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GCRTF VIEWPOINT (Les Puryear): The ‘hypocrisy’ of ‘Great Commission Giving’

LEWISVILLE, N.C. (BP)–Recently the senior pastor of a megachurch in Tennessee was roundly criticized in the liberal blogosphere because he preached on tithing.

The criticism came not just because he preached on tithing but due to the way he preached on tithing. This pastor said that church members should give at least 10 percent of their income undesignated to the church. He said that if his members did not do this they would be “robbing God” (Malachi 3:8). The controversy came in the illustrations this pastor used to make his point. He said that the people who did not tithe to the church were living in stolen homes and driving around in stolen cars. Stolen from God.

Recently in a conversation I had with a SBC seminary president, he told me that “gracious giving” begins with giving 10 percent to the church undesignated. He was quick to make the point that “gracious giving” should not be limited to 10 percent but should be greater than that.

In a recent blog post, I solicited and received quotes from SBC leaders in support of storehouse tithing. These leaders included, among others, Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Danny Akin and Dr. Johnny Hunt. Every one of these SBC leaders teaches that church members should give at least 10 percent of their income undesignated to their local church.

In each of the examples I have cited, I agree wholeheartedly with the positions on giving that these men preach and teach. That is why I am so disappointed in the recommendation of the GCRTF in regard to “Great Commission Giving.”

The concept of “Great Commission Giving” sounds so noble and good and right. It sounds like an innovative way to get more money to missions. This is something with which we all agree, right? The only problem with “Great Commission Giving” is that underneath all of the rhetoric about giving more to missions is the fact that this concept is nothing more than advocating designated giving at the expense of undesignated giving.

If church members practiced “Great Commission Giving” in their church, I dare say these same pastors would howl and scream against such an unbiblical practice.

The final report of the GCRTF is filled with rhetoric about the Cooperative Program being the main channel of giving in the SBC. But at the same time, the report seeks to legitimize designated giving to missions as well. Now if the report had said that every church is encouraged to give at least 10 percent to the Cooperative Program and every penny above that can be contributed in a designated fashion and the combination of these would be a new giving paradigm known as “Great Commission Giving,” then I would stand up and shout “Hooray!” But that is not what the final report advocates.

Most small church pastors are doing their very best to keep their churches financially solvent. Many are striving for this at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. When a pastor is only making $25K per year, giving a tithe is a real sacrifice. But most small church pastors tithe because they believe it is biblical and they believe they should model biblical principles to the church where God has placed them.

The ongoing ministry of small churches all around the country (83.4 percent of all SBC churches) depends upon tithing for the church to survive. God is gracious as He has promised in Malachi, chapter 3, and He provides for His people to work through His people to reach the lost in their community and beyond.

What would happen to these small churches if everyone in the church decided to ignore the biblical concept of undesignated giving of the tithe and changed to designated giving to their favorite cause? The church would not be able to pay its bills, salaries, upkeep on the property and would, eventually, die. Now I know that paying bills and doing maintenance on buildings is not very “cool,” but it is a necessity that must be faced.

The concept of “Great Commission Giving” is the same as designated giving in the local church. This is equivalent to the disgruntled church member who, because he disagrees with what the church is doing, redirects his giving to his pet projects and gives nothing for the daily operations of the church. This attitude seems to be prevalent among the more affluent members of the church. They use their giving as a weapon to get what they want done in the church. The constant threat is “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll stop giving.” Is this attitude any different in the framers of “Great Commssion Giving”?

In the title of this article, I purposely used the word “hypocrisy.” Now this is a strong word, but I think it is an accurate word. Although most of our affluent churches teach and preach undesignated tithing to the local church, they do not practice undesignated tithing to the SBC.

How does the church of the senior pastor of the affluent church in Tennessee who was criticized for his aggressive preaching on undesignated tithing do in CP giving? His church gives 1 percent of undesignated receipts to CP. Is it not hypocritical to preach tithing to the local church and not practice tithing through CP? Perhaps if more affluent churches actually practiced CP tithing, the SBC would have more money for all ministries and not just the pet projects of the affluent church.

As I was analyzing the latest appointments to the Committee on Committees, I noticed an appointee was from a church which averaged more than 17,000 in worship attendance, had undesignated receipts of many millions of dollars, but gave only $6,000 to CP. Is it not hypocritical to preach tithing to the local church and not practice tithing through CP?

After thinking all of this through, I am also convicted of my own church’s giving to CP. In the last five years, we have moved from 5 percent CP giving to 8 percent. Not bad, but not good enough. It is my intention to recommend to our finance committee that our CP giving be increased to 10 percent in 2011. I, too, need to put my money where my mouth is.

When affluent churches do not tithe to CP, they are saying that the ministries that depend on CP giving are not as valuable as their favorite ministries. They are saying that state conventions are not valuable to their needs, so they choose not to cooperate for the good of all churches.

I think that is the bottom line here. Affluent churches don’t see the value of cooperating with other churches through CP giving. There is nothing in it for them, so why should they give more through CP? Greater CP giving does nothing for their church, so why increase CP giving?

“Great Commission Giving” demonstrates that the spirit of cooperation, which used to be a hallmark of the SBC, is fading away into “How is this going to accomplish what I want to do?” Instead of our churches impacting the culture around us for Christ, the culture around us has had more impact on us. Perhaps this is the real reason that SBC churches are doing so poorly in accomplishing the Great Commission.
Les Puryear, who posted this article on his blog May 5, is pastor of Lewisville (N.C.) Baptist Church.

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