"You're going to be shocked I even said this: The tithe isn't something that we can even fit into the picture....Jesus Christ has so affected my heart and life, that I just don't feel like I can do enough of worshiping Him, expressing grace to Him, being of service to Him, ministries to Him, sacrificially giving to Him. You go the other way if you want to, this is far above the law. It is called 'grace giving'. It is incredible." Johnny Hunt, 10/2/11.In these tough economic times we have heard some absolutely horrendous sermons by mega church pastors misusing scripture to twist people's arms into giving more. And it ain't working, giving continues to decline.
Last fall was a tithing disaster - we had the Ed Young, Jr. sheep-beating incident where he berated and humiliated people who don't give 10% - told them marriages and careers of non-tithers would suffer, told non-tithers to stay at home and don't come back right before attempting to collect their bank account numbers.
We had Mac Brunson on the very same day misuse scripture out of Hagaii to tell people that our nation's economic woes are due to the judgment of God on our nation for so many non-tithers, and then later tell them that God collects on the tithe through bringing calamity on non-tithers. Brunson also reached back into ancient history, making the idiotic case that tithing 10% to your church is a fundamental law placed by God into the human heart because the ancient Mesopotamians tithed to Marduke the Moon God. And we don't have enough space to write about Steve Gaines and Perry Noble and Robert Morris.
So it was refreshing to hear Johnny Hunt preach an October sermon last Sunday (10/2/11) out of the New Testament on grace giving. Hunt didn't reach back into Malachi or Haggai to threaten or coerce his people. He was tough for sure - he challenged his church members to give more than they have, but he was at least intellectually honest. He admitted that Malachi 3 speaks of a "temple tax", and is not related to grace giving as described in the New Testament. Hunt challenged his sheep to give generously to minister to people. He didn't threaten them with calamity, didn't tell them to stay home, didn't tell them that God will collect it anyways so you might as well give it.
So pastors - I know you are reading this blog - this year try a different tact out of pragmatism if for no other reason. As I said, your sheep beatings don't work, they don't motivate people, and the sheep are not so gullible as they used to be. Your revenue continues to decline. They are on to you. So stop with the tithing sermons out of Malachi. Stop lying to Christians telling them they have a 10% debt to God that they have to pay off each Sunday to be blessed. Challenge them to be grace givers, to give generously out of love for Christ and for people. Don't let your huge ego lead you to play the role of the Holy Spirit.
Try it. See if it works. Release your people from the notion of obligation to tithe, and see what happens.
If you want an idea of what it looks like to not preach the tithe but preach grace giving, watch this:
Pastors, as you go into your stewardship series this fall: preach the truth, be loving to your people, don't threaten them with calamity or curses. Don't use Malachi to falsely accuse people of robbing God. Realize you're not the Holy Spirit.
If you preach the truth, we'll highlight it on the blog.
If you beat the sheep and misuse scripture again this year, we'll also highlight it on the blog.
Watchdog is watching.