Last week I asked if the church is doing a good job of helping the poor and spreading the gospel.

In my own experience, many churches are at least trying to help the needy and unchurched in their own cities. (Their effectiveness at this is a subject for another day.) But what about the poor and unreached in more remote areas?

It is easier—and perhaps more appropriate—to send money in this case. (I’ll talk more about why I believe that’s true next month.)

As believers, we give to our local churches. A certain percentage of the offering is then designated for “benevolence” or “missions.”  (I’ve seen “missions” mean anything from packaging dried soup mix, to helping the Hispanic church down the street, to “adopting” an unreached people group.) We trust the church leaders to spend our money wisely and responsibly.

According to David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson: “In 2000, American evangelicals collectively made $2.66 trillion in income [italics mine].” (They also point out that worldwide, Great Commission Christians have personal income totaling $6.8 trillion a year.) And in the year 1995 (the most recent year I could find data on), more than $60 billion a year was being donated to religious nonprofit organizations.

Clearly, there is plenty of money. (There would be even more if we all tithed.) The question is—what are we doing with it all?

We are spending it on ourselves.

As cited on the Generous Giving website:

  • When asked, “What would you do with an unexpected financial windfall?” 31% of Protestant pastors said they would build, expand or update their church buildings and facilities. [Only] 7 percent said they would give more to foreign missions and evangelism.1
  • American churches spend an average of 22% of their budgets on the upkeep or expansion of their physical buildings.2
  • Eighty-five percent of all church activity and funds is directed toward the internal operations of the congregation, such as staff salaries, utility expenses, and Sunday school materials.3
  • Only two cents of every dollar given by American Christians goes to support overseas ministries.4

Consider our priorities in light of some statistics:

Claude Rosenberg and Tim Stone, in “A New Take on Tithing,” explain that “… annual expenditures of $19 billion between now [2006, when the article was written] and 2015 could eliminate global starvation and malnutrition. Another $12 billion per year over that same time period could provide education for every child on earth. And an additional $15 billion each year could provide universal access to clean water and sanitation.”

The church has more than enough resources to wipe out hunger, provide everyone with safe water, and accomplish universal education. And there is still money left over to spread the gospel. Perhaps if we accomplish the former, the world will be more willing to listen to the latter.

What is keeping us from making God’s priorities our own?


[1] John L. Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2000 (Champaign, Ill.: Empty Tomb, 2002), 111.
[2] Lifeway Research, Average Church Budget Spending, n.d.
[3] John L. Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2000 (Champaign, Ill.: Empty Tomb, 2002), 13.
[4] John L. Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2000 (Champaign, Ill.: Empty Tomb, 2002), 1.

One thought on “Priorities

  1. Pingback: Throwing Money — Compost

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