Monday, August 04, 2014

Giving, squandering, and missions

Poor giving and churches squandering Kingdom resources has consequences. Missions suffers.

Eighty-five cents of every dollar given in a church offering stays at that church.That might not be so bad, especially if they are using it to minister to their community. But what follows is not good.

In 2000, 97 dollars of every 100 of the entire income ($269.61B) of all Christian organizations was spent on, and primarily benefited, other Christians at home or abroad. 

Church spending on ministering to already-evangelized non-Christians was $2.90 of every $100 ($7.8B). 

We spent 3 cents ($0.81B) of every $100 on unevangelized non-Christians. [1] In 2010 that spending dropped to 2 cents per $100.[2] (Where did the other 7 cents go?)

Is this a focus on investing in missions? I think we can do better.

The Church’s Great Storehouse of Wealth 
In 2000, American evangelicals collectively made $2.66 trillion in income.[1] Total Christian [including nominal] income in the United States is $5.2 trillion annually, nearly half of the world’s total Christian income.[2] 

The average donation by a church member in 2000 who attends a U.S. Protestant church was about $17 a week.[3] The average amount of money given by a full or confirmed member of a U.S. Christian church in 2004 was $691.93. This comes to an average of $13.31 per week.[4] 

Only 1/3 to ½ of church attenders give anything at all.[5]

Among church members of 11 primary Protestant denominations (or their historical antecedents) in the United States and Canada, per-member giving as a percentage of income was lower in 2000 than in either 1921 or 1933. 
  • In 1921, per-member giving as a percentage of income was 2.9 percent. 
  • In 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression, per-member giving grew to 3.3 percent. 
  • By 2000, after a half-century of unprecedented prosperity, giving had fallen to 2.6 percent.[6]
  • In 2004, giving fell again to 2.5 percent of income.
Overall, only 3 to 5 percent of Americans who donate money to a church tithe (give a tenth of) their incomes, though many more claim to do so.[7] 

Thirty-three percent of U.S. born-again Christians say it is impossible for them to get ahead in life because of the financial debt they have incurred.[8]

The Potential for Funding the Harvest: If members of historically Christian churches in the United States had raised their giving to the Old Testament’s minimum standard of giving (10 percent of income) in 2004, an additional $164 billion a year would become available.[9] 

Eighty percent of the world’s evangelical wealth is in North America—and the total represents much more than enough to fund the fulfillment of the Great Commission.[10]  

Tithing as a practice continues to decline 
  • 20-35% of church attendee giving records are blank ($0 of recorded offerings given). 
  • In 1999, ~$3 billion was given to 600 Christian mission agencies, $60B to local churches.  
  • Compare this to $58 billion for soda products, $24 billion in jewelry store sales, $8 billion for movies theaters, $13 billion for chocolate products, $38 billion in vending machine sales, $11 billion for computer/video games, $7 billion greeting cards, $23 billion for toys, $91 billion in lawn/garden industry, $40 billion for pets, and $60 billion on weight-loss.[11]

Here is an example of a businessman who turned 100% of his business over to the Lord -- Stanley Tam of US Plastics Corporation.

[4] John Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2004: Will We Will? 16th ed. (Champaign, Ill.: Empty Tomb, 2006), 17.
[5] The United Methodist Foundation of Los Angeles, Money and Religion, rpt. in “Lifestyle Stewardship: Learning the Freedom of Generous Giving,” Alliance Life (January 2001), 13.
[11] Source: Empty Tomb Research,