The Cure For Christian Stinginess: Talk More About Ourselves?

In yesterday’s post we shared Michael Emerson’s report to the Presbyterian Church (USA) concerning the (sad and sorry) state of church giving.

In today’s post we share the PC-USA’s groundbreaking response:

To boost  denominational missions giving, the PC-USA will be sending missionaries to speak in churches to raise support.

Hm?

There are flyers and advertisements promoting the event that churches can download, built around the theme of “partnership”:

Partnership is at the core of the way Presbyterians participate in missions. Presbyterians at home partner with missions workers to share the good news around the globe. Mission workers partner with local churches in their country of service to support that part of Christ’s body.

Flyers, advertisements, “partnerships”, speakers. I don’t suppose any of this sounds too familiar to you?

I’m certainly not sure what in this is groundbreaking (although the website is at least duly modest in calling this a “second of its kind effort”).

Larry Lloyd at the Memphis Leadership Foundation told me the other day, “Transformational Giving first requires a change in the self-identity of the nonprofit leader. TG leaders have to be fundamentally committed to mentoring their champions to do the ministry. Absent that self-identity change, TG can never take root in an organization.”

In the PC-USA “Mission Challenge”:

  • The missions self-identity of the congregation is supplier-of-money-and-prayers;
  • The missions self-identity of the missionary is doer-of-ministry;
  • The missions self-identity of the church in the country where the missionary is serving is receipient-of-ministry.

This has been so uncritically unaccepted by churches, missionaries, and mission churches for several generations that today missionaries and denominations like the PC-USA believe that the major hold-up in missions is that US congregations aren’t doing their part to supply money. They quote statistics like the ones we shared from Emerson yesterday, saying:

If American Christians were serious about giving more, the impact could be stunning. For example, if committed Christians (meaning regular church attenders or those who describe themselves as “strong” or “very strong” Christians) tithed, that would provide an extra $46 billion a year, the book concludes. With that, “we could basically end poverty,” eliminate diseases such as malaria, feed and house and clothe the world’s refugees, provide five million microloans, “and have a lot left over,” Emerson said.

Or, as Emerson states more explicitly in the story:

Most American Christians are pretty stingy.

The PC-USA is banking that the cure for this stinginess is sending out missionaries to talk more about themselves and their work.

But what if the problem is not that congregations haven’t heard enough missionary speakers but that the self-identities themselves are faulty…that what we’re seeing is an inevitable consequence of (unscripturally) defining some people as ministers and other as human ATM machines?

I don’t believe that American Christians aren’t actually “pretty stingy”. It is, after all, the generous Holy Spirit that is coursing through them. Rather, I believe American Christians are pretty poorly discipled, working from faulty self-identities that have been bequeathed to them (and reinforced by countless speakers) that give them a deflated sense of both what they can do and what God is calling and empowering them to do.

Moreover, I believe American Christians have the good sense to know that being a Christian must mean something more than, different than, giving money away to professionals to do ministry.

The corrective? A deep dive into scripture to remember what are self-identities are supposed to be, what God’s goals are for the church, what God’s roles are for leaders in the church.

May God raise up a generation of missionaries with self-identities formed by Ephesians 4:11-13!

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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