"I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (II Cor 9:7)
---------------------October is the month when we see the absolute worst tithing sermons. Of course Perry Noble and Steve Gaines are tithing preachers for all seasons, but October is on average the worst month for pastors misusing scripture to deliver the anti-gospel bad news that God has cursed you, your family, and your checking account because your offering each week does not equal 0.1 times your gross income.
So I want to try to help this year. I would like to take a proactive approach, to help prevent the sheep-beatings and scripture twisting BEFORE it starts, rather than having to blog again this year about pastors threatening church members with curses from on high.
Pastors, because I care, here is an alternative approach to the same old tired tithing approach you've taken year after year:
1. Acknowledge Your Tithing Sermons Don't Work: Pastors, please recognize that while you might be teaching tithing year after year, it is not helping. You aren't gaining a larger percentage of tithers, and the amount donated per "giving unit" is not going up.
2. Understand that Your Members KNOW You Aren't Telling the Truth: Realize that since such a low percentage of Christians practice what you are preaching about the tithe, this means they don't believe your tithing nonsense. They KNOW you are lying and scripture twisting, or at best they are demonstrating their grace toward you by tolerating your ineptness at this one theological point. They KNOW God does not require 10% as a starting point, or as a condition for God to bless them, or a threshold below which God curses them and their families and their finances. They know there is no set percentage at all! While you preach fantasies and fairy tales of tithing and first-fruits giving from the Old Testament as a fund-raising tactic, your church members know the NEW Testament says clearly:
"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Cor 9:7, NIV)
Or better yet, what another version of this verse says:
"I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (II Cor 9:7, The Message)
Your church members don't want to hear your sob stories and they don't want their arms twisted again this year. Christians decide what percentage and amount to give. When you arm-twist and threaten and coerce, you make it very hard for your church members to delight in what they give.
3. Acknowledge to Your Church You Might Be Wrong: In your stewardship series this fall, start off by humbling yourself. Admit from the pulpit that you might have been wrong about tithing in the past. Tell them that you've researched things a bit - you can mention John MacArthur and David Croteau and Andreas Kostenberger as credible sources on the topic - and that you have decided that Christians should decide what they give because that is what the New Testament teaches. Even challenge your church members to read John MacArthur's views on tithing, tell them about Croteau's book.
4. Don't Misuse Malachi and Don't Mention Melchizedek, "First Fruits", and "Storehouse": Tell your people that you might have been wrong about the "church" being the Old Testament "store house". Tell them that what the Jews gave under the tithing tax probably has no bearing on what Christians do with their finances in 2012, but that the New Testament does say we should all be generous, regular givers of our resources, and this will manifest itself in varying percentages and dollar amounts. Please resist the urge to misuse Malachi and Melchizedek. Whatever you do, don't bring up Ananias and Saphira in the context of tithing. Teach New Testament grace giving.
5. Tell Your Church Members You Trust and Appreciate Them: Tell church members that they are the best ones to know what percentage of giving to the church is best for them, their kids, and for their futures. Tell them no mater what they give you will appreciate it, and you know that it represents a sacrifice on their part. Tell them that you are fully trusting them to do the right thing, and that if the church revenue increases you'll praise God, and that if the money decreases you'll praise God and gladly adjust the budget accordingly.
6. Actually trust God: I know this is hard to trust God with the finances at the church. You have for so long told your church members they should trust God and blindly fork over 10% of their income - well, now is the time is for you to blindly trust God that he will deliver the finances to your church as you release the members to decide in their hearts what to give.
I believe that if you humble yourself and take this approach, you might be shocked as to how people in your church actually respond. You may actually free them up to be generous givers at your church.
You say that no one would ever preach something like this, that it wouldn't work. Not true. Click here, and you can see a Baptist preacher who actually has taught this for decades, and whose church grows numerically and meets their budget year after year.
Pastors, give it a try. Be innovative, cutting-edge, willing to try new things - you know, just like you tell your congregations to be.