Our Tithes and Offerings: Where are they going?

plater_02Believe it or not, but 97% of our tithes and offerings are going to maintenance–buildings and church staffs.

Only about 3% are going to missions and outreach.

If these numbers are correct, we have some repenting to do.

Our priorities are clearly twisted.

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22 Responses to Our Tithes and Offerings: Where are they going?

  1. Lon Hetrick says:

    Agreed. That’s very concerning. Several years ago, I started to rethink whether I’d ever contribute to another “capital campaign”. We give individually and borrow collectively to build buildings that often are unnecessary, burdensome, and only tangentially related to the work of the great commission.

  2. Simon says:

    TC, I think if you look at the intent of tithing in the OT, it has always been about ensuring the livelihood of the priests, the Levites. Similarly, our clergy need to be given a wage out of tithing and offerings. Our church buildings are expensive to maintain and run as well. Tithing was not meant to be about outreach. I think what would be an outrage is to see how excess funds are spent, whether this going to the ministers personally, which I suspect happens in many cases, or is misused in other ways.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Simon,
      Do you believe we need to do missions and send missionaries?

      I don’t believe I’m denying the livelihood of the clergy here. Just faithful stewardship is in question here.

      The mission thrust of the NT church is foreign to the OT. I think you missed this on your comments about the purpose of tithing.

      • Simon says:

        I agree, there has to be a budget for missionary work. However, I think we have to look at just how much it costs to run a church. It isn’t cheap to ensure all the bills are paid. I don’t think churches are neglecting missions on purpose. I think many of them are just making ends meet. We can’t be too critical on them for underfunding missions if they are struggling to pay the electricity bills and so on. And let’s not forget, that just having a church in a community is a kind of outreach in and of itself.

  3. David Beirne says:

    As a pastor, the idea of excess funds going to me is pretty foreign. I may be in the minority, but most of my colleagues would say the same. Maybe I just run with the wrong herd… But I do make it a point to ensure that 10% of the church income goes to mission. We have it divided by national denomination (state-USA-world) and local association level (stuff that happens in our Jerusalem). We also do three special missions offerings a year. Seek the internet and you can find budget templates encouraging you to keep salaries at 35-40% of total budget, along with building pymts under control.

    • TC Robinson says:

      David, thanks for sharing this. You guys have a good thing going. Blessings on your ministry.

    • Simon says:

      I didn’t mean to say all churches misuse excess funds, if any. I guess in the North America mega church and evangelical industry, there are some people who reap huge personal rewards from the faithful. I agree, your average parish minister won’t have any excess funds. It’s probably the exact opposite

  4. TC Robinson says:

    Simon said: “I agree, there has to be a budget for missionary work. However, I think we have to look at just how much it costs to run a church. It isn’t cheap to ensure all the bills are paid. I don’t think churches are neglecting missions on purpose. I think many of them are just making ends meet. We can’t be too critical on them for underfunding missions if they are struggling to pay the electricity bills and so on. And let’s not forget, that just having a church in a community is a kind of outreach in and of itself.”

    Simon,

    Why do churches think they need those expensive buildings to maintain in the first place? And here is the more critical question, If a church were to close its doors in any given community, would that community miss it?

    Call me cynical, but I believe some churches just need to close their doors. They are doing more harm than good, bringing discredit to the name of Christ.

    • Simon says:

      TC,

      I think there can be tremendous benefits of having beautiful church buildings. They are places where anyone can encounter God. Beauty is underrated for many churches.

      As to whether some churches might be better off closing their doors, you may be right. I think, however, that it is hard to judge sometimes. Also, for me, sectarian biases would come into play. For example I think that guys like Sproul and John McArthur should not be running churches. But that’s the anti-Calvinism in me coming out 🙂

      • TC Robinson says:

        Simon,
        The destruction of the Jewish Temple is very instructive in this discussion of beautiful church buildings. Jesus is the Temple, where we encounter God in the power of the Spirit. Such encounters may take place under a tree, in an elevator, in a car.

        Regarding the closing of churches, I also realize how subjective my take is. But it’s mine, nevertheless. 😉

        Calvinism is never the problem.

  5. Simon says:

    TC,

    I disagree with the contention that Christians don’t require holy places to worship. Yes Jesus is the temple, but so are we if you read Paul. The Church, being His Body, is the continuation of the incarnation in some mystical sense. Scripture is clear about this. Whilst the Church is made up of people, we are physical and tangible beings who require physical and tangible places and ways to worship. That’s why the Lord instituted the very physical sacraments of Communion and baptism. Think about what would happen if the church would retreat from creating beautiful places of worship. The physical built environment would consist only of drab commercial buildings and shopping malls and so on. Does this really inspire worship? Does this point to Christ? If we reduce the Christian experience to mere sentiment – the feeling you get when reading the Bible or listening to a sermon – you pave the way for a complete secular takeover of physical spaces. All this is not to say that we can’t encounter God in any place or at anytime. We most certainly can. But it does not mean that physical church buildings that inspire awe are not necessary. They definitely are. They witness to the grandeur of God. The stunning places of worship are critical to the witness of the Gospel. You definitely have a point concerning some of the newer evangelical megachurch properties or “campuses” that resemble stadiums rather than a place of wordhip. These are huge private empires. The cathedrals are a completely different kettle of fish from mega church stadiums.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Simon,
      Of course Christians require places of worship! But they are only incidental. Early Christ followers met in homes – hardly the expensive buildings that began with Emperor Constantine and have not slowed down.

      If we have to wait on certain architecture to inspire awe, then Jesus conversation with the woman at the Well is for naught.

      According to Saint Paul, we are the Temple of God, not some physical building. We are who bring sacred to the secular. A physical building is empty without our presence.

      Regarding the Sacraments, I do agree with your sentiments. But we dare not compare what the Lord has given us to physical buildings. The Sacraments are Christocentric. We cannot say the same for physical buildings.

      Creation continues to witness to the grandeur of God, my friend.

      • Simon says:

        TC,

        Yes early believers met in homes. This precisely and only because they were being persecuted and had to go underground. It’s interesting that the earliest home church we know of from archeology in Syria features an alter and iconography. Yes when St Constantine essentially legalized the Christian religion, Christians were able to provide places of worship worthy of the Creator.

        Regarding the sacraments and Church buildings and the physical world in general… all should point to Christ. You’ll note that many Cathedrals are built in a cruciform layout. This was because the architecture was to reflect Christ.

        Of course we don’t have to wait for church buildings to encounter Christ. But if we have church buildings, why shouldn’t we create beautiful spaces to worship? 🙂

  6. Jon Hughes says:

    Simon,

    I agree that beautiful old church buildings are just that: beautiful. You don’t need me to tell you that there is an aesthetic poverty to much of evangelicalism. Here in England are some quite wonderful churches, not to mention the great cathedrals of Europe. But being low church, my experience of visiting these places is rather similar to that of going to an art gallery or attending a classical music concert. I’m not convinced it’s necessary – it’s certainly not in the Book of Acts – so I’m conflicted on this one.

    I’m glad we have them, but they don’t do anything for me spiritually. It is simply the case that I draw near to God through reading the Bible, prayer, and fellowship with other believers – regardless of what building we’re in.

    • Simon says:

      Jon,

      Perhaps you perceive these great church buildings as museums or art galleries because you don’t actually worship there. It’s great to tour these places, but the main purpose is to worship there.

      I don’t think Acts is relevant here. The Church was being persecuted and was largely underground at that point. Beautiful places of Christian worship emerged quickly as soon as they were afforded the freedom to do so.

      It should said that not every parish is as elaborate as a medieval cathedral. However, thoughtfulness in design and beauty are desirable for church buildings.

      I think Colin ‘ s anecdote about the person he met in the cathedral highlights the point that these beautiful buildings can in fact be places where those searching for God may actually encounter Him. In the current secular culture it us sometimes far better for the Church to be silent and let the beauty of God manifest in other ways. This is often far more effective than debating or preaching.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Simon,

        Isn’t the church being persecuted meant to be the norm? Perhaps ‘Christendom’ with its beautiful and visible structures became too comfortable? It certainIy became the persecutor rather than the persecuted. I would say that Acts is relevant, not least because it models the very real circumstances for multitudes of believers around the world even today. Would you say that the Church enjoyed its greatest purity and spiritual power before or after these great buildings were erected?

      • Simon says:

        Jon,

        It’s interesting that the persecuted Christians in our times are precisely the ancient Christian communities who developed beautiful Christian art and architecture. Think of the Syrian and Coptic Christians who are under enormous persecution right now. I don’t think these Christians have had much comfort for many centuries. I think you are erroneously conflating two different things: I.e the Church’s persecution and the physical beauty as if these were mutually exclusive – if you have one, you can’t have the other. I just think this line of thinking is incorrect. I also don’t subscribe to the “purity” arguments about the Church in the era before Constantine recognised the Christian faith. The Church is the same now as it was then. It faces problems now as it did then. This has nothing to do with whether there were huge cathedrals or only house churches.

  7. Colin says:

    Interesting. The policy in my own Parish for the last 20 years has been to give 10% of our income to a chosen mix of 4 mission bodies which operate beyond our Parish – 2 being non UK and 2 being UK. And the Lord has provided for us to cover the cost of running the church – and yes it does seem at times we sail very close to the wind (to me as an accountant!). I claim no virtue for our practice, but “it works”.

    I admit I am very glad we do not have to function in a listed semi gothic barn. Our church has been described by the Diocesan architect on his quinquennial inspection as a typical but now not common example of a 60s brutalist building. Plain, simple and to my mind aesthetically pleasing, it is not without some issues but we don’t suffer from death watch beetle, crumbling gargoyles etc. The hall complex – the original dual purpose building is 30s, but structurally not a major problem.

  8. Colin says:

    To pick up also where we may have drifted from the initial main topic. Humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation and made in His image. Given he is the creator (see psalm 104 for example) it seems natural to me that humanity also has an inherent, though fallen, creative nature. Our ancient cathedrals etc. were built to point to the Glory of God and because the only right offering to the King of Kings was the very best we could build – as with the Tabernacle and Temple in the OT. An attitude which is perhaps ignored and belittled in our time. So while I agree with Jon that such things are not “necessary”, I would say they are desirable and for my part they are one but element of my own spirituality. Just as I met with the Lord last autumn when I was asked to preach (on Bible Sunday) at the local Anglo Catholic church. The physical nature of a Solemn Eucharist ( yes including smells and bells) was very uplifting that morning. I would not want to worship that way every week – I do generally prefer our own informal approach – and I cannot relate to some of the Catholic theology. Yet for me on occasions, such services, as do Taize and plain silence, touch the otherness in ways traditional Evangelicalism does not.

    I am reminded of a Saturday in summer 2014 when I was duty day chaplain at our Cathedral. I was in conversation with a chap and he told me he had no real faith but liked coming to the Cathedral as it lifted him. Until my first visit to the Lee Abbey community, I had not heard of the idea of as “thin place”. However I outlined that idea to him, suggested that the cathedral was very likely a thin place, and suggested God was reaching out to him and encouraged him to go as he was led. He went on his way thoughtfully.

    Perhaps Simon was pointing us to something very important. We are physical. Creation is physical and inherently very good. The incarnation is God coming physically among us. And He will come again. And He has left us with the physicality of the Sacraments to convey His grace to those who receive Him. Have those of us at the Protestant end of the church sometimes made as much a proud idol of the plainness and simplicity we practice as we have traditionally accused our Catholic brethren of making idols in their more decorative and elaborate practice and ritual? Just a thought.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Colin,
      Thanks for sharing your own Parish practice. Blessings.

      Regarding this matter of physical structures, I’m not denying a place for them. But we should be careful not to overemphasize their true worth.

      Yes, the chap was lifted by coming to a physical structure. But it’s the Spirit that we should credit with any real devotion to Jesus Christ.

      The early church Fathers are thought to have said that what Christ did not assume, he did not redeem. This is incarnation theology. I get it. But we must be careful with how we apply all this. The very incarnation of Christ remains a mystery.

      Early believers met in homes.

  9. Pingback: Why we do not keep to a Sabbath or a Sunday or Lord’s Day #6 Sunday or the Lord’s day | Free Christadelphians: Belgian Ecclesia Brussel - Leuven

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