In the middle 1970s, “born again” Christianity became a media focus. Our public visibility shot upward to the peak of its trajectory when 1976 was hyped as “The Year of the Evangelical.”

Then in 1978, United Press International listed the investigation of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s finances as one of the top ten religious news stories of the year. (Notably, the investigation of Graham found nothing.) This report was soon followed by a complete listing of evangelical organizations that failed to meet various standards of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Full disclosure of financial records, accounting procedures, voting trusteeships, decision-making and reporting practices—all came under scrutiny.

Ironically, financing our response to the Great Commission seems most troubled at a time when evangelical Christianity has become quite popular. Christian organizations have discovered that with the warm glow of public visibility comes the piercing, cold light of public accountability.

To the credit of such leaders as Sen. Mark Hatfield and Ted Engstrom of World Vision, the call went out for fiscal self-regulation of evangelical Christian ministries. Heeding the call, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was formed as a voluntary association of Christian organizations dedicated to the high standards and good practices of fiscal responsibility. The effectiveness of the ECFA is represented not only by the size and scope of its membership (more than 300 organizations representing denominational and parachurch ministries), but also by the fact that it monitors its members, investigates alleged abuses, and makes public its reports.

Unfortunately, some of the ...

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