Have you ever calculated the percentage your church spends on those outside its walls?
For the first time, I researched giving at several churches. What I found surprised me. Churches I examined were giving 1-2% of their budgets to benevolence, outreach, missions, and ministry partnerships. I believe individual church members are giving more, but my limited sample shows that perhaps as a North American Church, we are giving our leftovers.
Our budgets reveal that the majority of church funding is directed to serving those on the inside—members only. If we’re honest, I wonder if our churches are operating more like country clubs. Today we have an abundance of men’s groups, women’s retreats, softball leagues, and music ministry activities. The church feeds us, nurtures us, babysits our kids, and provides space for important relationships to develop. It encourages us. It entertains us. It uplifts us.
But what if the primary point of church wasn’t “us”? What if the point was to bring the Good News to the poor? What if it was to care for the widow, the orphan and the alien? What if the primary point was outward service to a world in need as we bring the amazing message of hope and forgiveness found in Jesus?
A self-sufficient and satisfied church is only mentioned once in Scripture—the church of Laodicea. And Jesus wanted to spew that sort of lukewarm church out of His mouth. Jesus became poor for our sake. He went to the cross in our place. Surely that sort of love prompts a response than is well beyond our leftovers.
When we truly understand what Jesus did for us, we can’t remain content with country-club Christianity.
It is time for some healthy introspection and tough questions: what do our budgets tell us about our mission? Are we really following the example of Jesus or just printing a few verses on our golf carts? If we follow the money, we might be shocked that the way we do church is all about us.
Thankfully, there are churches charting a new course. For example, the Lutheran Church of Hope in Des Moines, Iowa, gives 50% of its budget for internal need, the other half for missions and outreach. Church of the Holy Spirit in Roanoke, Virginia, has committed to helping to end extreme global poverty through sacrificial giving. My home church recently introduced the “faith pledge” and encouraged members to get more involved in missions.
I might be naïve, but I believe that just possibly the North American Church is dissatisfied with country-club Christianity and ready to go deeper in service to others.