Is the church in the U.S. serving God or Money?
That’s the choice highlighted by Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:24.
The new edition in The State of Church Giving series suggests church member giving and membership patterns can help answer that question.
The State of Church Giving through 2010, published by empty tomb, inc., in October 2012, analyzes congregational reports aggregated and published by denominations.
The new edition updates church member giving through 2010, including for a Composite Set of denominations for the period 1968-2010, for 11 denominations for 1921-2010, and trends both past and future. For example, as a portion of income, church member giving declined from 2009 to 2010.
The book’s analysis of giving by all Americans in the 2010 US BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey found that 76% of giving went to “church, religious giving” compared to “charities and other organizations,” “educational institutions,” or “gifts to non-Consumer Units.”
The special focus chapter considers the choices of church leaders and members in light of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:24 that one can serve only God or Money.
According to the new book, if native-born church members supported international missions at the same level that foreign-born people in the U.S. send money overseas, they would have spent an additional $370 billion on global missions in 2010, amounting to $3.7 trillion over ten years.
The authors suggest that church leaders identify “triage” needs to set a “positive agenda for affluence” for church members. Triage sets priorities based on both the degree of need and the ability to impact that need.
One “triagic” need, the book suggests, is the number of “unengaged unreached people groups,” described as having inadequate access to a presentation of the claims of Jesus Christ. One estimate suggested $200 million more a year - - less than $12.50 per church member in one denomination - - could fund the additional cross-cultural missionaries needed.
Another “triagic” need suggested is the reduction of child deaths globally among children under the age of 5. This Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 is behind its planned rate of progress, according to an analysis in the new book. Church leaders and members, the authors assert, are in a unique position to help improve progress so that MDG 4 can achieve its 2015 target of reducing, by two-thirds, the rate of under-5 child deaths between 1990 and 2015. At an estimated $5 billion a year, the cost would equal $50 from each of 100 million church members in the U.S. for each of the next three years, sent through each member’s own denomination for programs generally already in place but underfunded. The church could provide moral leadership to encourage world leaders to keep their MDG 4 promise to address what the late James Grant referred to as “the silent emergency.”
The State of Church Giving through 2010: Who’s in Charge Here? A Case for a Positive Agenda for Affluence (22nd edition, October 2012) is available from Internet booksellers and www.emptytomb.org/pubs.html. ISBN 978-0-9843665-2-1