-making, challenging times. Our current budgets are much lower than what was available during Mr. Armstrong’s latter years. But we still serve the same God the Father and Jesus Christ, and we still have the same commission and the same highs and lows in spiritual and physical trials. If we yield our minds and hearts to God, we will complete what God has laid out for us to do.
In these trying times, just as during the receivership, some may see the Church trapped in front of a 21st-century Red Sea. But as He has done in the past and as He will do in the future, God will part the waters and take us through as we follow His Son. We will stand in awe of Him as the impossible becomes reality.
As we approach the Fall Festival season, let us all seek to be aligned with God’s will, for then we as His Church will receive power to achieve that will. UN