I know many of you right now are rolling your eyes. You're saying "There he goes again - telling people to not give to the church." No, that is not what I'm saying. If you are a member of a church, you SHOULD support it financially. However, if you're a member of a mega church and you see some of the following trends in YOUR church, perhaps God wants you to start using your money to make an impact in other areas. Perhaps God wants you to start channeling your resources into organizations that are more in line with the values of your Christian faith. Maybe God wants you to support your church at a lower financial commitment to free up money for you to give to other organizations.
Here is what the Dee and Deb at the Wartburg Watch said as they laid out their principles of when it is time to stop giving to your church:
"Are you, church contributor, vaguely discontented by what your money actually supports? Do you ever wonder if your money supports anything of eternal value? If you are a member of a church with a well paid pastor, and you see any of the following, maybe you should consider giving your money elsewhere."
Here we go:
1. Stop giving if you cannot find out your pastor's salary and compensation package. I've been saying this for six years. Complete transparency is essential. Most mega churches go to great lengths to keep salaries of the top dog ministers a dark secret, and for good reason. They know that if the average church member knew of the compensation packages of the pastor and his family, they would be so disgusted that many would stop giving altogether.
2. Stop giving if your well paid pastor lives better than most of the congregation. As Dee and Deb said: "Drive by his house. See what kind of car he drives. See what kind of vacation he takes. Think about it." Of course, if he lives in a gated community it might be hard to drive by it, but you can look it up on Google maps and you can look it up on the property appraiser's website. Don't be ignorant on how well your Man of God lives using the money church members give for God's work.
3. Stop giving if your pastor regularly complains about how hard his job is. I am sick of hearing mega church pastors complain about how hard their job is, and making statements like "you should try having my job for a day"....and you see them living a jet-setting lifestyle, and operating their church as a family business. If he complains about his job publicly to the congregation, you can bet he is going to be lobbying the trustees privately for even more mega-money to make his ministry more tolerable.
4. Stop giving when your money goes to more buildings, expensive equipment, and well-off pastors. If you see the money going to expand the church into other locations when the current location is at a fraction of capacity - at the same time they are ruthlessly firing underpaid faithful ministers - it might be time to reconsider your financial commitment to your church. Remember, giving to your church is NOT giving to God. Your mega church is a 501(c)3 religious business - you might be closer giving to God by giving to the Red Cross than to your church if they are using the money unwisely.
5. Stop giving money if your well paid pastor writes books on church time and then gets all of the proceeds. Many mega church celebrity pastors get paid to prepare their sermons as the most important aspect of their job - then they turn around and turn these sermons into books for which the profits go straight to the pastor and not the church.
6. Stop giving if your well paid pastor is double and triple dipping. Is your pastor constantly traveling during the week to speak and conferences and retreats? Does he regularly take time off to lead trips to Israel or luxury cruises? Does your pastor use church resources like the church website and church media resources to promote trips and cruises "with the pastor"?
7. Stop giving if your pastor operates the church as a family business, regularly hiring and promoting family members. Nepotism is rampant in almost every mega church in Jacksonville. Nepotism hurts an organization in the long run - especially those periods when there are staff reductions and the faithful, qualified long-time staff members get the boot while the pastor's family members get a pass and maybe a promotion.
8. Stop giving if your church has developed a culture of silencing or shaming questioners. If leadership of your church expects people to just be sheep and blindly follow and fund the pastor's "vision" - you might want to close your pocketbook. You might see regular church members telling other people on social media to not talk openly about the problems of the church, or accusing those discussing their concerns as spreading "gossip", "innuendo", and "vitriol". Ignore them. Discuss the issues on social media. And use your checkbook to speak - it is the loudest voice you have, and the one that the leadership of church is most concerned about.
9. Stop giving if your pastor routinely tells you that you are obligated to "tithe to the storehouse" to receive God's blessings and avoid God's cursings. This is a recent phenomena in evangelicalism - trying to fool Christians into thinking they must fork over at least 10% of all their income to redeem their money, that God will "rebuke the devourer" if you give 10%. The reality is the New Testament calls Christians to give generously and cheerfully. You are free to give according to your conscience - and you are free NOT to give to your church but to other causes that are consistent with your Christian beliefs.
10. Stop giving if your church is super-focused on expanding their territory into wealthy areas of the city, and under-focused on helping the poor and needy in your city. Most - not all - mega churches have almost zero interest in helping the poor in their cities, but are interested in making land purchases and renovating their auditoriums and tapping markets of the wealthy.
Maybe you have a number 11. or 12. that you would like to add - if so I want to hear from you. Maybe you are a member of a church that exhibits some of these traits and you want to discuss it here. Maybe these don't characterize your church and you want to tell us about it. Chime in.
I'll leave you with a quote from Dee and Deb:
"How about rescue missions that reach out to the unloved? There are ministries that look after persecuted people groups or victims of human trafficking. I bet each of you know quite a few. I know such ministries would be thrilled with your donation and you might feel like your have done something worthwhile and eternal. Your money would actually do more good with these groups than the purchase of one more Bose speaker for Sunday morning."