By Les Puryear, Pastor, Lewisville (N.C.) Baptist Church
Recently the senior pastor of a mega-church in Tennessee was roundly criticized by liberal bloggers because he preached on tithing.
[img_assist|nid=6317|title=Les Puryear, Pastor Lewisville, N. C. Baptist Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=94]The criticism came not just because he preached on tithing, but because of the way he preached on tithing. This pastor said that church members should give at least 10 percent of their income undesignated to the church. He said that if his members did not do this they would be “robbing God” (Malachi 3:8).
The controversy also came due to the illustrations this pastor used to make his point. He said that the people who did not tithe to the church were living in stolen homes and driving around in stolen cars – stolen from God.
Recently in a conversation I had with a SBC seminary president, he told me that “gracious giving” begins with giving 10 percent to the church undesignated. He was quick to make the point that “gracious giving” should not be limited to 10 percent but should be greater than that.
In a recent blog post, I solicited and received quotes from SBC leaders in support of storehouse tithing. These leaders included, among others, Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Danny Akin and Dr. Johnny Hunt. Every one of these SBC leaders teaches that church members should give at least 10 percent of their income undesignated to their local church.
In each of the examples I have cited, I agree wholeheartedly with the positions on giving that these men preach and teach. That is why I am so disappointed in the recommendation of the GCRTF in regard to “Great Commission Giving.”
The concept of celebrating “Great Commission Giving” sounds so noble and good and right. It sounds like an innovative way to get more money to missions. This is something with which we all agree, right?
The only problem with celebrating “Great Commission Giving” is that underneath all of the rhetoric about giving more to missions is the fact that this concept is nothing more than advocating designated giving at the expense of undesignated giving.
If church members celebrated and practiced “Great Commission Giving” in their local churches, I dare say some of the same pastors that advocate it in the GCRTF recommendations would howl and scream against such an unbiblical practice.
The final report of the GCRTF is filled with rhetoric about the Cooperative Program being the main channel of giving in the SBC. But at the same time, the report seeks to legitimize designated giving to missions as well.
If the report had said that every church is encouraged to give at least 10 percent to the Cooperative Program and every penny above that can be contributed in a designated fashion and the combination of these would be celebrated in a new giving paradigm known as “Great Commission Giving,” then I would stand up and shout “Hooray!” But that is not what the final report advocates.
Most small church pastors are doing their very best to keep their churches financially solvent. Many are striving for this at great sacrifice to themselves and their families.
The ongoing ministry of small churches all around the country (83.4 percent of all SBC churches) depends upon tithing for the church to survive. God is gracious as He has promised in Malachi, chapter 3, and He provides for His people to work through His people to reach the lost in their community and beyond.
What would happen to these small churches if everyone in the church decided to ignore the biblical concept of undesignated giving of the tithe and decided to celebrate designated giving by giving only to their favorite cause?
The church would not be able to pay its bills, salaries, upkeep on the property and would, eventually, die. Now I know that paying bills and doing maintenance on buildings is not very “cool,” but it is a necessity that must be faced.
The concept of celebrating “Great Commission Giving” is the same as celebrating designated giving in the local church.
This is equivalent to the disgruntled church member who, because he disagrees with what the church is doing, redirects his giving to his pet projects and gives nothing for the daily operations of the church.
I have found that the attitude that results in redirected or designated giving is many times prevalent among the more affluent members of the church.
They use their giving as a weapon to get what they want done in the church. The constant threat is “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll redirect or designate my giving.” Is this attitude any different in the framers of “Great Commssion Giving”?
As I was analyzing the latest appointments to the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Committees, I noticed an appointee was from a church which averaged more than 17,000 in worship attendance, had undesignated receipts of many millions of dollars, but gave only $6,000 to CP.
After thinking all of this through, I am also convicted of my own church’s giving to CP. In the last five years, we have moved from 5 percent CP giving to 8 percent. Not bad, but not good enough. It is my intention to recommend to our finance committee that our CP giving be increased to 10 percent in 2011. I, too, need to put my money where my mouth is.
When affluent churches do not tithe to CP, they are saying that the ministries that depend on CP giving are not as valuable as their favorite ministries. They are saying that state conventions are not valuable to their needs, so they choose not to cooperate for the good of all churches.
I think that is the bottom line here. Affluent churches don’t see the value of cooperating with other churches through CP giving. There is nothing in it for them, so why should they give more through CP? Greater CP giving does nothing for their church, so why increase CP giving?
Advocating the celebration of “Great Commission Giving” demonstrates that the spirit of cooperation, which used to be a hallmark of the SBC, is fading away into “How is this going to accomplish what I want to do?”
Instead of our churches impacting the culture around us for Christ, the culture around us has had more impact on us. Perhaps this is the real reason that SBC churches are doing so poorly in accomplishing the Great Commission.
Les Puryear, who posted this article on his blog May 5, is pastor of Lewisville (N.C.) Baptist Church