Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Should all tithings be channelled through the local church?

One of the questions I am often confronted with is whether a person’s entire tithing should be given to the church to which the member belongs in order for the church to decide how to spend it. Ideally this is probably the way that things should work. Someone once used the example that, when you eat at a certain restaurant, then that is the place where you pay for your meal. This sounds logical. But I then responded by asking: What if the restaurant can’t satisfy you completely and you also need to eat food at another restaurant?
It happens from time to time that an individual would contact me and inform me that they had decided to give a part of their tithe towards our ministry in Swaziland. (Ok, it doesn’t happen much, but it has happened. 😉
This then causes a bit of an ethical problem for me, because I realise that part of the money which that person should have given to his/her own church, is now being given for us. Obviously I don’t want to discourage anyone from giving towards the work of God, but should I take that money for our ministry?
A few weeks ago I wrote about my experience of culture shock and mentioned an old man who informed me, three days after my arrival in Swaziland, that he wants nothing to do with me nor with my ministry, although he respects me as a pastor. Fortunately we became close friends as time went by and he became something like a spiritual father to myself. One day he asked me to come to his home. On arriving there he handed me a cheque for our ministry which even for today would be quite a substantial amount. Twenty years ago it was a HUGE amount. Instead of giving the money to his own church, he chose to give it to us.
I said that within an ideal situation, it should not be necessary for people to give part of their tithes to other ministries. My experience in Western churches is that people do not want to see that their entire tithing goes towards the pastor’s salary and car allowance, or to decorate the church building. Many modern Christians have a desire to see that their money goes towards places where there is real need. If their church has a well-defined vision for missions and are contributing substantially towards one or more projects, then for most people this is enough. They will tithe gladly in their own church and observe how their money is making a difference. The moment that their church fails to have this vision, people tend to feel that they will then do something about this situation themselves and they start using part of their tithes towards some kind of welfare or mission project.
Over the years we have received a lot of criticism about the relative small amounts which church members in Swaziland tend to give towards the church. And then, one day, I realised that we are only counting the money that is being given to the church officially. But what about the amounts being given by church members every time they visit a sick person? What about the money they contribute when someone has died? Did God not distinctly order us to take care of the poor and the needy, the widows and the orphans? Our church does not have a specific ministry (other than our AIDS ministry) to support these people. But our church members (as well as other people in the community) are contributing towards these needs, much more than we as church would have been able to afford.
I have learnt to be satisfied with this situation. We are contributing towards the needs of the people, not directly, but indirectly through our church members. In the same way some people are also assisting us. In the end all money belongs to God. How it reaches its destination is not as important THAT it reaches its destination.

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Saturday, October 6, 2007 - Posted by | Church, Culture Shock, Dependency, Giving, Mission, Swaziland, Theology, Tithing

10 Comments »

  1. I am of the belief that as parishioners who are directly benefiting from the local church, we should contribute and tithe. However, I am also of the belief that the Body of Christ certainly is larger than just my church alone. Therefore, I see our family’s tithe as applicable across the board. We have divided our tithe between our local church, a mission in Mexico and another organization.

    If all ministries were, in fact, directly tied to our church, then I would put all our tithe there, but here where we live, there are now many charitable organizations (like ours) that are separate from the church proper and operate as “para-church” organizations. One side note: it is because the church is not fulfilling it’s full mission that many of the orgs exist – like ours. So, I have no problem putting money toward different endeavors that fulfill scriptural commands. Even so, we did not makes this decision lightly (splitting our tithe) and spent a great deal of time in prayer about where our funds were going to go.

    We’ve had people in the past split their tithe and give to us on an occasional basis and because of our beliefs about tithing, we did not have a problem accepting it. If we felt those same people were acting out of wrong motives, and we knew them well enough to discuss it with them, we might bring it up gently, but so far no one has seemed to do anything really strange.

    Comment by Maya | Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Reply

  2. I think your experience is more or less the same as my own and emphasises what I had tried to say – if churches start doing what God expects them to do, then there would probably not be a lack of money within the churches. And then we would also not need para-church organisations, a tpoic which I touched on some time ago when I asked the question “Whose task is missionary work?” at https://missionissues.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/whose-task-is-missionary-work/

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Sunday, October 7, 2007 | Reply

  3. I found this by doing a google search about giving. My frustration has become a conviction. I don’t want to see us build bigger buildings but I do want to see pushing the Gospel across the globe. The western church has become narcissistic and we forgot about the lost. I am thinking of splitting my giving either 70/30 or even 50/50.

    Comment by lionelwoods7 | Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | Reply

  4. I think this is something that should be considered prayerfully, but I am convinced myself that God’s work, as God’s Kingdom, is much larger than the local church. Obviously, if the local church is strongly involved in giving outside the local congregation, it would be much easier to give only, or mostly, locally.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, November 29, 2007 | Reply

  5. […] again has to do with the way in which our tithes should be given. I’ve written about this topic before. The feeling I have is that many Christians are really struggling with the question whether we are […]

    Pingback by Should all tithings be channelled through the local church? (2) « Mission Issues | Friday, January 4, 2008 | Reply

  6. This is something I had to pray and think over and over. Am from a third world country and moved to the US some years back. I felt like I was betraying my conscious when I saw coffee and dough nuts before and after services and money being contributed to decorate the Church entrance!!I stopped giving my tithes to my local Church and started sending it to missionaries both here in the US and outside the country. Some of the missionaries I would categorically tell them that it was my tithe so as not to have them thank me! When I give to missions; a people I don’t know but serving in the field, it brings a peace in my conscious and I don’t regret the decision. I believe in the local Church but more so I believe in supporting missionaries.

    Comment by Francis | Thursday, March 13, 2008 | Reply

  7. Francis, it all depends on what the church itself is doing towards mission. I know of churches serving coffee and doughnuts but which is also giving out huge amounts towards mission. There is a place for coffee and doughnuts, just not at the cost of mission.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, March 13, 2008 | Reply

  8. […] Read the article via this link. […]

    Pingback by 10% to the church? Or 10% overall « m.Fund | Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Reply

  9. Please i want to know why a mission ministry is not a significant part of every local church.God bless you.

    Comment by JAMES J. DORGBADZI | Thursday, March 5, 2009 | Reply

  10. James, I want to give you the same answer that Morgan Freeman gave Jim Carrey in the movie, Bruce Almighty, when Jim Carrey asked the question: “How do you make someone love you without affecting free will?” And then Morgan Freeman, who played the role of God, answered: “You come up with an answer to that, let me know.” I don’t know. What I do know is that you and I can change things in our own congregations.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, March 5, 2009 | Reply


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