This week I had a discussion with a good friend of mine on the subject of giving, our church structure, and some of our beliefs. Here are a few highlights that I’d like to share.
From an accounting perspective, I tend to disagree when it’s said, ‘all the tithe is leaving the church and going to the conference. The only thing that stays here is the offering.’ Hear me out. Yes, the tithe is sent to the conference but if a large portion of it is spent on ministers who serve in our church then in my estimation at least some of the tithe isn’t really going anywhere. We were able to agree on this mathematically but then our discussion led to, what happens to the ‘excess?’
Our church and many other churches in our denomination are in disrepair. At our church we currently need money to repair the bathrooms, replace the carpet which has been there for close to 40 years, replace broken pews, just to mention some of the larger projects that need to be done. In addition, several ministries in our church lack adequate financial support to be run effectively. Nevertheless, to be fair, I posited this:
- The state of our church isn’t just a function of our tithe ‘going up to the conference.’ We sometimes do a poor job of managing just the ‘little’ offering we keep at church. We have had what seems like simple plumbing issues ignored for years. What could be described as ‘handy man things’ get neglected, though in our budget we allocate funds to plant maintenance. If we are not managing well the ‘little’ that we have should we be given more?
- Our global church structure seems to lend itself to potential mismanagement at various levels. However, our regional conference isn’t some separate entity that we give to. The conference is supposed to be comprised of all our members. When we consider the ‘net effect’ of our tithe giving, God has blessed our congregation to be a blessing not just to ourselves but also to support several other churches in our conference. That has to count for something.
- Do we have too many churches? Maybe so. Do we really need three fairly large churches that are almost a stone’s throw away from each other? At the same time some areas have no church. Setting up a ‘mega church’ comes with its own challenges. Do we want to close all our churches that are in a 20-30 mile radius and make one church? I’m not sure. I would agree that a church shouldn’t be a church if they can’t support their own pastor. I believe this criteria is in place. However, ultimately we may want our funds to go a little further than our own region.
- I am all for lobbying the conference to give back more to local churches especially those that give more. Maybe we should have some sort of ‘overhead rate.’ Say 10% of the excess of tithe used to pay our ministers is sent to the conference. That would leave a lot more at our church if members continue to give at the level they are giving now. To me there is always room for improving the system. However, change takes time. We should definitely advocate for it. We can possibly be a greater blessing to our members so that we can be a greater blessing to others.
- We also need to hold our conference accountable to what it does with the funds they receive. I’m sorry. I think the time for us to have schools in remote areas is past. There are lots more opportunities for education in areas where more people live. I don’t want to send my teenage children to a school that is three hours away when there are good schools in my ‘backyard.’ However, our ‘backyard’ schools are suffering. Let’s consider investing where the needs are greater.
- From what I’ve been told our conference is challenged financially to meet its obligations. I want to say from all reports that it’s at least 60% of the tithe that goes to pay ministers. Maybe more. What is done with the 40% is certainly in question.
Having said all of the above I grapple with the thought of ‘finishing the gospel.’ Our church is supposed to be a global church trying to reach the world. We are not just trying to reach our community. We want this gospel to reach everybody so that Jesus can return. As far as we know there is only one prerequisite to Jesus coming back. Spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. Matt 24:14. This is a gigantic assignment but then again we serve a gigantic God. Bottom line, if we want Christ to return we have to find ways to spread the gospel. Our media department’s vision has been this. But also returning our tithe is another method if only the funds are being used judiciously.
Those were my ‘scribbles’ to the conversation. Bless