Posts Tagged money

What Would Happen if American Christians Gave?

What do you think the impact would be if American Christians gave generously? The answer will blow you away.

Last Sunday we explored Malachi 3 and God’s expectation that his people would give at least a tenth of their income away for the sake of ministry. God felt so strongly about it that he called it “robbing” him. Most American Christians rob God. Though he asks for at least 10%, the average American Christian gives 2.5%

One bit of information I didn’t get to share was the overwhelming impact that American Christians could make on the world if they actually began to give in a way that honored biblical principles. I came across this in the book Passing the Plate, and what I learned was AMAZING. The authors write:

We estimate that if committed Christians in the United States gave 10 percent of their after-tax income—fully but no more than 10 percent—that would provide an extra $46 billion per year of resources with which to fund needs and priorities. That represents nearly an additional 25 percent of what all Americans—Christians or otherwise—currently give in all types of private philanthropy.

What really matters is grasping the absolutely immense scope and scale of the possible goods that ordinary American Christians could accomplish in the world every year if they simply began to give away 10 percent of their after-tax income. The possibilities are staggering. By our reckoning, with $46 billion they could—in addition to sustaining all currently funded churches, organizations, ministries, and programs—achieve the following:

Cost Description
Global Missions
$330,000,000 Sponsor 150,000 new indigenous missionaries and pastors in nations most closed to foreign religious workers
$2,200,000,000 Triple the resources being spent by all Christians on Bible translating, printing, and distribution to provide Bibles in the native languages of the 2,737 remaining people groups currently without Bible translations
$350,000,000 Provide 50,000 needs-based scholarships of $7,000 each per year for deserving Christian seminary and Bible school students in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
$30,000,000 Translate into four different languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese), publish, and distribute 20,000 copies of 100 new titles per year of the best English-language Christian books for reading in Asia, Africa, and Latin America
$120,000,000 Hire 1,500 new Christian ministers to work in hospitality, evangelism, and discipleship with foreign students studying in U.S. universities
$9,000,000 Finance the organizational infrastructure of a major Christian research and advocacy organization fighting against contemporary economic and sexual slavery worldwide
$75,000,000 Provide funds to help build, expand, or upgrade 75,000 church and ministry buildings in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
$9,000,000 Finance the organizational infrastructure of a major Christian research and advocacy organization fighting for religious freedoms worldwide
$95,000,000 Finance 350 new Christian radio stations broadcasting Christian programming into the least evangelized regions of the world
$50,000,000 Finance 1,000 new interreligious study groups and travel tours per year to promote grass-roots mutual understanding and communication, particularly between Christians and Muslims around the world
$1,000,000,000 Quadruple the total resources being spent by all Christians globally on missions to evangelize the unevangelized world
Global Development and Relief
$2,000,000,000 Finance 5,000,000 grass-roots, micro-enterprise economic development projects per year in poor countries worldwide that employ revolving loan funds for needy entrepreneurs to purchase tools, materials, and equipment to start or expand micro businesses, which they pay pack as their businesses grow
$500,000,000 Completely close the funding gap on resources needed by the current global campaign to eradicate polio worldwide before 2010
$2,000,000,000 Fund 1,000,000 new clean water, well-drilling projects per year in the poorest nations (25% of the world’s population drinks unsafe water), dramatically improving the health of tens if not hundreds of millions of people per year
$1,000,000,000 Finance 10,000 comprehensive faith-based programs of AIDS/HIV prevention, education, and medication in sub-Saharan Africa
$3,900,000,000 Provide full resources needed for a global campaign to prevent and treat malaria worldwide
$2,000,000,000 Supply 1 heifer or 4 hobs (as needed an appropriate) to 4,000,000 needy Christian or other families worldwide per year
$4,550,000,000 Provide food, clothing, and shelter to all 6,500,000 current refugees in all of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East
$9,000,000 Finance the organizational infrastructure of a major Christian think-tank and advocacy organization working on creative means to reduce poverty and hunger worldwide
$480,000,000 Quadruple the current annual operating budget of Habitat for Humanity
$1,600,000,000 Double the current annual operating budget of World Vision, which serves 100 million people in 96 nations
$200,000,000 Boost funding to Christian organizations worldwide that provide free and subsidized eye exams, vision care, glasses, limb braces, and prosthetics to 1,000,000 of the poorest and neediest people of the world
$10,000,000,000 Sponsor 20 million needy children worldwide through Christian organizations providing them food, education, and healthcare
$810,000,000 Quadruple all resources currently being spent by all Christians globally on medial missions work
U.S. Christian Ministry and Church Finance
$750,000,000 Hire 10,700 new Christian youth ministers to evangelize, disciple, guide, and counsel U.S. teenagers
$750,000,000 Raise the salaries of 50,000 of the most needy U.S. church pastors by an average of $15,000 each, to provide for proven needs and to increase incentives encouraging the best and brightest young adults to consider callings to ministry
$75,000,000 Fund 500 new Christian Prison ministry organizations providing evangelism, discipleship, and education to prison inmates
$10,000,000 Translate into English 200 per year o the best Christian articles and books by foreign language writers for publication and sale in the United States and other English-speaking nations
$1,800,000,000 Finance the refitting of the heating, cooling, and electrical systems of 20,000 of the most desperate and inefficient U.S. church buildings per year, including the installation (where appropriate, in 1/3rd of the cases) of new PV solar electric generating systems
$1,100,000,000 Fund 5,500 new Family Counseling and Support organizations in the United States and major cities worldwide to bring affordable Christian support and counseling to families, marriages, and individuals in trouble
$4,000,000,000 Hire 50,000 new, trained, church-based adult Christian educators for the re-education of the U.S. Christians in theology, discipleship, and ministry
$9,000,000 Finance the organizational infrastructure of a major Christian think-tank working on Christian perspectives and moralities of new biotechnologies and emerging medical ethics
$9,000,000 Finance the organizational infrastructure of a major Christian research and training center addressing Christian views on mass media and media production and consumption
$3,375,000,000 Provide the hiring of 45,000 church-based U.S. ministers to the elderly whose mission would be to provide Christian fellowship, care, and support to millions of the most isolate, abandoned, disabled, and lonely aging Americans in their homes, nursing homes, or apartments
$75,000,000 Launch 300 cross-race immersion programs around the United States to provide Christians opportunities to live for 2 weeks in different race environments, to learn and build relationships toward more profound racial reconciliation
U.S. Economic Stewardship & Diaconal Ministry
$150,000,000 Provide financial and debt management training to 200,000 U.S. Christians per year who are deeply in debt, to help them get on solid financial ground in order to be able to make them positive financial contributions in the future
$100,000,000 Provide church-based jobs training and career counseling to 100,000 unemployed or welfare-dependent Americans per year
$50,000,000 Finance 25 new U.S. regional faith-based organizations that would provide assistance and subsidies to pay heating and utilities bills to the most needy of the poor and elderly in the United States
U.S. Christian Educational and Scholarship Development
$15,000,000 Pay down the mortgages of 500 Christian middle and high schools by $30,000 each to reduce debt burden and interest payments
$150,000,000 Provide needs-based scholarships of $15,000 each per ear for 10,000 needy U.S. Christian college students
$45,000,000 Provide needs-based scholarships of $15,000 each per year for 3,000 needy Christian seminary students preparing for ministry
$12,000,000 Provide research and writing fellowships to 150 of the best Christian scholars per year to work on scientific and humanities scholarship informed by Christian perspectives that holds promise for influencing higher education and academic scholarship
$202,000,000 Provide 101 $2 million contributions per year to Christian seminaries, divinity schools, colleges, and Bible schools for building campaigns, capital improvements, endowment building, or other demonstrated needs
$6,000,000 Provide graduate school scholarships for 300 of the most promising Christian Ph.D. students per year in various fields of study
$46,000,000,000 = GRAND TOTAL
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“What If I Don’t Think I Can Give to Beyond?”

This is a common question that I have been getting over the last few weeks from committed people in our church related to their involvement in our Beyond Campaign. It takes a few different forms, but it’s essentially the same question. I thought it might be helpful to discuss it here.

At the outset, I think it’s important to note that this question often comes from people who are committed to Second Mile, who love our church, who give their time and energy to our ministry, and who invite their unbelieving friends to join us. I would guess that many of them also are regular givers, though I don’t know or track who gives. These are often owners, not just consumers. This is why this is such a point of tension and concern in these folks’ lives — they own the ministry now and they want to own the Beyond Campaign as well. But, for various financial reasons, they don’t feel like they can.

It’s also extremely difficult (impossible) to communicate publicly, whether written or in a Sunday sermon, in a way that addresses everyone’s specific situation. It’s a scenario primed for confusion. I hope that this post will minimize the confusion rather than intensify it…but we’ll see.

Here are a few thoughts on this question:

Some who think they don’t have enough money actually do. Some people ask this question because they have been devastated by the economy. They really don’t have money. Others ask it because they are committing resources to things that they could give up for the sake of the mission if they wanted to. This is why each person needs to evaluate his or her life individually and make their financial and giving decisions with intentionality (2 Cor 9:7).

Not all people who are in financial hardship are irresponsible stewards. While there are many people in our culture and church who are experiencing financial hardship because of greed and/or poor choices, there are plenty of others who have been good stewards, given generously, and tried to be responsible who have simply had difficult circumstances come into their lives. We must guard against assuming that financial difficulty equals poor stewardship.

There is a tension here that needs to be felt and wrestled with. We struggle with tension. We don’t like tough questions. We don’t like things that aren’t easily resolved. But the Scriptures are filled with tension, especially in this area of money. Consider the tension in the following truths:

Scripture says that we should provide for our families: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). This is serious.

Jesus commends a woman who gave all she had: “And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on'” (Mark 12:43-44).

Paul commends the Macedonians for giving beyond their means: “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:3-4).

Do you feel the tension?

Should we provide for our families or give generously? Both.

How does that work if, like the widow, the money I have to give is the same money I need to live on? I don’t know.

It’s a tension to be managed not resolved. That’s why I keep encouraging people to prayerfully seek godly counsel, follow the leading of the Spirit, and then do what God calls them to do.

One of the places this comes up is related to paying off debt vs. giving. I don’t think there’s a simple answer. Some say–motivated by faith–you should give and God will provide money to pay back debt. Some say–motivated by faithfulness–you should pay back debt first. Who is right? I don’t know. I’m not smart enough to issue a blanket statement that applies to everyone. But I love the questions, because they cause us to wrestle with this stuff and be intentional with our lives.

The gospel mandates that we give out of love and faith rather than guilt. Many in this situation are paralyzed by guilt. They feel like being in this place must mean that they are unfaithful or not committed. Others are overcome with the guilt of their past bad decisions. Here’s the good news: Jesus can deal with the guilt of past mistakes, and Jesus is not pleased with guilt-motivated giving. If you are feeling guilty over past mistakes, go to Jesus. If you are tempted to give motivated by guilt, either let Jesus change your motivation or don’t give. Throughout this series we’ve tried to be positive, talk about the vision, and celebrate God’s glorious grace rather than try to guilt people into giving. I feel confident that this is the right approach.

Most people can give something sacrificial. There should be very few people who give nothing. Most of us should be able to make some kind of sacrifice–no matter how small. My challenge to those who say they can’t give is that they should consider giving something. If $50 is sacrificial, give it–not because the $50 will make a huge difference in the campaign, but because it will make a difference in your treasure-following heart.

A lot can change in 16 months. We’ve been asking for a 16-month commitment to Beyond, with the hopes that we can have the project funded by the end of 2011. In the meantime, some will lose jobs and be unable to fulfill their commitment. Others will find work and be able to give more than they expected. Many will get unexpected money and will have the opportunity to give it (for example, I don’t know what speaking opportunities, weddings, funerals, etc. I will get — but those will be opportunities to give more to Beyond). If a person can’t give now, he or she should pray that God provides in a way that would allow them to give more later. This would be a way of trusting God to provide.

Don’t let not being able to give keep you away from the church or from these moments together. Some might be tempted to skip church the next few weeks (September 19 is Commitment Sunday) or months out of shame or embarrassment that they can’t participate. If that’s you, DON’T! We are a family. We flourish together. We struggle together. And we share these moments together.

What would you add? Other thoughts on how we should approach this?

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Randy Alcorn on Generosity Theology

This Sunday at Second Mile we will be exploring what the Bible teaches about handling finances in a way that honors God. It can be a dicey topic, so I’d appreciate your prayers. I am looking forward to it because so much of our time and energy and stress is related to issues about money.

Randy Alcorn has been an important author and speaker related to issues of biblical finances and has been a helpful resource in my preparation. He recently sat down with Mark Driscoll to discuss “Generosity Theology.” In particular I appreciate how this is different from both Prosperity Theology (an appalling view that God wants us rich) and Poverty Theology (the also misguided idea that God wants us poor — an idea that is sadly gaining traction with many evangelicals today). Alcorn describes a more biblical third way.

Click here to watch the brief video interview.

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Four Truths During Economic Crisis

I came across these four truths from Nelson Searcy, a pastor in New York City that does a podcast that I listen to. These are basic ideas, but very important.

1. God is in charge.
God is still on the throne and He is not shaken by the economic uncertainties of life (or any other uncertainties for that matter). He still offers hope to those who trust in him.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” – Hebrews 12:28

2. God will give you peace if you call on him.
Turn off the anxiety-producing news reports and open the Good News of God’s Word. Spend some time reading your Bible and praying each day. And remember this promise:

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

3. God will give you all you need if you put him first.
While it’s tempting to ‘take control’ of our finances when the future is uncertain, let me challenge you to do the opposite. Give control of your finances to God and put him first. If you do, he will give you all you need.

“God will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” – Matthew 6:33

4. God might use you more in a time of crisis than in calm.
While none of us would have wished for this time of difficulty, there is an opportunity for us, as God’s people, to model to the world that our faith is not just a ‘sunny day faith.’ Throughout the ages, it has been during times of crisis that Christianity and God’s people have had the most impact. Let me challenge you to model with your life and lips the 3 truths above and put feet to your faith by:

  • being a person of generosity while everyone else is hoarding (John 3:16);
  • being consistent in faith while others are fearing (2 Timothy 1:7);
  • showing great love and concern for your friends and inviting them with you to The Journey so they too can find hope (1 Peter 2:12).

I think these are great thoughts and worth listening to. May this be a time when God’s people stand out as people of faith whose security is in him.

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GCA Seminar Day 3

This is the third post in a series of recaps from the GCA Church Planting Seminar (click here for part 1 and part 2).

Session 7: Styles
This session was trying to uncover the particular styles that are necessary for doing ministry that will faithfully reach the culture of our community. Two dangers were discussed: 1) Under-adapting to the culture (ethnocentrism) and 2) Over-adapting to the culture (syncretism). Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture, race, or nation is superior to all others and that one’s cultural ways of doing things is the correct and only way (ex: “Hymns are the most worshipful form of music in the church because that’s how I’ve always worshiped most fervently”). Syncretism is the contamination of Christian faith, ritual, or beliefs through incorporation of inappropriate cultural components (ex: “Most people co-habitate before marriage, so the church shouldn’t have a problem with it”). We talked about how worship style, learning style, community formation styles, and outreach styles all have to be faithful to biblical teaching and relevant to the culture that a specific church is in.

Session 8: Ministry Model
This session was one of the most helpful, and I look forward to sharing some of our insights in the future. The key question here was, “How will the church ministries work together?” This is an important question so that the whole church has focus, synergy and doesn’t let good things get in the way of great things. During this session, we worked to put together a flow chart that shows how all the church’s ministries work together. Very helpful.

Session 9: Finances
This was a practical session about the steps involved in fundraising and managing money. Fortunately, we have some good people already in place to handle the managing of money (I don’t want to be anywhere near it for many reasons). This session emphasized that as a pastor, even the accusation of improper use of money is as devastating as actually screwing it up. Nonetheless, we will need to raise a significant amount of money in order to start in strength. If you’d like to partner with us, click here.

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