As a child, I had a love/hate relationship with so-called scary movies. I vividly recall covering my eyes during some of the scenes in Godzilla and other subpar flicks which were supposed to scare the life out of you. As I grew older, I laughed at the movies which were in that genre. Somehow they did not have the same effect on my emotions as earlier motion pictures had.
That was fiction. The economic situation we have faced as a nation and as a state is not fictional in nature. No, it is factual. Even with the improving economic indicators, our state and our country are encountering some challenging times economically. The way forward to better conditions may be longer than we realize.
For some time, I have heard the statistics about the percentages concerning the number of church members in relationship to their giving through their local churches. You have most likely heard and perhaps quoted those figures. Twenty percent of the people give 80 percent of the budget, and the other 80 percent give the remaining 20 percent.
Recently, in a conference for directors of missions at the Baptist Building, Jim Swedenburg, our director for Cooperative Program & Stewardship Development, offered an update on those statistics. Now, 20 percent of the church members give 80 percent of the budget and another 20 percent gives 20 percent.
What happened to the other 60 percent of church members? They gave absolutely nothing through their local churches. This indicates that we as Christian leaders have our work cut out for us. Christian stewardship, in terms of the discipline of giving, has fallen on hard times. This was true even before the advent of the Great Recession.
What can we do about his important area of ministry? We can begin by doing some real soul-searching in our own hearts as Christian leaders. You would not be amazed to know that some people in church leadership are not committed to the biblical practice of tithing. I discovered this as a pastor.
Sadly, I had to have some serious conversations with a couple of staff members during my ministry as a pastor. These were good people, but they just had not been taught the importance of the practice of faithful stewardship. I tried not to be rigid or legalistic, but I did communicate with them that in no uncertain terms, their lack of setting an example for others was unacceptable.
You might ask how I knew about these situations. Well, in all honesty, a brokenhearted deacon who served as our chair of the finance committee, came to me and awkwardly broke the news. That day I set up conferences with these individuals and we had serious soul-searching discussions about the situation.
From our own soul-searching and example-setting efforts, we need to teach the practice of biblical stewardship to our people on a regular basis. I believe that this essential topic needs to be discussed in new member orientation classes. I further contend that if we, who are called to preach, do not fearlessly preach on tithing and sacrificial giving, we are not fulfilling our calling.
I know these are strong and forceful words. I realize that, at times, I was way too timid in preaching on Christian stewardship, with an unapologetic focus on tithing through the local church. I have repented of this timidity. I share in part of the blame for my sphere of influence being lacking in this kingdom matter.
With evangelicals, including Baptists, giving only 2.3 percent of our income to Christian causes, including our churches, means we have much work to do. I am committed to do my part. I will help anyone with their endeavors as well. We did not get to this sad point overnight, and it will take some time to see improvements. Improve we must!
At the State Board of Missions, we have several state missionaries who can be of help to your church in this area of discipleship. I have already mentioned Jim Swedenburg. He will be delighted to assist you and your church as you look to the future of developing Christian stewards.
Also, Bobby DuBois is a veteran in this ministry. I have seen and heard of his work, and he is one of the best of the best! Lee Wright would be a very valuable resource as well. He has helped churches deal with personnel and budget matters in years past. We are here to help you lead your church in every practical way possible, not the least of which is in the area of Christian stewardship.
Thanks for allowing me to share these musings with you concerning our need to answer the call to Christian stewardship, even in these scary times. We are in this together, and together we can make a kingdom difference. Let us answer the call to leading others to become all our Lord means for them to be!