Walk Out of Darkness – Excerpt from “God’s Plan for Financing the Ministry” by Apostle F. Nolan Ball

It has been my experience that the revelations of Yahweh’s ways seldom if ever come to us in one blinding flash. The journey out of the darkness of spiritual ignorance is usually a plodding walk—one small step at a time—until the Holy Spirit (the Revealer of all truth) suddenly and dramatically brings all of the bits and pieces together to form one bright, clear, detailed picture of Yahweh’s plan. Also, I have discerned that the first step toward the final destination is very often taken in, what appears to be, the opposite direction. It certainly worked that way with me in regard to Yahweh’s way of financing the ministry.

One of the first areas in which the Holy Spirit began teaching me about finances was with regard to my responsibility as husband and the head of my house. During the years from the time of beginning college until the Holy Spirit began dealing with me in this area of finances (about twenty years), I gave very little time or attention to financial matters in the Ball household. During those years, because I worked a full-time secular job as well as carrying a full load in college and/or pastoring, there just simply did not seem to be enough time for me to handle the finances, so that responsibility fell to Shirley, a job she handled quite well. But since our income was very limited, it was a job carrying a lot of emotional stress.

Looking back, I now understand that the first lesson about financing the ministry which the Holy Spirit taught me was that in addition to being responsible to provide our family’s finances, I was also responsible to give oversight for the spending of that money, especially the paying of bills, and thereby release Shirley from the tremendous emotional pressure of handling the family finances. Once I accepted and assumed the role of financial manager in our home, I became an insulator between her and bills and other pressing financial needs.

At first, Shirley resented my wanting to take over the family checkbook, and the paying of the bills. She felt that it was somehow a criticism of her performance. She also was offended by now having to come to me for money. I understood her feelings, but I also believed that this was the right thing to do, although I had no indication of where this step would finally lead me. Let me say that Shirley soon got over her hurt feelings, and given the choice, would not go back to the way it was for so long. We soon worked out an arrangement that has worked very satisfactorily for us. We each have a checking account on which the other one can write checks, but not without prior approval. Out of our income each week, I deposit a designated amount into Shirley’s account. Out of that, she buys groceries, operates the house, buys gas for her car, and buys her clothes. Plus, she always manages to get more money than we have agreed upon. I take care of our giving, savings, paying the bills, and major purchases that we agree upon. I really believe that it is important for husbands to assume their rightful responsibility in this area. I do not personally know of a family that is prospering, with Yahweh’s blessing, where the husband is not responsible for the family’s finances. Although Shirley was reluctant to accept this change, she soon came to appreciate the freedom from the hassle of juggling the household finances and the personal liberty this new plan brought to her.

The second step out of financial darkness and into the revelation that was to come, also came about in an unusual way. When we came to pastor this church, it was apparent to everyone that there was an urgent need for new facilities. We began the involved and sometimes frustrating exercise of preparing to enter into a building program. We settled on plans for a fan shaped brick building that provides seating for 1,000 people, plus offices and classrooms. We chose to finance the building by selling church bonds. And we decided to serve as our own contractor. An experienced and qualified builder in the church was hired to work on the project and to supervise the overall construction. Men of the church voluntarily gave a great sum of time in constructing the building. I served as the overseer of the work, handled all of the purchasing, worked with the sub-contractors, worked on the building every day during the entire construction period, and continued to fulfill my pastoral responsibilities. Because we all contributed so much, the cost of the building was kept much lower than what it might have been. Therefore the building never placed any financial pressure upon us, but that would not be the case with the next building program.

When we began the building that now houses our school, gymnasium, kitchen, youth auditorium, and children’s ministries, it was my desire and intention to build it debt-free. Also, because my work on the first building had been so taxing, and because my pastoral responsibilities had increased, I did not intend that I, nor any of my staff, would work on this project. Sad to say, I did not hold myself to either of those commitments. Without me on the job, the work just seemed to drag on and on. Eventually, my patience wore to the point where I and my associates went to work on the building to get it completed. Though we completed most of the building without borrowing any money, I found myself again yielding to the weariness of the flesh. We made two loans with our bank to finance the completion of the building. In the natural, neither of these decisions was a bad move, but in the spirit, I felt that it was not Yahweh’s best for us. And yet it was in the pressure those decisions produced that I really began to seek Yahweh earnestly about His financial plan. He does have one, you know; He has one for the family, one for the business, and one for the ministry.

Even though we borrowed money to complete the building, we did not borrow enough to cover all of the expenses, so there were a lot of bills left to be paid. And because I and my associates had neglected the congregation to some extent in order to work on the building, the income of the church suffered. Each week, the business manager and I were forced to do a lot of juggling in order to keep all of our accounts current and safeguard the financial integrity of the church. It was in this circumstance that I began diligently seeking Yahweh and requested that my staff join me in praying that Yahweh would get us out from under the pressure of all the bills, so that we could get on with the ministry. In my desire to receive help from Yahweh in this matter, I could not foresee that His answer would involve my personal finances.

Sometime after we had begun praying for Yahweh’s special help in getting this financial burden off us so that we could get on with the ministry, an evangelist came to minister for several services. I was not prepared for what he would do. In his first service, the evangelist began talking about what the church ought to do for me and my wife. He said that the Holy Spirit had directed him to tell the people that my wife and I ought to have a new car, and it should be paid for. He then indicated that he wanted the offering, which had been received that night for him, to be given to us as a payment on a new car. Then he encouraged each family to consider contributing enough to cover one payment on a new car. I felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed by the whole thing. I felt very comfortable asking for others, but I was very uncomfortable having someone ask for me. And he continued this in the succeeding services. My embarrassment and uncomfortableness increased to the point where I was ready to dismiss the evangelist and terminate the meeting. But then the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He reminded me of my continuing prayer that we would be delivered from the oppressive financial burden, and He assured me that He was about to answer our prayer if I would trust Him. I did not understand how what this brother was doing could be tied in any way to the answer to our prayer, but I did know the voice of the Spirit, so I decided to continue the meeting, keep my mouth shut, and see what Yahweh would do.

At the encouraging of the evangelist, people began giving money to me for a new car, and they continued giving when he had left town. I was fifty years old and had never been in a new car show room to look at new cars. First of all, a new car has never been any special thing to me, and besides, there had been no way for us to afford one. Not long before the evangelist came, we had traded for the nicest car we had ever owned, and although it was several years old, we were quite happy with it. So when people began to give us money for a car, I began applying it to what we owed on that car. We had already determined that we would not go into debt just to have a new car.

A few weeks after the evangelist was with us, a woman evangelist was scheduled to be with us for services, Sunday night through Wednesday night. On the Friday before she came on Sunday, a brother brought a check for one thousand dollars to the church for me. I knew this was more than enough to finish paying off our car, but I also knew it would be the next week before the check could be processed and transmitted to me. I thought that I might have enough money accumulated without that check to pay off the car that Friday, but when I went to the bank, I learned that I lacked a few dollars. I looked forward to being able to pay off the car the next week.

The evangelist came in Sunday afternoon, and as is my custom, I asked her to join me and my staff in my office for prayer, prior to the service. After the prayer time, the staff left the office, and as they left, this lady pulled me aside and began telling me that as she had been in prayer earlier that afternoon, she believed the Holy Spirit had spoken to her about some needs in the church. I informed her that my policy was to not discuss anything about an individual or the church with a visiting speaker, but I wanted her to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. As I turned to go, she again pulled me aside, and said that she believed the Holy Spirit had directed her to do something, but I could tell she was apprehensive about doing it. Again I informed her that I would not discuss anything with her, but encouraged her to obey the Spirit. And again as I turned to go, she pulled me aside and said, “I believe the Lord has told me to raise fifteen thousand dollars tonight for the ministry of this church.” I thought, “Sister, it would be a great miracle if you could raise fifteen thousand dollars in this church.” But I said, “I am not going to discuss the needs of the church with you, but you do whatever you believe the Lord wants you to do.”

When I turned the service over to the evangelist, she began, somewhat nervously, to explain to the people that the Holy Spirit had instructed her to raise fifteen thousand dollars for the church’s ministry. Usually, I sit on the platform when a guest is preaching, but that night I had moved to a seat in front of the pulpit. As the evangelist began to make her request, the Holy Spirit very quickly talked to me about the one thousand dollars that had been given for me on Friday. He said to me, “You can give that one thousand dollars into this offering, and trust me to help you pay off the car, or you may use it to pay off your car. You may do whatever you choose; it is your money to do with as you desire.” In a flash, I made the decision to put the one thousand dollars into the offering, and was delighted to do so, because I had in mind that we were going to be able to pay our bills and begin other ministries. Yahweh moved through the congregation in a powerful way, and in no more than twelve minutes’ time, more than fifteen thousand dollars had been committed either in cash or pledges. What a time of praise ensued!

The Monday night service was full of joy and power as the evangelist ministered, and I was greatly relieved that the emphasis was finally off money and what should be done for me. But the worst was yet to come. The service Tuesday night moved on very well until the evangelist began to minister. It seemed that she took up the message of what the church ought to do for me right where the previous evangelist had left off.

Never have I experienced such a wrenching emotional experience as I did for the next hour. Everything she had to say was to do with the church’s responsibility to me. I was embarrassed and angered as she went on and on. I had always believed that I could take care of myself, and I was not about to reduce the role of the minister to that of a beggar. I did not want hand-outs, and I certainly did not want to endure the indignity of having someone else asking for me. I determined that if I lived to tell about that night, no one would ever put me into that embarrassing situation again. The worst and the best was yet to come.

Finally, the evangelist brought her message to a close, and I was greatly relieved—but only for a moment. She asked Shirley and me to come stand and receive an offering from the people as she asked them to come individually to give an offering to us and express their love. I have always resented seeing people embarrassed into giving, and I abhorred the thought of being the recipient of such giving. However, I was trapped with no way out, except to do as she had instructed. As Shirley and I stood before the people, outwardly we were trying to smile our appreciation, but inwardly, we were humiliated.

I was totally unprepared for what was about to transpire within the next few minutes. I could not see how any of this was fitting into Yahweh’s answer to our prayer. One brother came to the microphone and told the people that as he was preparing for church that night, the Holy Spirit had told him that the money raised on Sunday night was not for the church, but was for Shirley and me to have a new car. I was astounded; I had no trouble believing that the money was raised for the church, but I did not know how to receive such a gift, personally. Then another brother came and confirmed that Yahweh had told him the same thing. Then the congregation showed its approval by spontaneously breaking into joyous applause. Then Shirley took the microphone and spoke to the people. I was in such an emotional state at that point that I’m not sure of all she said, but basically she shared with the people how she felt that at times she had held me back, because she wanted the people to love me, and was always concerned I would offend the people if I preached what I ought to, but she knew my heart, and knew that I loved the people and always sought to do the will of Yahweh.

During this time, the Holy Spirit was doing a work in me. I was reminded of an experience that occurred early in my Christian life. I lived a good clean life before I was saved. I was a hard worker, followed the rules, kept my nose clean, and did more than requested. But I had a stubborn spirit and refused to take any “junk” from anyone, even when I was in the military. Afterward, Yahweh showed me that this spirit was akin to the spirit of a wild stallion. The picture of a wild stallion standing on a hillside with his mane blowing in the breeze is an appealing sight to the natural man, but in reality, that animal is useless until someone puts a halter and saddle on him and breaks that wild rebellious spirit and brings it under control. So, in the Kingdom of Yahweh, it is not the strength of the “wild” man that brings glory to Yahweh, but the spirit of a meek man. Actually the word “meek” means to be brought under control.

Yahweh had dealt with and “meeked” this “wild” spirit in me early in my Christian life. During the summer between my first and second years of Bible college, I worked on a construction job. As always, I worked hard, and with my mouth and my labor bore witness of my faith in Yahshua. A situation arose where I was not paid what I should have been paid, and when I called attention to it, I was told that I would receive the money in my next pay. But when I did not receive the money in the next pay period, I went back to the superintendent who proceeded to curse me in front of other employees and tell me in no uncertain words that I was not going to receive the money due me. Never before had I just walked away from that kind of injustice, but now I was caught in a difficult situation. I knew I could fight with the man verbally or physically and win, but I also knew if I did I would destroy my Christian testimony on that job, and would also lose my job and be unable to provide for my family. I made a decision to do what I had never done; I decided to accept this unjust treatment and not fight to get what was mine.

As I sat on the front of the platform that night with my head in my hands, wondering what in the world was going on, the Holy Spirit quickly took me back to that day on the construction job. I was reminded how Yahweh had broken that “wild stallion” spirit in me and how this had enabled me to endure a lot of wrongs and injustices in the ministry in order to be the leader He had called me to be.

Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me that this night was another night of breaking and delivering. The Holy Spirit told me I had always taken the attitude that I would refuse to ask anyone for anything, that I could and would work with my own hands to provide for my family. That was true. I had worked at various jobs to provide for our family. Often I purposely chose a lower paying job that would give me greater flexibility toward my pastoral responsibilities. Shirley and I had probably put as much money back into the churches we pastored in our early years as we took out. Never had we talked of our personal needs to the people, and never had we asked them for any financial help. And now the Holy Spirit had a hard word for me: “You have called this attitude humility, but I call it an attitude of pride.” He showed me it had been my pride in my ability and strength that had kept me from humbling myself before the people and requiring of them what the Bible teaches we ought to require.

The Holy Spirit reminded me of how wonderfully I had been delivered of the “spirit of the wild stallion,” and “Now,” He said, “I am going to deliver you of this spirit of pride.” Suddenly, I experienced the most wonderful deliverance; I felt as though I were breathing all the way to my toes. I could not stop. I wanted to breathe deeper and deeper. Suddenly I knew I would never again be intimidated by what people might think and say. I knew I would forever be free to preach about money with a pure heart. Yahweh had released me from a false humility that had kept me in financial bondage all those years. I was released to teach our church the truth about financing the ministry. Truly that night contained a bit of the worst and a bit of the best for me.

When the Holy Spirit began teaching me Yahweh’s plan for financing the ministry, I felt I was to lay aside all I had ever learned about how those in the ministry are to be paid and go to the Bible with an open mind to find out for myself what Yahweh has to say about this very important, but largely neglected, subject. I have observed in every article I have read and every spoken message I have heard on this subject of financing the ministry that the same religious thinking comes through. In some cases, the intent has been to take what are thought to be sound, proven business principles and apply them to the matter of financing the ministry. I contend that whether the approach is made from either the religious view (we’ve always done it this way) or the worldly business principle (if it is good enough for the banker, it ought to be good enough for the preacher), the end result is going to be far off base.

We are privileged to be living in a time when we can look back over the past four hundred years of church history and see how the Holy Spirit has been tearing away the religious thinking that has been like a veil over the spiritual eyes of Yahweh’s people. The Holy Spirit has been restoring, by revelation, Yahweh’s truth to His Church. Since there are few things that touch and affect the effectiveness of the church more than money, it ought to be easy for us to believe there is a divine plan, and that there is need for the Holy Spirit to sweep away the false teaching, and bring us back to a clear understanding of Yahweh’s way of financing the ministry.

Understanding and applying Yahweh’s principles in this matter of financing the ministry is just as vital to the releasing of the church to become Yahweh’s mighty and glorious witness in the earth as any other area of truth on which we have received the Spirit’s revelation in recent years.

If it is important to the work of Yahweh, then I am persuaded He has not left us to figure it out for ourselves; his pattern is in the Word. Often that pattern has been obscured, if not totally blotted out, by years of religious thinking. Whenever we get away from His pattern, the end result is always going to be disastrous. There was a reason why Yahweh repeatedly said to Moses, “See that you follow the pattern….”

Yahweh did not leave the vital matter of financing the ministry to the changing whims of people, nor to the natural thinking of man. If we understand that the bottom line determining success or failure in almost every project we undertake, is “Can we come up with the money to adequately finance it?”, then we will understand the extreme importance of financing the ministry. I believe the church has not been hindered in its mission nearly as much by the lack of ideas or willing workers as it has been by the lack of capital. Surely, our God, who claims right to all the gold and silver by the act of creation, never intended that His church should be restricted in fulfilling its mission because of the lack of finances. And yet that, more than anything else, has been the case. It is time that we set the record straight, and begin to do it Yahweh’s way.

Following the direction of the Holy Spirit, I began my search by simply determining to sit down with my Bible and concordance in order to search out and examine every Scripture that relates to this subject of financing the ministry. I found that Yahweh had not left this subject to the whims of man. I found out that ever since Yahweh has had a ministry, He has always had a way to finance that ministry, and His plan will always work, and His plan does not change. Since I had no point to prove, I was free to look at and examine every related Scripture. That is what I endeavored to do without prejudice. I found, to my delight, that His way is right, it brings peace to the work of Yahweh, it guarantees success, and it is not dependent upon any externals such as the national government or national economy.

Following my personal study, I met with the men who were serving on our church board at that time for the purpose of reviewing these related Scriptures and sharing with them my conclusions. As I recall, we spent about eight hours reading and discussing these Scriptures. I told those men that my only purpose was to find out what Yahweh has to say about the matter, and then as nearly as possible, to line up with what He has said. At the conclusion of our time, the men said, “Pastor, we have been wrong; we need to make some changes.” My response was that if I understood the Scriptures correctly, then they had no Biblical authority in the matter whatsoever, and before any action was taken, it was my intention to teach the same things to our entire church body. It has been my experience that changes in the church are best made only after the Biblical truth regarding that particular issue has been taught and accepted by the people. Changes made by pressure, by political maneuvering, by charismatic persuasion, or by any means other than through teaching the Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to the people, are almost certainly destined to create big problems later on.

Let me say here that I believe the overwhelming majority of men who serve or have served on church boards are good men who want to do the right thing. But they have been in the dark as to what the Bible really says; therefore, the same mistakes keep being repeated. If they are, in fact, ignorant as to what the Bible really teaches, then it is the fault of the ministry. I trust that the Holy Spirit will use the material in this book in a very large way to do away with this ignorance, bring all of us to an understanding of Yahweh’s method of financing the ministry, and so bring the church into great liberty.

More than any other issue, money holds the potential to create misunderstanding and problems in the church. I would venture to say that if pastors were polled concerning the subject they feel the most uncomfortable about addressing in their preaching, money would head the list. And if the subject were in regard to how they are to be paid, then the uncomfortableness would be even more pronounced. That being the case, can you imagine, as a pastor, preaching for seven consecutive Sunday mornings on the subject of “Financing the Ministry: What Does God Say?”? I think it is important to recall here my account of how Yahweh dealt with me about this issue, and how He delivered me from a false humility that was actually an attitude of pride, and how He made me to know that He had delivered me from any fear or intimidation in this matter, and how He anointed me to preach this message.

For seven Sunday mornings in a row, for more than an hour in each message, I did what I had done with our church board; I went Scripture by Scripture through the Bible for the purpose of firmly establishing in the hearts of our people what Yahweh has to say about financing the ministry. We can know for sure that we are being directed by the Holy Spirit and are speaking the mind of Yahweh on a particular subject, but I don’t think any of us can often accurately predict the reaction of the people. That is where I was. I knew what I was doing was right; I knew it was being done at the right time; I knew it was being done with the right motive; but I did not know what the reaction of the people would be. It is one thing to have a few men, sitting with you in your office, to come into agreement with you, but it is quite another thing to anticipate what several hundred people may do, especially when they have opportunity of discussing between Sundays what you have said. But any apprehension anyone might have experienced during those seven weeks was laid to rest the moment I concluded the last message; the people spontaneously stood and applauded their approval. We had heard the truth and the truth was setting us free.

I have taken care to share with you all of the pertinent information leading up to the changes we have made at The Rock of Panama City, Florida, because I believe they are vital to properly understanding and implementing those same changes elsewhere. In my study of the Bible, I have noted that Yahweh almost never chose to convey truth to His people by setting that truth in abstract form, nor in fiction, but most often, He chose the vehicle of biography. I hope you agree that is still an effective method. Thank you for taking the time to read what might be described as simply the introduction, but what I believe is vital to fully understanding the things Yahweh has directed me to share with the whole body of Christ, and especially with my co-laborers in the gospel. I now ask you to please take the time to read thoughtfully the final chapters of this book. Now, may I present to you my understanding of Yahweh’s plan for financing the ministry.

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