Thinking Out Loud

October 9, 2017

A Godless Generation That Doesn’t Give; Doesn’t Tithe

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:57 am

At a weekend family gathering, my nephew shocked me somewhat. We were talking about a situation in three neighboring towns where Episcopal (Anglican) churches are losing money at a rather alarming rate and there is some discussion about which which church should ultimately survive, as each feels great emotional attachment to their land and buildings.

I’m not sure what happened, but there was a transition in the conversation and suddenly he said, “I’m part of a Godless generation; we don’t tithe; we don’t give money.”

So I asked him, “What about secular charities?”

“No… Nothing.”

In the car on the three hour drive home, we discussed the implications of this for not only local churches but also charities which depend on the kindness of a donor base. What happens when those builders and boomers die off?

On the positive side, we know that while Episcopal churches are bleeding money and members, there are many megachurches that are packed each week, with the very demographic you might have expected to have given up on church.

Second, I look at North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley) where they’ve “kicked the bucket;” giving up on passing a collection plate/bucket/basket/bag because so many of their members have automated their giving.

(Before moving on, I think any church that struggles with support needs to look carefully at what’s working at North Point in Atlanta.)

I feel sorry for my nephew; he never gets to be part of so many good things that so many great people are doing in so many needy and hurtful parts of this world. He doesn’t get the reports of how the donations helped or read the letters from his Compassion sponsored child. He doesn’t get to share the pain of loss with hurricane victims or be part of facilitating the transplantation of a family in war-torn Syria to a place of peace in Canada or Germany.

Of greater concern of course is that he considers himself Godless. Quite opinionated about which Episcopal churches should close mind you, but involved only to the degree of an armchair quarterback questioning the coach’s decision to run a pass play when it’s fourth and fifteen.

My heart aches for him.

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August 12, 2017

For the Forty-Somethings

 and some Thirty-somethings

 plus a few Fifty-somethings

It’s time to step up.

By that I mean, it’s time to get out the checkbook (or chequebook if you prefer) or grab the credit card and go online.

I’m not talking about giving to your local church. I’m sure you already do that. Maybe you tithe. Maybe you’re what Andy Stanley calls a percentage giver.  Things are stable financially and you’ve recognized that responsibility. Your local church thanks you, and wouldn’t exist without you.

No, this is about giving beyond your local church. It’s about the parachurch organizations, the faith missions, the Christian social service agencies. It’s about hospitals in third world nations, adopting orphans, and teaching literacy to jungle people, and preparing translations of the Gospel of Matthew.

Here’s the deal: A generation that founded many organizations — many formed in the post-war years 1945 to 1950 — and then funded those organizations is dying off. These generous patrons need to be replaced.

At the same time, as Christianity loses its ground numerically in Western Europe, Australia/NZ, and North America; awareness of the faith mission organizations is decreasing. Those of us who populate the pews on the weekend do not have opportunities to hear about the vital things different groups are doing, either domestically or in far-flung mission fields.

Some of these organizations are watching their donor base shrink and shrink to the point where everyone from office staff to field workers face cults. It’s now or never…

…Writing an article like this without mentioning names of potential objects for your philanthropy is difficult, but that’s what I pre-determined this piece would be. I do however suggest a few questions:

  1. Am I interested primarily in proclamation of the Christian message, or I am okay with organizations who serve the needy in Christ’s name?
  2. Do I want my money to stay here at home, or do I want to give to overseas projects in the most economically disadvantages parts of the world?
  3. Do I want to give to a major, longtime, well-established Christian charity, or do I want to partner with a newer, upstart group?
  4. What causes tend to resonate with me?
  5. If my gift means I end up on a mailing list, are these organizations I genuinely want to read about and learn how and what they’re doing?
  6. What particular ministry opportunities or places in the world am I personally aware of which may not be as familiar to others?
  7. Do I want to scatter some funds among a handful of Christian organizations, or go long and deep with one particular cause?
  8. Are there ministries where I have personal contact with a particular worker and will thereby know that the job is getting done; the money well-spent?

You might need to do some research. If you’re married, make sure your partner agrees with your choices, especially if you’re writing checks on a joint-account. And decide if you want to be a monthly supporter — which the organizations love because it provides them with a stable financial forecast — or if you’re doing a one-time thing.

People in the middle of a variety of ministry contexts are watching for your contributions.

December 27, 2016

Year End, Tax Receipt Incentive Giving Can Be Creative

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We‘re still short on one of our supplier payments. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

It’s also a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others.

Here’s a principle I believe to be important:

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead. I also find you get more balanced doctrine with most Christian radio than you do with Christian television, plus, you really never, never know who the station is reaching.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically? If no specific organization comes to mind, consider the work of The Salvation Army.
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, The Gideons or the various Bible Societies. 
  • What about those invisible ministries that come alongside other organizations? Previously on the blog we’ve written about Engineering Ministries International, Christian Salvage Mission and Partners International.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing. 

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need. 

You can’t leave this to the last minute, but secure online giving means you can cut it pretty short. Wait on whatever you were going to click to next, and respond as your heart leads you.

February 10, 2012

How “Love One Another” Plays Out in the Real World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

December 24, 2011

Making Your Giving List and Checking It Twice

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We just made the last of our supplier payments online. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others. 

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or the various Bible Societies.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.

September 23, 2011

The God Pocket: Intentional Generosity

I had watched this video a couple of times; but wasn’t sure I get where Bruce Wilkinson — no relation — was going with The God Pocket.  Was there some ancillary item called a “God Pocket” we would see in a bookstore display next to the book itself, or was he speaking figuratively?  The video had me confused and I didn’t get a review copy of the book, so I checked the publisher marketing:

God wants to put a face on giving – and the face he has in mind is not yours, but his. What if you could take something out of your pocket today that would make God wonderfully personal and absolutely real to someone who, only minutes earlier, had been secretly calling out to God for help, for an answer, for any shred of evidence that He cares?

Discover the incredible resource that’s small enough to fit in your wallet or purse, yet big enough to change someone’s life – starting with yours. In “The God Pocket,” Bruce Wilkinson tells you what that little something is, explains how to deliver God’s provision to someone in need, and shares how God is ready to reveal Himself through you.

The God Pocket Prayer
Dear God,
Today I ask to be sent to show Your love and deliver Your funds to the person You choose. I carry Your provision in my God Pocket, and I am ready and willing. I am Your servant, Lord. Whenever You nudge me, I will respond! Here am I – please send me!

So I realized he was talking about giving, and the God Pocket had to be some kind of ‘wrapper’ for a money gift which is a token of financial encouragement, which I suppose you could design or create yourself; but in the giving process, there would have been some advance preparation and prayer.

But at that point, I was still guessing.  There were no consumer reviews online for the hardcover from Multnomah with the full title: The God Pocket: He Owns It. You Carry It. Suddenly Everything Changes.

So it was time for some serious research, i.e. Google. One blogger mentioned that the concept of “the God pocket” is introduced in You Were Born for This:

One concept that was very inspiring was the God Pocket.  He encourages Christians to set aside an amount of money (maybe $20) that they always keep tucked away in the billfold or pocketbook.  That money is to be used in the lives of others as needs present themselves.  He told the story of feeling led to leave all $20 as a tip for a waitress.  She came to him before he left in tears explaining that she was a single parent and had prayed God would provide the money she needed for medicine for her ill child.

Another wrote about You Were Born…:

A buzzword he coined “God Pocket” blessed my socks off.  I have a tendency to be what is kindest to call “thoughtlessly generous”– generous without giving thought to if it is how the Lord would want me to give.  I’m a need meeter.  If I see a need, I have the funds/ability, I try to meet it.  I love to try to help meet needs.  However, just because there is a need, and just because I can meet it, doesn’t mean that I am the best one for it and it’s hard to know when/where/how.  His idea of  the “God Pocket” really encouraged me to become deliberate in preparing to meet needs rather than reacting to the needs in front of me.  I think it is what I’ll take from the book and use/value the longest.

So my guess wasn’t too far off.  My next step is to place a bill in a special part of my wallet so that I am prepared to do what Uncle Bruce — we might be related, Prayer of Jabez made a lot of money after all — recommends in terms of planned or intentional generosity. 

Or I could simply read the book and see how one might craft a short note that would accompany the gift.  I think it’s publishing mid October.

August 6, 2011

Partnering With Partners

After our charity diversion two nights ago, we ended up making our Africa Drought donation to Partners International.  This is the organization I’ve mentioned a few times at Christmas, and I’ve already written here about my disdain for giving money only to have it eaten up by subsequent donation solicitations by mail.   The link above is to the Canadian office, but Partners is active in the U.S. as well.  Both Partners and Food for the Hungry in Canada are registered with the government for 1:1 matching of each donation with government funds.  And then just before I sent our modest donation, my teenage son came downstairs with a $10 bill to increase our gift.

I just feel like we had to do something.  Especially in the face of the enormity of the need. How can we not?

July 27, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx

And now here’s a Wednesday Link List that needs no introduction…

  • The other members of the band America (“A Horse With No Name”) pay tribute to Dan Peek who later had a career in Christian music, who passed away on the weekend.
  • Jay Grelen joins the cast at GetReligion.org, a blog that looks at how the media handles religious stories.  His own story was interesting.
  • Josh McDowell believes that the internet is the greatest threat to Christian belief: “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell.  Read more at Faith and The Law.
  • Pressured by his elders’ board to apologize, Mark Driscoll makes a half-hearted effort following his remarks on Facebook about “effeminate worship leaders.”  Rachel Held Evans calls him a bully.
  • Just in case you’re wondering, here’s the website for Hope Unlimited Church in Australia, the church Mark and Darlene Zschech call home since leaving the Hillsong mother-ship; though they’ll still be part of music events.
  • Tim Challies looks at the ‘Christian’ label being applied to the man who brought about the carnage in Oslo, Norway.
  • Paul Clark reads Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God and notes that the greatest books — starting with the Bible — have already been written.
  • Paul also has a great article on creating a “culture of generosity” within your church in this article about stewardship.
  • C. Michael Patton knows how to kick off a discussion and he’s got enough readers that he gets a response.  Be sure to read all the comments on this discussion about praying over and over and over and over again.
  • Michelle VanLoon at Her.meneutics tells about growing up in the 1960s and ’70s with her father’s porn magazines openly displayed on the coffee table and how it affected her.
  • While it wasn’t a Christian story per se, Eugune Cho posted this story about the latest “Susan Boyle” type of story on Korea’s Got Talent.   Read about Sung-Bong Choi.  (No relation to Song Sung Blue.)
  • While this one isn’t a link at all, I wanted to post something rather unique: My church is doing a VBS during the last week before school starts and they’re doing it as an evening program from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.  Different, huh?
  • For our Canadian readers: Yes, it’s true, McMaster Divinity School is giving Christian broadcaster David Mainse an honorary doctorate degree.  (My favorite Mainse quote: “My wife and I were virgins on our wedding night and we’ve been virgins ever since.”  …They have four children.)
  • Nick Costello’s book, Kiss What? is another book to examine the music scene and might be a resource for the teen in your home who is OD-ing on popular music culture.  Here’s a video preview.
  • Here’s a Vimeo vid on the release of the full (OT & NT) edition of the Common English Bible.  (Note: This HD clip takes awhile to load.)
  • New Blog of the Week: Housewife Theologian by Amiee Byrd — Articles of interest to women and a penchant for reviewing books in the Reformed tradition.
  • He calls his blog The Ugley Vicar and recently posted this hymn verse that was sung while attending a “Junior Clergy” conference; a verse that should be the prayer of all of us:

Facing a task unfinished,
That drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease:
We, who rejoice to know Thee,
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known.

December 23, 2010

An Incredible Act of Generosity

Filed under: charity, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

As we come within hours of a day marked by believers and non-believers alike with a spirit of giving; here’s an example of that kind of giving spirit in action.  Today I want all of you to click the links. I dare you. The first one will take less than 1:00 to read and will make you want to click the second.  But it’s not for the weak of faith.

This is the Christmas Sunday service at Cross Point church in Nashville, Tennessee where Pete Wilson pastors.

To prepare you for what you’re about to read, here’s the short version.

Now that you’re ready for it, here’s the detailed version.

That is one amazing Christmas service people will long remember.


And what better time to remind my Canadian readers that we have two days left to contribute to the Salvation Army iKettle. Click here to donate. Your donations stay with the S.A. branch closest to your community.

Watch or listen to the service at Cross Point.  Go to their media page and select December 20th.

November 25, 2010

Our Now Annual Appeal for the Salvation Army

Filed under: charity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

We’re back with another year of giving our online friends in Canada an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need.   The program is called iKettle. Any of my Canadian readers can host a kettle with a few clicks of the mouse.

Fellow-Canadian blogger Rick Apperson got us on to this last year.  Back then, we decided that if we could raise nearly $4,600 to sponsor my oldest son’s summer working at Camp Iawah, using our mailing list alone, we ought to be able to raise at least $1,000 for the Salvation Army.  We found out quickly that it was going to be a greater challenge.   Not sure why.

Last year we launched this through an e-blast to people in our personal and business e-mail address books.   This year we’re launching it in the blogosphere.

So this is where my Canadian* blog readers kick in. You can’t toss spare change in the kettles anymore because you pay for everything with plastic cards, and you don’t get change. Any bills in your wallet are probably there for emergencies.  Plus, while it pains me to say this, a lot of you shop online and don’t even have the collection kettles in your face anymore.   (Maybe that’s why you shop online!)

So here’s where you go to contribute*.

Donations stay in the community where you live, so if that’s Winnipeg or Calgary or Ottawa or Halifax or some place in-between, that’s where the money will be applied to the Salvation Army Family Services branch; including smaller towns where they have an active presence.

I really hope you’ll help us launch this over this weekend.   We will be repeating this appeal on the blog several times during the next few weeks. Our giving can meet the needs both in overseas relief and development and in the cities and towns closer to home. This is an opportunity to do something on the domestic front in yet another year that’s been rough on many people.

*For my U.S. readers — and there are lots of you — I couldn’t find a direct link to the U.S. program, if there is one. Contact the SA in your local area to find out ways an online donation can serve your own community.


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