A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Stewardship Crisis

"Christianity Today" has a recent article on a looming crisis facing the church regarding stewardship and church finances.

First, the bad news:

- Over 25% of Christians give absolutely no financial gift to support the work of the church they attend. I was shocked at this high figure. Does this mean that based on our church membership, that almost 200 of our church members don't give anything at all?

- 36% of church goers give less than 2% of their take home pay to the church.

- The average financial amount that a church attendee gives to his/her local church is approximately $200 a year which represents about a half of one per cent of the average person's after tax income.

Here are some reasons why stewardship is suffering:

- People have overextended themselves with house and cay payments. These overextended financial commitments have caused the percentage of fixed living expenses to go from 54% to 75%. In other words, because of tremendous debt, people don't have anything left to give.

- People have a general mistrust of how organizations and in this case, the church, will spend their money.

- Pastors and church leaders are becoming more and more reluctant to talk about stewardship in church. Sadly, more and more pastors are neglecting their responsibility to tithe and to lead by example.

And now some hopeful news which includes a challenge:

- The key in seeing growth in the joy of extravagant giving to the work of Christ and the church is through discipline and good financial habits. As we all know, habits and discipline are not developed overnight but over the course of several weeks, months, and even years.

As I reflect on this article, I think of how the Apostle Paul wasn't shy about encouraging the churches he founded to be generous in their giving not only for their own ministries but for ministries beyond their local area.

I also believe that one of the reasons why many people haven't adopted biblical stewardship habits is because the church doesn't always do a very good job of sharing how our gifts are transforming people and the world for Jesus Christ. We need to share these stories of transformation at every opportunity.

Effective January 1st, candidates for ordination will be expected to be tithers (give 10% of their income to the work of Christ and the church.) Pastors need to lead by example, so this is a good move for the UMC to take.


SALEX said...

Very true about the overextending through credit. Ironically, if more people knew the fine print before engaging in the instant gratification of credit cards, it would have a very sobering affect on their behaviors. In the year to come, I hope to be able to reach out to more people and positively influence their spending behaviors, just as I have been doing over the last six months already.

Robert McDowell said...

We need more people like you Steve. Thanks for posting and for using your gifts/talents to benefit others.