I don’t have time to write a lengthy article here and this is too long for a tweet, but I’m going to vent my spleen a little and you can chime in. I read some things today that got me thinking, and fuming, and writing. So, here it is. I’m not giving details because I don’t want this to be personal.
My church is having a tough time financially. Yours is too, probably. The vast majority of non-profits in America are struggling. Churches. Associations. State conventions. The SBC. We are all in the same boat – sailing in a sea of red ink and leaking fast.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that your church gives a healthy percentage to missions. Ours gives 12% to missions through the Cooperative Program, and a total of around 20% to various local, national and international causes. And we have a pretty substantial set of local obligations. The bank wants its cut and the light company is pretty rigid about receiving payment. We have three full-time pastors, and our church has been exceedingly generous with us all. We have other employees as well. There was a time when we had a comfortable nest egg in the bank. No more eggs in that nest. The cupboard is bare. The well is dry. The pockets are empty.
So, what does our church do? The last two or three budget cycles we’ve been increasingly careful about trimming all the fat from our budget – you can see the rib cage through the thin layer of skin in our annual spending budget.
So what do we do?
Too many churches are taking the easy way out. They trim or withhold missions giving. I was looking at our state paper today and saw that our CP budget was down nearly 15% from 2010 to 2011. What happened? As I examined the report, I noticed a trend. There have always been churches that gave nothing to missions through the CP. Always will be. But I noticed that several churches that were once substantial givers now gave nothing or nearly nothing.
And I think that is the wrong way to handle a church’s financial troubles. I’m nobody’s judge, but I do have an opinion. You shouldn’t balance your church books at the cost of world missions.
Missions is not an option for a Christian church, it is the heart of who we are. Isn’t that what we say when we cut CP to pay our bills? We have to take care of ourselves first before we give to world missions. I do not believe that God will bless that kind of selfish spirit. Someone told me today of a Baptist church (not SBC) who cut their missions support to help the church pay it’s bills. “Missionaries can live cheaply and make sacrifices” the church was told.
I am not a strict advocate for tithing in the NT era. (I’d like this discussion NOT to be about that). But what I am is a financial supernaturalist. When you give generously, 2+2 no longer equals 4. God’s supernatural provision is promised to those who are generous. Remember that the promise we all love, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” was made the the Philippian church, the same Macedonians Paul praised in 2 Corinthians 8, for giving “as much as they were able and even beyond their ability.”
They did not give what they could afford, they gave what they could not afford, and God promised to supernaturally provide for them. Frankly, I do not believe you have really given to the Lord until that giving becomes a sacrifice. True giving has to be costly, like the widow’s mite.
I believe that is the principle we need to remember. God blesses gener0sity. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” That’s 2 Corinthians 9:6. Verse 7 goes on to recommend joyful, generous giving.
I have an idea. If your church is having problems financially, why don’t you recommend that the church INCREASE its missions giving. Give God a reason to bless you! Get more involved in the worldwide mission of God. Don’t depend on math and accounting to solve your church’s financially problems, but depend on the miraculous generosity of a God who owns it all.
Boiled down, I think that cutting back missions is the wrong way to deal with a church’s financial problems.
I’m going to make a promise here. Right now, things are tight at Southern Hills Baptist Church, but we are squeaking by. We have paid our bills and I have yet to miss a meal. But if the drain continues and things get more extreme (we are in the middle of 3 to 4 month flood gifted to us by the Army Corps of Engineers that is further depressing our already less-than-vibrant economy), I am going to go to the leadership of the church and suggest we increase our missions giving by a half a percent, or a percent. I hope our people will decide to respond to crisis by faith and not by sight.
We have an awesome God and a reason to give. It is not right, when times are tough, that we sound the retreat.