Friday, March 07, 2008

Attitudes on Tithing

This article is an interesting view into the world of church finances in our local newspaper. The premise is that tithing and giving are down in local churches, and it details a few reasons why that might be the case.

First of all, there really are several statistics that show this to be the case across the board. Fewer and fewer people are giving to churches. One reason detailed in the article was:

Young people don’t give as regularly as their parents might have, and many people of all ages are giving to charities rather than to religious organizations.

There seems to be a “bang-for-your-buck” mentality on a certain level. It is easy to see the impact of a food bank or a clothing give-away, but young people may not as readily “see” the benefits of giving to a church.

This raises the question of why Christians give. Do we give to churches because we expect them to be social welfare programs? Churches should not shirk their responsibility there, but that is not why believers ought to give.

Another anecdote in the article:

“If your church is going to have a bigscreen TV, what is the point?” Cruz said.

This church-hunter was growing tired of the opulence of megachurches. I can certainly see his point, but it is a point that should be pressed. How much spending is too much for a church? A bigger TV for the youth group? A $10,000 bank of stage lighting? Really comfortable chairs in the sanctuary? My sense is that Mr. Cruz’s tolerance for spending would be different based on what he personally found beneficial to his family. Who really wants churches to go back to wooden pews?

Again, there is nothing wrong with churches being good stewards, but, again, this raises the question of why Christians ought to give. Do we give so we can tell a church board how to spend our money?


Eric "the" Lind said...

I think many of the problems with tithing are rooted in a misunderstanding of Scripture. God provides all that we have and as a sign of thanks, we are to return the first tenth to Him. The priests and other Levites were provided for out of that tenth. It wasn't up to the average farmer to say "I want half of my tithe to go to the music-makers and the other half to go to the priests." There wasn't directed giving, since you were giving to God as an act of thanks and devotion.

Most of the churches I've been associated with have been very diligent in getting church approval for large-ish expenditures, and generally very open about smaller ones. Were I to suddenly see the pastor driving a church-provided Jaguar or 50" plasma TVs in all the offices, I would probably question where funds were being directed. However, comfortable chairs are good for everyone, and quality sound equipment is worth its weight in gold.

The Gyrovague said...

I agree with eric's assesment, but I think a lot of high profile high $$ churches have gotten a lot of bad press lately, that is certainly not helping. (Willow Creek, New Life, etc)

Churches with 30 million dollar buildings and the budget of small countries seem to attract a pastor that has made compromises in character to reach that pinnacle. I say some, not all, do not send me hate mail.

I truly think the future of Christianity lies in smaller, missional and less structured churches that have more one on one relationships between the pastoral staff and the congregation. What that might mean is that we are going to have more bi vocational pastors who have one foot in the cubicle jungle, and the other in the spiritual jungle. I for one do not see that as a totally bad thing.

Just food for thought.

The Gyrovague said...

Sorry, I got a little off topic yesterday. My point is that I think tithing is important, but people need to know it is going to the right things, not big budget churches.

Phil Steiger said...

I find these to be really interesting issues, especially what seems to be a growing conviction among younger evangelicals--we want to feel like the money is being spent well.

I have nothing against the belief that churches need to be good stewarts of what God has given them through tithes and offerings.

I do think that we need to watch out for any level of, "I will give if the church does X and does not do Y." The individual Christian is under conviction from God to give because it is His tithe and offering. They do not carry the burden of first vetting the church and then giving on their terms. In other words, I am responsible to God for my tithe, not necessarily what a church does with it.

Having said that, the church bears responsibility to God to do the right kinds of things with the money it receives. This is why, in our ecclesiastical tradition, boards exist and why congregations get to vote on them.