This is the seventh and final part in a series of blog posts I’m calling Seven Plagues of the Evangelical American Church. These “plagues” are actually traits that I’ve identified and believe are causing more harm than good to churches in America. You can read the first post here.
The Problem: Give Give Give $$$
Money. Wealth. $$$. Whatever you call it, the love of money leads to great evil in our world. God’s word tells us this: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV).
Not only is the love of money a natural motivation for secular and non-Christian people, the love of money can easily infiltrate Christian motivations. It is not uncommon for Christians to get caught up in the love of money. Because of this, it should not surprise us that the love of money filters its way into the church, and into pastoral leadership in particular.
To be fair, God’s Word instructs His people to give to His church. I recently preached to my congregation, that whether or not they believe “tithing” is required in the church age, I would argue that giving 10% of one’s income is a good goal to reach for. And when they reach that, give even more. While God will not always bless the giver financially, bless him He will. But this is not a post about the blessings of giving financially, though there are many. This is a post about the abuses of constantly asking the congregation to give.
I want to give three reasons why a church leadership that constantly speaks about giving presents problems for the church:
(1) It gives the impression that the church is “all about money.”
While we are instructed to give, and pastors should be teaching their flock why they should give, always talking about money is a great way to tell the world, “Hey, the church is all about money!” With the advent of websites, social media, and online giving access, the “Give” button is always out there just begging to be pushed. I’ve seen churches talk about money every week during the welcome time. I’ve seen churches do multiple-week sermon series just on money (and never mention the name of Christ or the Gospel). Most people know full well that the pastor is paid by the church. Therefore, for the church leadership to constantly be talking about money leaves the pastor vulnerable to all sorts of criticism.
(2) Rarely are people instructed as to “why” they should give.
The church is not just another non-profit. All non-profit organizations need monetary donations to function and thrive. But the church is not that. It is the bride of Christ. It is the kingdom of God. Guilting people into giving will not bring blessing to the giver or the church. Even giving out of obligation will not bring the blessing that heartfelt giving will bring about. People need to be instructed why they give, and “because it’s right” is the wrong answer. So is, “Because we need your help.”
(3) It takes advantage of people’s obligations.
I did my doctoral dissertation on personality type and church leadership. Research shows that at least half a congregation has a “tradition-minded” personality temperament. This has nothing to do with preferring hymns over praise bands. This common temperament means that every church, no matter the worship style, has a large proportion of members and attenders who will become loyal to the church and will serve through a sense of duty and obligation. Giving is one of these areas pastors can truly and sinfully take advantage of people. They can abuse their power in this way because literally half the people will be predisposed to give if you tell them to, despite the reason.
(1) Eliminate the weekly “Give” push.
Instruct in the bulletin about giving. Pass the offering plates. Set-up online giving access. As the year ends and the budget needs to be met, challenge the congregation to meet budget. Take up special offerings, etc., etc. But please consider eliminating the give push. Constant talk about giving from the stage or pulpit, constant social media posts about giving really does give the impression that the church is all about money. And I’m willing to bet that it gives that impression because somewhere a church that operates that way really is all about money.
(2) When talking about money, explain the “whys”.
Instruct about giving. Instruct about the sowing seed principle. With the continued growth of the prosperity Gospel, now perhaps more than ever the church needs a right understanding about why they should give. Explain that giving tithes and offerings frees people up to trust Christ more. As they trust Christ more, the church then is able to minister to others. Heartfelt obedience is blessed by God much more than guilt or obligation.
(3) Don’t take advantage of people’s loyalties.
Church loyalty is a fickle thing. People will give blood, sweat, and tears to a church. Many will do this no matter what happens in the church. But many will serve and serve and serve, and if they discover that the church is taking advantage of their service, they will leave the church and never come back. They may even drop out of church all together. Pastors and church leaders, don’t take advantage of your people’s willingness to serve dutifully by guilting them into financial giving.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing. Be praying for me as I pray about what to write about next.