I was invited to attend a cell group meeting this evening in order to inform the members about our home-based caring projects in Swaziland. The evening got a bit longer than we planned as questions were asked and I tried to give answers. Eventually the topic also turned to the responsibility of churches to become financially involved in mission. Which made me think of a conversation we had had in our home a few weeks ago with our two youngest children. When our children started receiving pocket money, we also taught them to tithe from their own money. Obviously, as they get older and receive more, their tithe should also grow.
What the exact detail was, I’m not sure, but our youngest child had run out of pocket money for the month and one Sunday my wife noticed that she didn’t have anything to give in church. We realised that this wasn’t a serious issue, but my wife laughingly remarked over lunch to our daughter that cutting back on your tithe is usually not a good way to save money. This led to some discussions about the importance of giving for God’s work.
It seems that churches tend to fall into the same trap. In order for a budget to work out, certain cuts have to be made. And inevitably cuts are made to the money spent outside that church. And in my opinion this is not a very good way to save money. During our gathering this evening someone made the remark that people like to give when they can sense a real need. I have said before that I am not convinced that one’s entire tithe should necessarily go to one congregation. For many years we have been giving part of our tithe to a few missionary organisations over and above what we give to our own congregation. The reason why we do so, is because we could see the need and although we cannot change the circumstances of the organisations, we can at least make a small difference.
The mistake which I see many churches making is that they concentrate almost entirely on the funds (or the lack of funds) coming in. But church members want to know that their money is being spent wisely and that it is making a difference in the world. If I can give $50 and know that the money is going to be spent in such a way that it will make a real difference in people’s lives, then I would much rather do that than throwing my money in a hole, not knowing how deep the hole is nor what the money is going to be used for when taken from the hole.
A week ago a pastor from another church asked to see me. They had received a fairly large donation from a certain individual. This church, however, also believes in tithing. Therefore they had calculated 10% of the amount they had received and decided to give it to be used for food for our home-based caring project in Swaziland. Now, I know that this church cannot afford it. But the very next day after they had given the money to us, they had a harvest festival where they asked people to bring food to church to hand out to the poor. They received so much food (from a very small congregation) that they didn’t know how they were going to distribute everything.
I’ve seen many churches running into financial difficulties and then cutting back on their mission contribution. I want to repeat what my wife said: This is not such a good way t save money: not for a child, not for an adult and also not for a church.