If American Evangelicals are Stingy, It is Because They Attend Churches that are Even Stingier

Christianity Today posted its annual beat-down article on Christian stinginess this week, lambasting evangelical Christians for giving just 4% of their income to churches (compared to their even stingier mainline counterparts, who give just 2.43%, according to the latest empty tomb, inc. research).

The article quotes Ron Sider as being particularly scathing in his denouncement:

For Christians in the richest nation in history to be giving only 2.43 percent of their income to their churches is not just stinginess, it is biblical disobedience—blatant sin. We have become so seduced by the pervasive consumerism and materialism of our culture that we hardly notice the ghastly disjunction between our incredible wealth and the agonizing poverty in the world. Over the last 40 years, American Christians (as we have grown progressively richer) have given a smaller and smaller percent of our growing income to the ministries of our churches. Such behavior flatly contradicts what the Bible teaches about God, justice, and wealth. We should be giving not 2.4 percent but 10 percent, 15 percent, even 25 to 35 percent or more to kingdom work. Most of us could give 20 percent and not be close to poverty.”

True, that. And yet none of the commentators in the story posit a connection between the purported stinginess of Christians and the graph on overseas mission giving by denomination that appears in the same CT issue. That chart shows how much of each denominational dollar received goes to missions:

  • Christian and Missionary Alliance: 11 cents
  • Church of the Nazarene: 6 cents
  • Southern Baptists: 2 cents
  • Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: 1 cent
  • …and so on

Terry Austin from Generous Church notes that “ninety-seven percent of all money that people give to the church is spent on the people who give it.”

Why would stingy churches and stingy denominations be producing generous Christians?

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.
–Jesus, from Luke 6:43-44

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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4 Responses to If American Evangelicals are Stingy, It is Because They Attend Churches that are Even Stingier

  1. Crusher says:

    At least Sider is accurate in claiming the behavior “contradicts what the Bible teaches” and doesn’t say it is what the churches are teaching now. I’m not sure his diagnosis and finger pointing does much to help though.

    Identifying the problem as consumerism and materialism rather than sin and berating people for what they should be doing rather than what Christ did may be as much a part of our church’s incorrect teachings as their demonstration of a lack of generosity.

  2. John Lee says:

    Point made Eric! Thanks for reminding us that spiritual formation at any level must be modeled first. So thankful for Sider’s message, but your point needs to be taken to heart as well…

  3. If anyone find the book where the 97% is mentioned, could you please provide the title, author, etc.? So far none of the authors will respond or quote this source and I can’t find it anywhere. Citing a blog is not reliable when no source info has been provided.

    • EFoley says:

      Terry said that the source is Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson. Hope that helps, Robert (and all).

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