Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tithing Revisited: Part One

Boy, this ought to get 'em fired up! One thing I've learned after 25 years in the ministry - money rules the roost (it's true - I once had a pastor tell me that ministry comes down to "bucks and real estate"). If you want to get the religious elite to shed their piety, just threaten their money.

A couple of years ago my wife spoke with a friend and told her we missed her and her family since we hadn't seen them in church for a while. Our friend said that they had stopped coming because times were tough and they weren't able to tithe - and they felt guilty. My wife assured her that they could come anyway - giving money was so far from what it was all about - but the story got me wondering how many people feel that way about church. Is this the way the church presents itself - even without meaning to?

I had to admit that the church we were part of at the time had a definite two-levels of membership based on whether or not you were actively giving. You could be a member for free (yay!), but to really be able to serve and participate, you had to be a "tithing member". This meant that in order to serve on church governing boards or vote on church issues or serve in various ministries, you had to be giving 10% of your annual income (incidentally, this didn't apply to nursery workers. Apparently, no one cared about your tithing record as long as you were willing to change poopy pants).

So . . . I got out my John MacArthur Study Bible and began studying the topic of tithing for myself - apart from the tried and true church propaganda. What I began to discover surprised and angered me, and I'll be sharing my findings in the next few posts.

For now, I leave you with this apt quote by venerable theologian John Stott (Christianity Today, January 8, 1996):

"The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh Biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform."

5 comments:

Kristin said...

I am waiting with baited breath for this!!

Spenx said...

I shall be extremely interested to hear the rest of this story. The few times I've thought a church was 'guilting' people into tithing happened at the large churches I attended in LA, AZ, and MS. I know it happens in small churches as well, but it makes me wonder if these large churches got large because of their tithing attitude - or perhaps because now that they are large, and in debt, they NEED people to keep giving.
Can't wait to hear more from you.

Kristin said...

So I had a thought about this - we pay for gym membership, why not church membership?

That Crazy Guy Down The Street said...

Yes, I'm waiting for the rest of this as well.

Marv said...

What was your position at the church?
How long did you attend?