From reading the statistics I am surprised there was not a greater divide between the60’s and the present stewardship in the local church. Certainly our economy has been an issue as non-profits have reported a downward spiral in recent years. I believe that both economic misfortunes and the redefinition of a more individualized spirituality contribute to a drop in giving. What is needed is deciding what is enough for us to live by and what we should actually give. As long as we are a society who believes enough is always out there to be attained, I am afraid our stats will continue to plummet until we are mere tippers of God at best.
I was recently asked, “what is the difference between an offering and a tithe?”. I said the Biblical standard is 10% of your earnings, but what I wanted to say is it is the difference between maintenance and being missional. If everyone tithed churches would be beaming with resources that could potentially change many endangered in our society; including our churches. Not only would mortgages be payed and staff would be payed, but we could pave the way for many good works that we have been commissioned to do. Tithing is more about paving the way than simply paying the way.
During a Stewardship Campaign I used an illustration on tithing using a bright red apple and told the congregation how it represented our money. As I listed all the ways we spend money, like mortgage and car notes I would take a bite of the apple. After listing movies, dinner dates and buying a third flat screen TV, all the apple was eaten down to it’s core accept for one small slice. I placed it on the alter and said, “this is all God asks of us.” The apple was a good visual of how small an amount, only 10%, really is considering God’s giving us life.
The Disciples of Christ tradition believes that tithing is the Biblical standard of giving that Christians should strive to. I have noticed that those who have the least can often be the most sacrificial givers. Perhaps because they are more dependent on God in all areas. I have noticed that our seniors typically understand the spiritual nature of giving more so than younger generations. I’ve found as a pastor that those who were raised in the church or raised their families during the 50’s and 60s’ hold their giving more as a sacred and privileged practice. I have had many congregants who would not consider paying their bills without paying God first. If they were on vacation they would make their donation before they left or catch up as soon as they got back as if their life was not complete with out their donation. I have been awed by their faithfulness. We need to share the stories of our matriarchs and patriarchs to those who are up and coming in the church. People will tell you that they never once missed the money they pledged, and how they have been blessed many times over by their spiritual alms of giving and how they would be profoundly saddened if they were not able to contribute to Gods mission.