Thinking Out Loud

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.

Advertisements

July 25, 2017

Church Funding in Europe

We almost walked by this little office, but the word “Evangelisher” caught my eye. A wonderful 15-minute conversation awaited us inside.

Actually, if a search engine brought you here and you’re looking for the definitive article on this subject this isn’t it. If you can deal with the pop-ups, this website is quite helpful.

But I do want to share some impressions we took away from a very brief meeting with an English speaking worker at Evangelisher Informationsladen in Nuremberg, Germany.

North American ears probably miss the significance of the phrase “registered church.” It’s part of life in many parts of the world. In Germany it’s significant in terms of the church itself being registered with the government, but also that members identify with a registered church. And here it gets interesting: 8% (in some areas 9%) of the members’ personal income is taxed and given to the church.

Solves the whole tithing problem, I suppose.  Or does it? Stay tuned.

If you did click the first link (above) you noted that a lot of people simply have themselves taken off the rolls in order to avoid the tax, even if they continue to hold a personal faith. That alone is enough to skew religious affiliation data. In both the Czech example mentioned a few days ago and this situation, it means potentially there might be more Christians in Europe than any official government stats show, just for different reasons.

But here’s another factor: Newer Evangelical or Charismatic groups don’t register at all. They meet in homes or find other spaces. Our contact was worried that these groups are becoming more numerous and more vocal.

It’s a concern for two reasons. First these groups have arrived on the religious scene under the banner of young earth, six day creation. Second, they have an extreme view of the sovereignty of God which leaves out any room for free will, even in more trivial details of life. We covered this a few days ago at this article. But it also means that numerically, some disappearing off the rolls of established Lutheran or Catholic churches are attending these newer churches, which would, by necessity, have to rely on something similar to a North American tithing model to meet any expenses that might arise, even without having to maintain an historical building…

…A few weeks ago Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario told the story of a visitor asking, “How do you fund all this?” I guess he thought there must be some support at one or several levels of government in order to maintain their megachurch auditorium and adjacent Christian education meeting rooms and classrooms. Bruxy explained the people support it, but we know statistically that North Americans, on average, are not tithing 10%, or even 8%.

According to The State of the Plate study, in North America, the state of tithing moving forward may depend on the behavior of “young (i.e., future) donors. But their habits may prove difficult to capitalize on. According to the survey, people in their 20s and 30s are much more likely to miss church in the first place, making getting in-person connections and donations much harder…”

The report continues, “Young people (the same demographic) are also more likely to give less frequently than other generations, with 6 in 10 giving no more than twice per month and sometimes only once every few months. Perhaps most damagingly, though, only about 3 out of 5 (63%) young people give 10 percent or more of their income to church. For everyone aged 40 or over, the average is 4 out of 5 (83%)…”

According to the website Charity Navigator, “Total giving as a percentage of GDP was 2.1% for three of the four years, 2013–2016… Historically, Religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations. This remained true in 2016. With the 3.0% increase in donations this year, 32% of all donations, or $122.94 billion, went to Religious organizations. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship.”

But comparing the 8 or 9% church tax in Germany to the North American 10% tithing ideal changes when you consider that it’s not 8% of income, but 8% of income tax. A 2015 article at Catholic News Agency (CNA) notes, “When Germans register as Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish on their tax forms, the government automatically collects an income tax from them which amounts to 8 or 9 percent of their total income tax, or 3-4 percent of their salary.”

Do Christians in Germany make additional contributions? Is the offering plate passed on Sunday morning? Giving is part of Christian worship, so we must assume that is the case, but would someone contributing through payroll deductions bother to put anything additional in the plate? That was a question we didn’t get around to asking.

According to a Wikipedia article on Religion in Berlin, “The largest denominations as of 2010 are the Protestant regional church body of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO), a united church comprising mostly Lutheran, a few Reformed and United Protestant congregations. EKBO is a member of both the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and Union Evangelischer Kirchen (UEK) claiming 18.7 percent of the city population.”

But that needs to be seen in perspective as the article also says, “About 60 percent of Berlin residents have no registered religious affiliation. Berlin has been described as the ‘atheist capital of Europe’ in 2009.”

Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church in particular doesn’t retain the church tax it collects, as the infographic in our initial link reminds us that, “a sizeable portion of the Catholic money is also channeled to The Vatican.”  Catholics who opt out face other issues as the CNA article notes:

German bishops – who each earn an average salary of 7,000 Euro per month (some up to 14,000 Euro along with free housing and cars, according to Lohmann) – issued a decree in September 2012 calling such departure “a serious lapse” and listing a number of ways they are barred from participating in the life of the Church.

The decree specified that those who do not pay the church tax cannot receive the sacraments of Confession, Communion, Confirmation, or Anointing of the Sick, except when in danger of death; cannot hold ecclesial office or perform functions within the Church; cannot be a godparent or sponsor; cannot be a member of diocesan or parish councils; and cannot be members of public associations of the Church.

If those who de-registered show no sign of repentance before their death, they can even be refused a religious burial.

And while these penalties have been described as “de facto excommunication,” the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, wrote in a March 13, 2006 document that opting out of taxes in a civil situation was not the same as renouncing the faith, and thus excommunication did not apply to such persons.

So while a cursory reading of a statement like, “The church gets 8% of the personal income tax collected;” seems to indicate a measure of financial strength and stability, declining membership and secularization would seem to threaten the future of that source of funding.

 

 

 

 

October 6, 2013

Christianity: Flying Solo

This is a rebroadcast (!) of an article which appeared here a year ago…

Increasingly, many people are following a solo track in their Christian life. With a proliferation of streaming church services, online sermons and podcasts and Christian books appearing at rate we’ve never before experienced, it’s both tempting and easy to go it alone.

In the past I’ve challenged some people to wrestle with a few questions:

  1. What do you do for Christian fellowship?
  2. What people or group comprise your covering when you need prayer?
  3. Where do you experience the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion?
  4. How do you experience corporate worship?

These are all serious questions which have theological underpinnings; and anyone who is actually maturing in their Christ-following is going to run up against these sooner or later.

But with the fiscal year-end serving as a reminder — though hopefully not fully the motivation — it’s also a good time to look at another question:

  • Where or how do you experience alms-giving or tithing?

If you are currently outside of a faith family, may I make a few suggestions?

First you should give something to whoever does provide you with teaching and nurture: The online church, the radio ministry, the provider of devotional literature you receive. I’m assuming that one or more of these exist in your life because absent those factors, plus the ones listed above, I’d question the arena in which your faith journey operates.

Second here’s a stretched analogy to help you find some giving possibilities:

Jerusalem

In our area this could include:

  • a ministry reaching youth such as a local chapter of Youth for Christ
  • a faith-based ministry reaching the poor and marginalized such as The Salvation Army
  • the local Christian radio station which relies on donations more than commercial revenue
  • the local crisis pregnancy center
  • the local Christian school which needs donation to supplement parent fees

Judea

Here you’re looking at regional ministries. In our area this might be:

  • Christian camp ministries, making a difference in the life of children and teens
  • organizations that place Bibles in prisons, schools, hotels such as The Gideons
  • faith-based group homes and residences for people dealing with addictions or family crisis

Samaria

In the original passage, Samaria is more of a descriptor of “the place you don’t want to go” than a geographic reference. To me, this represents a ministry to a select people group than a particular place. We’ve known of ministries to a select ethnic group within our country; to street people in urban centers; to Gay/Lesbians; to professionals; to people needing jobs; to people with a specific medial condition; to the elderly; to a specific arts community; etc.

Uttermost Parts

This could include:

  • worldwide Bible translations organizations such as Wycliffe or Bible distributors such as the various Bible societies or Megavoice
  • faith-based relief and development agencies such as Compassion
  • ministries raising awareness of religious persecution of missionaries and Christians in nations claiming religious liberty; and/or dealing with issues such as human trafficking
  • evangelistic organizations with worldwide impact such as Billy Graham’s

These are just suggestions.

As a Lone Ranger Christian, you are still part of the body if not a local assembly. Addressing the giving question still doesn’t address the prayer and worship and fellowship and communion issues, but it’s a place you can begin, even on a weekday.

Comments?

October 9, 2012

Lone Ranger Christianity

Increasingly, many people are following a solo track in their Christian life. With a proliferation of streaming church services, online sermons and podcasts and Christian books appearing at rate we’ve never before experienced, it’s both tempting and easy to go it alone.

In the past I’ve challenged some people to wrestle with a few questions:

  1. What do you do for Christian fellowship?
  2. What people or group comprise your covering when you need prayer?
  3. Where do you experience the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion?
  4. How do you experience corporate worship?

These are all serious questions which have theological underpinnings; and anyone who is actually maturing in their Christ-following is going to run up against these sooner or later.

But with the fiscal year-end serving as a reminder — though hopefully not fully the motivation — it’s also a good time to look at another question:

  • Where or how do you experience alms-giving or tithing?

If you are currently outside of a faith family, may I make a few suggestions? 

First you should give something to whoever does provide you with teaching and nurture: The online church, the radio ministry, the provider of devotional literature you receive. I’m assuming that one or more of these exist in your life because absent those factors, plus the ones listed above, I’d question the arena in which your faith journey operates.

Second here’s a stretched analogy to help you find some giving possibilities:

Jerusalem

In our area this could include:

  • a ministry reaching youth such as a local chapter of Youth for Christ
  • a faith-based ministry reaching the poor and marginalized such as The Salvation Army
  • the local Christian radio station which relies on donations more than commercial revenue
  • the local crisis pregnancy center
  • the local Christian school which needs donation to supplement parent fees

Judea

Here you’re looking at regional ministries. In our area this might be:

  • Christian camp ministries, making a difference in the life of children and teens
  • organizations that place Bibles in prisons, schools, hotels such as The Gideons
  • faith-based group homes and residences for people dealing with addictions or family crisis

Samaria

In the original passage, Samaria is more of a descriptor of “the place you don’t want to go” than a geographic reference. To me, this represents a ministry to a select people group than a particular place. We’ve known of ministries to a select ethnic group within our country; to street people in urban centers; to Gay/Lesbians; to professionals; to people needing jobs; to people with a specific medial condition;  to the elderly; to a specific arts community; etc.

Uttermost Parts

This could include:

  • worldwide Bible translations organizations such as Wycliffe or Bible distributors such as the various Bible societies or Megavoice
  • faith-based relief and development agencies such as Compassion
  • ministries raising awareness of religious persecution of missionaries and Christians in nations claiming religious liberty; and/or dealing with issues such as human trafficking
  • evangelistic organizations with worldwide impact such as Billy Graham’s

These are just suggestions.

As a Lone Ranger Christian, you are still part of the body if not a local assembly. Addressing the giving question still doesn’t address the prayer and worship and fellowship and communion issues, but it’s a place you can begin, even on a weekday.

Comments?

January 13, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Oh, Oh, The places you’ll go!   This week we open with some lighter fare, and then move something more “think-provoking:”

  • Perry Noble asks the musical question, “What if the Pharisees Had Twittered?”   Read the tweets here.
  • Got 65 minutes?  Apparently, Mark Driscoll finds the Bible rather funny.   Personally, I was taught a little more reverence for scripture than this.
  • From the humorous to the ridiculous:  First came pet blessings, now comes the blessing of laptops and cell phones.
  • Mike Wittmer has 15 Signs That Your Sermon Isn’t Going Well — you may disagree on #13 — as he Monday Morning Quarterbacks at the blog Don’t Stop Believing.
  • At last!  A webpage that tells you the religious affiliation of every known superhero.
  • Blog of the week:  Can you handle another Atlanta blogger?  Tom calls his blog More Than Useless.
  • When it comes to church buildings, conferences, leadership and missions, Tim Stevens looks at the changes that have taken place in one decade here (part one) and here (part two).
  • The Christian Ranter notes that technology is currently taking us backward, not forward, in this piece, Devolution and Idiocracy.
  • Dean Lusk, inspired by Francis Chan’s church’s 100% giveaway of their Christmas Sunday offering, ponders what might be the reaction if he proposed this at his own church.   At the blog ‘egbdf’ check out Our Bottom Line.
  • Our YouTube non-embed of the week is from Craig Groeschel lifechurch.tv and gives us a whole new (disturbing) perspective of Church Online.
  • Next on the list was going to be a link to the Top 50 Bible Blogs that I assure you, you’ve never heard of, but the BiblioBlogTop50 blog on wordpress is now invitation only.   A secret blog about mystery blogs.  Wish I’d done a screenshot when I was in yesterday.   Anyone know a magic password? Update: And suddenly it was working again.
  • Shouldn’t news anchors be somewhat impartial?   It took a lot of courage for Brit Hume to suggest on Fox News that Tiger Woods would experience more forgiveness in a Christian context than his Buddhist faith offers.   But was it a wise move?
  • Cathleen Falsani thinks that — next to the whole prosperity gospel thing — the use of Jesus as a marketing tool is The (Second) Worst Religious Idea of the Decade; as she states here at Sojourners.
  • Trevin Wax reviews a new IVP title that focuses on a very specific subsection of the baptism debate, the baptism of infants.   Does the book get the job done?   Check out his thoughts on Baptism: Three Views.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2005 classic from Reverend Fun

December 31, 2008

National Trends Affecting Your Local Church in 2008 — Evaluating Our Predictions

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, theology, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:16 pm

This blog began in February, but has a previous history as a bi-weekly e-mail that was sent out to about 250 people in our local area.  On December 30th last year, I published a list of fifteen trends I saw in play that I felt my original, Ontario readers might want to consider.   Now, it’s time to check the scorecard and see how I made out.

First things first, the rest of you need to see the original article.   It’s been placed as a “page” on this blog, or you can simply use this link.    Then you can return and read the comments below.   Later today or tomorrow, I’ll post a new list for 2009 which I think contains issues that are going to be more relevant, and makes last year’s list look somewhat superficial.

>>> pause to read the original article, if you wish <<<

Scorecard:

  1. Longer Teaching Time — The ‘originals’ did a good job of this, but some of the ‘copycats’ can’t sustain audience interest past the 32-minute mark.   I see the sermon length continuing to expand to 35-40 minutes in places where it heretofore has not.
  2. More Expository Preaching — I was wrong on this.   Didn’t see the trend grow, though I got personally hooked on Greg Boyd.   For many others, I think verse-by-verse is a rather lazy approach if you aren’t going to include background material and related texts.   But it’s easy to be a critic if you’re not crafting a weekly sermon.
  3. Less Sung Worship — I was wrong.   For most worship leaders, it’s still largely about the musical material; though many are now busy designing media pieces.  (See 2009 trends list.)
  4. Fewer Overt Offerings — I was wrong.  This turned out to be more of a 2007 trend than anything new playing out in ’08
  5. More Direct Involvement in the Third World — Yes!  Financial and personal through mission trips.
  6. More Direct Involvement in Meeting Local Poverty — Yes!  Though it’s still not affecting every local church.
  7. More Small Groups and Smaller Churches — Yes!  It was the smaller churches part of the prediction that became more relevant.
  8. Church Closings — I was half right.   The closings that took place weren’t for the logical reasons given but often had to do with the economy or leadership scandals.
  9. The Youth-ification of Sunday Morning — (Only I didn’t phrase it that succinctly…)  This trend continued, although since Ancient-Future means that everything old is new again, it’s actually hard to tell if “Be Still My Soul” is a hymn of antiquity, or the coolest, new, ” in” worship song.
  10. Increased security at Church — It’s been awhile since 9/11 and while larger churches have plain clothed and uniformed security people, as well as detailed emergency plans, most medium-sized churches didn’t spend time this year considering this.
  11. Empowering the Broken — Giving voice to divorced people or single moms at the leadership level is something that is taking place very slowly over a longer period of time.
  12. Real Community — If this is playing out more at all, it’s playing out in conjunction with factor #7.   Larger churches which do their small groups by zip code instead of just having homogeneous interest groups are ahead of the curve on this trend.
  13. Continuity Throughout the Church Year — With so many pastors preaching ‘series’ messages, the only way to measure the ‘interruptions’ is to see if there’s a break Sunday between series.    This item should have clarified to include not only the quality of the teaching, but the quality of the worship.  The issue of ‘disruptions’ should have been dealt with separately.  Also, some pastors are simply away from their church too often.  There.  I said it.
  14. Unity across Denominational Lines — Yes!   Heard  more good stories of cooperation and financial support.   The younger generation doesn’t really care whether the sign outside says “MacDonald’s” or “Wendy’s” as long as you can buy a hamburger.   (Okay, so the analogy has some issues…)
  15. Several Sabbaths — I’d guess I was wrong on this.   Most churches still focus on “weekend” programming as the high point of the week.   Don’t hear too many stories of amazing things taking place on a Tuesday or a Thursday in most cities, and now, even New Community on Wednesdays at Willow is part of history.   (We drove from Canada just to attend a New Community; drove the border guard nuts trying to explain we were driving just to see a church service!)

So, like I said, this list is going to seem somewhat superficial when we look at some trends I’m concerned about for 2009.    Stand by.   In the meantime, don’t comment on these unless you’ve read both the above and the original predictions on the link.

Blog at WordPress.com.