Archives For giving

The BriefingStates debate religious liberty protections
Within the last 24 months, state legislators have introduced almost 100 (and counting) “targeted laws”—legislation designed to give legal cover to business owners, religious schools, and ministries that affirm the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

US to decide if Christians face genocide from ISIS
For two years, ISIS has been terrorizing Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. March 17 Secretary of State John Kerry will have to tell Congress whether the United States will officially label ISIS’ actions a “genocide.”

ERLC, IMB urge prayer for refugees March 15
The March 15 focus of the campaign — #PrayForRefugees — comes on the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle Eastern country. The ERLC and its partners are calling for churches, small groups, Christian organizations, families and individuals to pray for the more than 13.5 million Syrians who need humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict.

Voters don’t care about candidates’ generosity
Americans contributed $358 billion to charity in 2014, according to Giving USA. How much did each current presidential candidate contribute to that record-setting sum? The candidates, for the most part, are not telling, and pollsters, the media, and voters are not asking.

Workplaces get chaplains
A number of companies have hired spiritual leaders to serve on their staffs. Though slightly less trendy than nap rooms and yoga classes, workplace chaplaincies are another attempt to make workers more productive by catering to their “whole” selves.

Sources: WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Atlantic, World Magazine

How is tithing like football?The numbers may be surprising. A people who claim generous giving as a way of life, with the biblical standard of 10% as their benchmark, give only about 3% of their income to charitable causes, including their local church.

And of evangelicals, only

12% qualify as tithers, giving 10% or more of their income to their church (or other organizations), according to researcher George Barna.

So, what’s the disconnect? We talk about tithing. We teach tithing. But many believers don’t tithe. Why?

And here’s a better question: What’s at stake if we don’t give generously?

First and ten

The play is complete, the ball is down, but the purpose of the next play is unclear. If the football has been moved 10 yards, it’s a first down and the offense gets to start counting its march downfield from its new vantage point. If not, the play could be the last, for now. Ground gained could be lost.

So the chain gang comes in from the sidelines to measure the advance of the ball. Was it 10? Is the offense positioned to start another advance?

Similarly, in ministry, gospel advance is often determined by the resources available to move the mission forward. And month after month, we call in the chain gang to measure our progress financially.

Sometimes we pass the line.

Often we fall short.

At issue is how we teach people to give, and how we budget based on those expectations.

Many evangelicals have a firm commitment to tithing as a New Testament command. Tithing is commanded in the Old Testament. In fact, multiple tithes are collected from the Israelites to support the priests, the temple, and the poor.

It is the prophet Malachi who puts the sharpest point on the one-tenth rule: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!….By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts (Mal. 3:8-10, HCSB).

When Jesus speaks about giving 400 years after Malachi, the tenth is assumed (Matt. 23:23). But Jesus, criticizing the legalistic actions of the Pharisees, expresses concern about the heart in giving. And Paul prescribes giving that is compassionate, generous, systematic, and regular (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Some would argue that the tithe is still in place for New Testament believers, that it is still a command. Others contend that, free from Law, the tithe becomes a benchmark for believers who choose to give, and that the command is instead generosity.

Call it obedience

Former Illinois pastor Rick Ezell frames tithing as an act of obedience. “If you are tithing, you are being obedient to God’s instructions. But remember that tithing has always been the floor—the place to begin, not the ceiling—the place to end, of giving to God’s work.”

In a recent devotional for his South Carolina congregation, Ezell advised taking steps to correct faulty giving patterns. “If you are not tithing, perhaps it is because of poor money management. Many believers don’t tithe not because they don’t want to, but due to their current economic situation and spending habits. Maybe you need to spend some time examining your expenses and evaluating your priorities.”

“I am very direct about preaching and teaching on generous giving,” said Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon. He holds up the tithe as the standard. “I have tithed and beyond all of my life and this is extremely valuable to my spiritual life. I preach on the importance of a generous life.

“Generous giving (tithing and beyond) is one of our expectations of members of FBCO. And generous giving is one of the great joys of my life.”

For Bryan Price, pastor of Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville, the tithe offers clarity. “For me, the idea of tithing gives a better guideline for people, gives a benchmark,” Price said. “Focusing on giving (rather than tithing specifically), that benchmark was missing.”

Both Munton and Price preach regularly on giving. Munton leads an annual stewardship emphasis. And Price returned to a financial series after a two-year break when he was encouraged by church leaders to address the issue again.

“Having discussion with our elders, I asked our Sunday school to join me (in a stewardship emphasis). Price admits he feels some tension when preaching on giving. “You don’t want to come across trying to beat people over the head about money,” he said, but “we made a concerted effort, and it proved beneficial.”

Especially among younger people. “You would think people would be familiar with tithing, but we have younger people coming up and newly marrieds. They’re hearing these things for the first time really.”

And the results? “We have definitely seen an increase in giving in the past several months,” Price said.

The head of an organization called Generous Giving, Brian Kluth, says pastors can’t be shy about teaching on money. “We need to learn to be open-handed people in a tight-fisted world.” Kluth had considerable success as a pastor leading his Colorado congregation in giving. “Every time you give to the Lord, you are declaring who your source is, who your help is,” Kluth said.

In a recent blog post on tithing, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd warned against greed as the enemy of generosity: “Somehow we must grow in our faith enough to understand that when we do not give biblically by both tithing and practicing generosity, we are not walking in godliness.”

But, he admits, it will take support from the pews to overcome reticence to address money issues. “Lead the way laypeople, encouraging your pastor to preach on tithing and generosity. Encourage and defend him both privately and publicly,” Floyd wrote.

Floyd’s comments come as the SBC strains to rebound in Cooperative Program giving to missions, and to answer long-term questions about funding for SBC missions on all fronts. The potential for gospel advance would be almost unimaginable, if the biblical standards for generosity were heeded.

What if we all tithed?

Empty Tomb, Inc., a Champaign-based research firm, asked this question when average giving by church members was at its lowest point in their annual surveys (2.46% in 2008): What if all givers tithed? The researchers projected that if every church member in the U.S. gave 10% rather than the average 3%, the additional amount available for kingdom work would be $172-Billion.

Empty Tomb speculated, “If those members had specified that 60% of their increased giving were to be given to international missions, there would have been an additional $103-Billion available for the international work of the church. That would have left an additional $34-Billion for domestic missions, including poverty conditions in the U.S., and this all on top of our current church activities.”

Meanwhile, the ball moves ahead in fit and starts, while the measuring gang rattles the chains on the sidelines.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist where this article first appeared in the September 21 issue. Read the Illinois Baptist online now.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Nate_Adams_March23Recently a bivocational pastor shared with me a difficult decision he needed to make, whether or not to stay as pastor of the church he was serving. He had already accepted the reality that the small church could not afford both his insurance and a full-time wage, and that he needed employment outside the church to support his family. What seemed to have him questioning whether he could stay were recent remarks by a couple of his church members.

“We had to cancel Sunday services one week because of a snowstorm,” he explained, “and a couple of the members raised the question of whether or not they should still pay me that week, since I hadn’t actually preached.”

I could hear the hurt in his voice, and read the disappointment in his face. He was still a few years away from retirement, and had recently lost his job outside the church. At a time when being valued by the church was very important to him, a couple of unthinking church members had made him feel less valued than ever.

But the pastor went on to explain that, in his view, the problem probably ran deeper than a careless statement or two. “I really think some of them think that way. They aren’t giving generously to the Lord, or even to support me as their pastor. They feel they are merely purchasing a service from me, and that if that service is not delivered, the church shouldn’t have to pay.”

After a few minutes of talking it through, it seemed clear to me that the pastor was going to stick it out. He loved his congregation, and I suspect that even the ones who made the hurtful statements loved him. But he and I agreed that if he was going to feel appreciated, and perhaps even more importantly, if his people were to have their hearts matured and transformed into generous, godly givers, that he needed to provide some candid teaching, and loving but direct conversation, on tithing and giving.

I think one of the reasons I was able to understand this pastor’s hurt and encourage him to press on is that this same dynamic of consumerism can also affect our cooperative missions work as churches. Not often, but occasionally, I will hear someone ask, “Why should we give to that? What do they do for us?”

They could be referring to a mission offering, or the Cooperative Program, or the local association, or any ministry where the investment is largely in people that are doing ministry among and on behalf of the churches. If there’s not some direct, tangible benefit back to the church, the value is questioned. “If they aren’t here, helping us, maybe they don’t deserve our support.” If the sermon isn’t preached, the ongoing, continual ministry of the pastor isn’t valued.

The next Sunday after that conversation, a snowstorm hit here in Springfield. Several area churches cancelled services, but our church did not.

With that pastor’s pain still in the back of my mind, I got up early to clear the snow from our driveway, and make sure we could get to church. As we headed out the door, I asked my wife to make sure we had our offering envelope with us. I remembered in a fresh way that our tithe was the Lord’s, and that our church’s staff and ministries count on our support, whether we’re there benefitting from them or not.

I also remembered that the portion of my weekly offering that goes through the Cooperative Program supports thousands of missionaries and other ministries that operate literally around the clock and around the world. The Lord and they are at the heart of my giving, not the benefits I receive. And I’m grateful for each one of you that feels and gives from that heart too.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

JesusTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

How well do Americans fare at keeping Christ the center of Christmas? Pretty well, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research. 79% agreed that “Christmas should be more about Jesus,” and 70% said “Christmas would be a better experience if it had a more Christian focus.” 63% of people said the holiday should include a visit to church.

Even so, LifeWay reported, people are less sure about the season’s theological details: Only 56% agreed that Christ existed before Jesus’ birth.


As you send your Christmas cards this year, remember who’s on the receiving end, Kay Warren said in a Dec. 4 Facebook post and a later article for ChristianityToday.com. Warren, whose son, Matthew, committed suicide in 2013, said receiving cards with happy family photos served as sharp reminders of their own family’s grief.


As protestors rallied to speak out against grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission changed the theme of its second annual leadership summit to racial reconciliation. The March 26-27 meeting was set to focus on pro-life issues, but ERLC leaders announced the new emphasis in light of national response to current events, Baptist Press reported.


Christian leaders will gather today in Memphis, Tenn., to discuss the church and race relations. “It’s Time to Speak” will be streamed live from the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum. The event, organized by Memphis pastor Bryan Loritts, also includes John Piper, Derwin Gray, Matt Chandler and Darrin Patrick. Gray told The Christian Post, “This event will be a call for the local church to be what she was meant to be – a multi-ethnic and multi-class of communities of reconciliation, love, and unity.


The plywood nailed to the windows of homes and businesses reminded Stoney Shaw of living near the threat of hurricanes when he was younger.

“People would brace themselves for the storm that was coming,” said Shaw, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Ferguson, Missouri. “That’s exactly what is happening here; a devastating storm. But praise God things seem to be winding down and there is a lot of rebuilding going on, which is what we’ve been praying for.” Read the full story from the Illinois Baptist.


More than $30,000 has been donated online to help three families in the wake of a triple murder in Florida. Southern Baptist pastor Tripp Battle was one of the victims in the Dec. 4 shootings, which also took the lives of Denise Potter and Amber Avalos. Avalos’ husband, Andres, was arrested Dec. 6 in connection with the deaths, Baptist Press reported.


The upcoming movie version of Louis Zamperini’s life may not fully explore his faith, but the WW2 survivor’s conversion was in the spotlight leading up to the Dec. 25 release of “Unbroken.” The 1949 Los Angeles revival where Zamperini was saved not only changed him, wrote Religion News Service’s Cathy Lynn Grossman, but also transformed the ministry of the young evangelist preaching those nights.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A new Barna study explores what kinds of worship spaces are most attractive to Millennials, and what words describe their ideal church. Not surprisingly, not every answer matches up: 77% chose “sanctuary” compared to 23% who answered “auditorium.” And 67% of Millennials chose “classic” over “trendy” to describe their idea church. But modern and casual also won out over traditional and dignified.

Barna points out this “cognitive dissonance” evident in the survey: “Many of them aspire to a more traditional church experience, in a beautiful building steeped in history and religious symbolism, but they are more at ease in a modern space that feels more familiar than mysterious.”


After the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first such court to uphold states’ rights to ban same-sex marriage, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said it’s now up to the Supreme Court to take up the issue, The Christian Post reported.


From ChristianityToday.com: “The Pakistani state has to act proactively to protect its minorities from violence and injustice,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said after a Christian couple was beaten and burned to death one week ago. A mob attacked Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, who was five months pregnant, over accusations that Bibi had burned the Qur’an.


Christian Kenneth Bae returned to the U.S. over the weekend after two years of imprisonment in North Korea, CNN reported. “Kenneth has been in God’s care all this time, and we are thankful that he brought him home,” Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, told reporters. “He only has the best wishes and intentions for that country, still.”


The organizers of International Day of the Bible are calling for people around the world to read Scripture out loud at noon on November 24.


Baptist Press reports Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has finalized the purchase of its new, larger campus in Southern California and is on schedule to relocate its main campus from the Bay Area by June of 2016. The seminary will request a name change—to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention—during the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.


International Mission Board President David Platt launched his new podcast series, Radical Together, on Nov. 3. “Every 2 weeks, 30 minutes of Word to exhort you to pray, give, & go however God leads in the world,” he tweeted.


Things are looking up for church giving, according to survey by LifeWay Research. More than half of the Protestant churches surveyed reported still feeling the negative impact of the economy, but two-thirds are meeting or exceeding their budgets for 2014. And 74% report offerings at or above 2013 levels.

Gifts that keep on giving

nateadamsibsa —  September 29, 2014

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Years ago when I worked in Christian magazine publishing, one of my jobs was to help write headlines for our subscription promotions. Almost every Christmas, we would go back to the tried and true headline, “Give the gift that keeps on giving.”

With one act of generosity you could send your gift recipients magazines several times throughout the coming year. It was a gift that allowed people to give over and over and over again.

In the days ahead, I believe that principle of year-round giving is something that we as Illinois Baptists need to apply more and more to the needs of our Illinois mission field. For one thing, those needs are now greater than ever.

Nate_Adams_blog_calloutAs I mentioned in my last column, North American Mission Board funding shifts have necessitated that IBSA absorb full responsibility for our state WMU and Women’s Ministry Director, for other missions positions and initiatives that are not specifically church planting, and for funding that assists local associations. We have also received notice that areas such as collegiate ministry, urban ministry centers, and disaster relief coordination will not be funded by NAMB in future budget years.

With Cooperative Program giving from churches currently about 4% lower than last year, it will be difficult to sustain many of these important ministries unless there is a substantial increase in gifts through the Mission Illinois Offering.

The “season of prayer” and emphasis on Illinois missions has traditionally been in September of each year. Thank you in advance for the gift you may have already given through your church this past month! But here are three additional ways that Illinois Baptists can think, pray and give through the Mission Illinois Offering, throughout the year.

1. Starting in 2015, IBSA will provide Mission Illinois Offering promotional materials starting in January, giving your church the option of promoting and receiving an offering for Illinois missions at any time during the year. This will also allow churches that have an annual missions conference to access videos and other information about Illinois missions at any time during the year.

2. Whether your church receives a formal Mission Illinois Offering or not (about half of IBSA churches do not), individuals can now give directly to the Mission Illinois Offering at any time during the year, though the IBSA website. Simply go to http://www.IBSA.org and choose “Give to MIO” from the Donate menu. This option will be especially helpful to those seeking to make an additional, tax-deductible gift before the end of the year.

3. Through the Baptist Foundation of Illinois, you can set up your own “Family Giving Fund,” sometimes referred to as a donor advised fund. It’s like a savings account for your or your family’s charitable giving. You can place money in the fund with BFI, and decide later the non-profit causes to which you want to disperse those funds.

Perhaps you want to save in order to help with the next disaster relief effort in the state. Or save to send Christmas gifts to students at the Christian Activity Center or the Baptist Children’s Home. Or maybe you want to invest in the statewide ministries of IBSA that I mentioned above, simply by directing your fund to the Mission Illinois Offering. For help setting up a
Family Giving Fund, simply contact Doug Morrow at the Baptist Foundation of Illinois (doug.morrow@baptistfoundationil.org or 217-391-3102).

Year-round giving isn’t for everyone, but if you are one of the Illinois Baptists whose heart God is stirring to give more than once a year, I hope one of these year-round options will help you do just that. Your gift to missions in Illinois is one that keeps on giving, even into eternity.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Baptist_hymnalHEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Our youngest son, Ethan, recently mentioned to his mom and me that he had heard a couple of great new Christian songs he really liked. We asked what they were, hoping that we had been listening to enough Christian radio to perhaps recognize them.

Imagine our surprise when the songs he named were 100-year-old hymns.
We couldn’t help but show our disbelief. “Have you never heard those hymns before?” we asked. “Have you not been in churches that sang either of those?”

Perhaps he had, we decided, but apparently not often, or not at a time that he remembered. As we then reviewed the churches our family attended since Ethan was born, we realized that each of those churches had a contemporary worship style, or at least a blend of contemporary music and hymns. Therefore, hymns that I know by heart, sometimes even by page number, have become almost lost treasures to my son.

Music is just one example of the things in church life that sometimes need to change or evolve over time in order to stay relevant to new generations. But as my son’s new love for old hymns illustrates, sometimes we let treasures that have lasting value slip away simply because we have not properly maintained them, or passed them along effectively.

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_4Cooperative missions giving is one of those time-proven treasures that I fear we risk losing in the next generation if we do not more intentionally teach its value and practice its power. As with hymns, we may be assuming that what we have known so well by heart will always be with us, even if we’re not rehearsing it regularly with new church leaders and members.

That’s one reason many Southern Baptist churches set aside one special Sunday in April to inform and educate their church members on the incredible, week-after-week power of our ongoing missions support system known as the Cooperative Program. This year the national Cooperative Program promotion Sunday is April 13, but since that happens to fall on Palm Sunday, many churches may choose another nearby date for this emphasis.

Whether it’s April 13 or some other time, intentionally educating everyone in the church about Cooperative Program missions is extremely important. Church members need to understand that the Cooperative Program portion of their church budget provides
foundational support for thousands of faithful Baptist missionaries, throughout North America and around the world. They need to know that hundreds of people groups in more than 150 countries are receiving the Gospel through these missionaries, and that thousands of new churches are being planted as a result. Right here in North America, more than 900 new churches are being established each year, and coordinated ministries such as Disaster Relief help place thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers and chaplains right in the middle of people’s deepest physical and spiritual needs.

Cooperative Program giving helps make theological training at six world-class seminaries affordable for tomorrow’s pastors, church staff, and missionaries. And it gives us an important voice in the culture through the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee. Right here in Illinois, CP helps train more than 23,000 leaders each year, and start 25 new churches.

There are lots of good resources at http://www.IBSA.org/CP and http://www.sbc.net to help church members understand how the CP works, and, more importantly, how many lives are being transformed through it as the Great Commission is advanced. There are short videos to use in worship services or small groups, and well-designed print pieces ranging from bulletin inserts to multiple-page articles.

Many of us may assume that, like a treasured hymn, the Cooperative Program will always be there, always fueling the most effective and far-reaching missionary system in history. But that will only happen if we consistently and continually teach new
generations of church leaders to carry the tune.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.