Updated: Sep 13, 2020
The subject of the tithe is one that has been discussed and debated throughout the history of the Church. This discussion has centered on the duties and responsibilities of the individual Christian and the financial duty they assume as part of the community of faith. Much has been said about this practice. As Christians do we tithe or give? Are we bound by the Old Testament command of 10% often described as the first fruits or sacred tithe? What about the tithe of the feast and the tithe for the poor? Or do we look at the New Testament and what it says in 2 Corinthians 9:6–8?
You see how quickly this simple conversation can escalate into academic discussion with no clear answer forthcoming. So we’re not going to go there today. The question we are looking at today is whether a church should give 10% of its revenue to the ministries of the Convention. This practice is not unusual among our churches as they budget support to the ministries of our Convention.
But in doing this have we met our obligations and are we doing what is required of us? It would be nice to think that our commitments could be met with the application of a simple mathematical equation. “Church Revenue X 10% = Ministry Support” is a nice and tidy calculation but as with most things answers cannot always be found with simple methods. It would be easy to say we have done our best or we have done what is required, but have we?
Every year at our Convention each ministry is given the opportunity to report to the churches. Face it, we do not sit spellbound as the reports are given and when a report goes over 5 minutes the audience begins to check their watches to make sure the battery doesn’t need changing. I remembered being humbled and entertained at one of these meetings when after finishing my report I went to sit down and found myself beside Willis Wilson. Those of us who knew him remembered how quick he was with a joke and he turned to me and said, “That was a fine report and it got me to thinking. “ I replied, “Thinking about what?” to which he responded “I could be home raking leaves right now.”
So even though the reports may not be captivating they tell us in a short period of time what has happened the past year and what the New Year will bring. The ministries then present a list of recommendations and requests including a budget and ask for the Convention’s approval. Now this is important because when we approve the budget we are committing ourselves to meeting the income requirements of their budget. Last May the ministries submitted budgets that included support from the churches totaling $2,120,000 and these recommendations were approved unanimously.
What does that mean? It means that each of our churches agreed with, and approved the proposed budgets and committed themselves to doing their part in the support of these ministries. It is a relatively easy thing to vote yes to a motion but it does us well to consider what that vote means.
According to the data provided by the churches to the Convention as of December 31, 2018 it was reported that our churches had 11,854 active members. Some churches did not report but let’s use the numbers we have. If you divided the total of the budget requests of $2,120,000 by the active members reported then each active member is responsible for $178.84 to meet the needs of our ministries or $3.43 per Sunday.
Should a church tithe? It is not wrong but it is not a biblical principle. The church is not an entity unto itself. It is an assembly of believers whose giving is encouraged by the Scriptures both old and new. It cannot tithe or give beyond the generosity of its members.
There is a danger in establishing a tithe for the local church and that is that the tithe is not sufficient to meet the promise that we pledged ourselves to. It is easy to say that we tithe our budget and we have done our best but Winston Churchill once said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”
So as your church moves forward into the New Year and contemplates their budget please consider the importance of doing what is required. Also consider that a tithe of the budget is a small commitment to ministry. If our churches are not reaching out to their communities and the unsaved then we are not fulfilling our purpose and our purpose cannot be narrowly defined by a mathematical equation using 10%.