Are American Evangelicals Stingy?
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that donations dropped 11 percent at the nation's 400 biggest charities, yet donations to ECFA member charities stayed strong. An empty tomb, inc. report found that evangelicals give churches about 4 percent of their income (and all Christians only 2.43 percent), far less than the biblical 10 percent tithe.
"For Christians in the richest nation in history to be giving only 2.43 percent of their income to their churches is not just stinginess, it is biblical disobedience—blatant sin. We have become so seduced by the pervasive consumerism and materialism of our culture that we hardly notice the ghastly disjunction between our incredible wealth and the agonizing poverty in the world. Over the last 40 years, American Christians (as we have grown progressively richer) have given a smaller and smaller percent of our growing income to the ministries of our churches. Such behavior flatly contradicts what the Bible teaches about God, justice, and wealth. We should be giving not 2.4 percent but 10 percent, 15 percent, even 25 to 35 percent or more to kingdom work. Most of us could give 20 percent and not be close to poverty."
Ron Sider, author, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger
"While some evangelicals are very generous, many are not. The concept that giving to God's work (local church, ministries/missions, the needy) should be a person's highest financial priority is embraced by very few Christians in today's materialistic, consumer-driven, and debt-ridden society, even though Scripture is clear on this teaching. I feel that part of the problem is many churches have made their teaching focus on generosity being the "budget" instead of the Bible. If the "budget" is okay, many churches won't speak on the finance/generosity subject. If a church is behind in the budget, they'll teach on giving more as a duty and drudgery, not as a delight that God desires it to be. Budgets should be the spending plan, not the giving goal."
Brian Kluth, founder, Maximum Generosity, and author, GiveWithJoy.org eDevotional
"The question must be answered in comparison to another group or expectations. All of the empirical evidence, presented in my book Passing the Plate, is clear: Americans are more generous in voluntary financial giving than citizens of most other comparably rich countries, and religious Americans are more generous with money than non-religious Americans. Among Christians, evangelicals are the most financially generous of all (second only to Mormons). Yet most American evangelicals are still not as generous as their churches teach or as they are objectively able to be, given their resources. In short, compared to other groups, evangelicals are not stingy, but compared to what they could and should give, they are not nearly as generous financially as they ought to be."
Christian Smith, author, Passing the Plate
"Could and should Christians give more? Yes and definitely yes. Then why don't we, and what can be done? It's my sense—and I could be wrong—that we don't really know the answers to these last two questions, and yet we should. We're talking about many billions of dollars a year, but it appears that most of what we know about Christian giving is based on anecdote and conjecture rather than systematic study. If we want to make Christians less stingy, perhaps the first step is to learn more about why they give. Sociologists Christian Smith and Michael Emerson probe this issue in the excellent book Passing the Plate, but there's a lot more to know before we can effectively increase Christian long-term patterns of giving. In short, we may not know enough now to change Christian stinginess. Let's learn."
Bradley Wright, professor of sociology, University of Connecticut
"On one level, Americans, together with all sinners, are not nearly as generous with their resources as God is with us. The triune God overflows throughout the created order, and abundance is the name of the game. So, in learning the disciplines of giving, we are not trying to reach a certain specified amount, but are rather trying to learn how to imitate the divine heart. And in this regard, Americans certainly have a long way to go. But there is another way of asking this question, and that is on the horizontal level. How does American generosity stack up against those who are usually the most prone to be critical of Americans? Here the data is more reassuring. Evangelicals are more generous than mainliners, Protestants are more generous than Catholics, Christians are more generous than secularists, and Americans are far more generous than everybody else in the world. But instead of ascending praise according to this, we usually hear ascending carping.
If generosity was a class and the Americans were scoring a 68 and the Europeans were scoring a 42, we ought not to ask the Europeans to grade our papers. But, at the same time, God as the instructor doesn't grade on a curve, and the Americans are still scoring a 68 and need to improve."
Douglas Wilson, minister, Christ Church
"The answer to the question will become more evident if evangelicals have a clear choice about the word component of the Great Commission. That choice would be available if and when leaders serve members by mobilizing an energetic campaign to share the Gospel with every unreached people group, showing seriousness of purpose through clearly stated costs and timetables. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals each have about 45,000 congregations. That works out to about $22 more a year per member to field the 3,000 additional missionaries needed to engage the 6,000+ unreached people groups. To date, denominational officials, pastors, and Christian media editors and publishers—perhaps fearful of not funding their base operations—have not made the case for and organized a campaign to mobilize these resources."
John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, founders, empty tomb, inc.
"Many people complain that Christians are lousy givers because as a group we don't reach the 10 percent biblical injunction. But of course no one else is held to this standard and it is often, frankly, a disingenuous attack from secularist critics who are searching for evidence that Christians—especially evangelicals—are all-around hypocrites. Also, many Christians note that looking at pre-tax income is ridiculous (although even after tax, Christians don't arrive at 10 percent, on average). My view is that we can and should all give more, but focusing on evangelical stinginess is a little absurd."
Arthur Brooks, president, American Enterprise Institute
"Barna Group's research shows evangelicals to be among the most generous Americans. While not immune from the bad economy, evangelicals still consistently give more of their income to more places than virtually any other demographic or faith group. Evangelicals also easily qualify as the nation's most consistent tithers. And those who tithe are simply much more resilient in their giving—and distinctly more generous—than others. The problem is that evangelical Christians are also quite rare: just one out of every 12 Americans holds the theological underpinnings of evangelical belief and commitment. (We define evangelicals not based upon denominational affiliation or a respondent's self-labeling as evangelical, but based on a basic battery of questions assessing a person's theological views.)"
David Kinnaman, president, Barna Group
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Christianity Today also has a graph on "How Evangelicals Give."
Previous articles related to money & business include:
Should Churches Increase 2011 Budgets? | Financial advisers, researchers, and other observers weigh in on whether churches should increase their operating budgets next year. (June 30, 2010)
Excerpt: 'Tithing' by Douglas LeBlanc | For John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, tithing is not only a matter of obeying God. (December 9, 2009)
Scrooge Lives! | Why we're not putting more in the offering plate. And what we can do about it. (December 5, 2008)
Previous topics for discussion included whether Christians should resist the TSA, Christians should ban Christmas carols with questionable theology, when life begins, whether Christians should denounce believers who vilify others, Christians must pray in public forums using Jesus' name, whether they have a responsibility to have children, whether churches should increase their 2011 operating budgets, a Protestant-less Supreme Court, Mother's Day worship, incorporating churches, whether evangelicals are doing a good job at racial integration, whether Christians should leave the American Medical Association, the most significant change in Christianity over the past decade, whether the Supreme Court should rule that memorial crosses are secular, multisite campuses vs. church plants, and whether Christians should fast during Ramadan with Muslims.