“Ultimately, though, each church is responsible to the members which fund it. Refusing to provide finances to its own congregation should not be an option,” we pointed out last week.
“When you mentioned about being open to your people who go to your church; that opened a window for me. Because I don't know and I would like to know,” Lomax pointed out.
Lomax said the church has not held a detailed business meeting, where members can ask questions, in years.
She argues when she asks questions, church leaders give her the runaround.
“When you get people saying you don't need to know. We are taking care of the church business, I have a problem with that,” Lomax stated.
So we contacted Lomax's church and Pastor Rashard Hollman did not hesitate to sit down with us.
He says the church holds an annual business meeting like it has for more than one hundred years.
“We did that last year in May where we laid that out as far as itemizing where our finances went and how much was actually brought in,” Pastor Hollman said.
Pastor Hollman said if a member has specific questions about the church's finances, their finance team is glad to answer them.
However, he claims once a member tithes, that gift belongs to God and questioning exactly how it is spent should not be the giver's focus.
“I don't think we should get involved in the where or the how the tithe is being spent as more you ought to be concerned about making sure that I give the tithe so I can be accountable unto God for the things I am responsible for,” Pastor Hollman argued.
Mike McLemore is the Executive Director of the Birmingham Baptist Association and a former pastor with three decades of experience.
“As a pastor I always felt that it was very, very important to be transparent with financial records. And every member of our church had the opportunity to get a detailed financial report,” McLemore said.
The Birmingham Baptist Association has more than 120 members.
St. James Baptist Church Eastlake is not one of them.
McLemore said they encourage all their churches, large and small, to hold open business meetings or publish their finances on a regular basis.
“If you are going to ask your people to give to support the church, and as members of the church they have the right, I think to expect accountability and have that transparency in financial documents, a financial report,” McLemore stated.
McLemore feels if a church tries to keep its finances a secret from the congregation that will ultimately hurt the bottom line and the church's ability to carry out its mission.
“If the pastor of a church wants to increase their giving level, one of the best things they could do is be transparent with financial records,” McLemore concluded.
When we asked Grace Lomax if she thought more people in her church would give if they knew where the money was going, she replied, “I feel that personally. I have heard that a lot.”
Pastor Hollman insists his church is completely transparent and he hopes smaller congregations like his concentrate more on reaching people instead of bickering over money.
“It's important that even in the small setting that we don't start nickel and diming about the nickels and dimes, literally. And we've got to understand that the more we give the more we are able to do and the more people we are able to bless and that is what our main mission is,” Pastor Hollman concluded.
Mike McLemore also mentioned external audits can help ensure a congregation's confidence in the church's accounting.
Pastor Hollman said an external audit is underway at his church to make sure they are being good stewards with the congregation's giving.