ARE OUR SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED?
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 THE FOLLOWING interesting bit of information was recently gleaned from a religious news service on the Internet (1/9/2001):
  • Churchgoers are donating an increasingly smaller share of their incomes. The percentage of income Protestants give fell from 3.1 in 1968 to 2.5 in 1998, according to Empty Tomb, a research group in Champaign, Illinois. That means church members gave $4 billion less in 1998 than they would have if they were giving at the same rate they did in 1968. Total annual contributions rose by an average of $202 to $570 per church member, after inflation was taken into account, because incomes also rose.

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  • Most of the money is being spent on salaries, in-church programs, and building-maintenance rather than on outreach efforts such as missions and services for the poor. Donations for external church activities dropped to a 30-year low as a percentage of income, falling below 0.4 percent, according to the study. Gifts to support local congregations represented 2.2 percent of church membersí income in 1998.

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  • The report said that if U. S. church members had tithed, or given 10 percent of after-tax income in 1998, churches would have had an additional $131 billion to help the poor. About 30,000 children die each day, many from problems that would cost relatively little to fix, the authors of the report said. The study, "The State of Church Giving Through 1998," tracked 30 mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations.
 These words seem to confirm what we have been suspicious of for a long time. Modern "churches," to a great extent, are self-centered, self-indulgent and lavish most of their attention upon themselves. Giving falls way below the Old Testament standard of 10 percent, being only one-fourth of a tithe (let alone thinking in terms of the cross of Christ and sacrifice). Then, that which is received is used by the "churches" to house themselves in finer and finer buildings (buildings of which the New Testament says not a word). A well-paid staff of specialized "ministers" is hired to do what all of the members individually should be doing (Epheisans 4:11-16), and reaching beyond that, entertaining and pleasing them with endless play programs. Spending money beyond themselves with the Great Commission in mind is secondary and forgotten (and little money is left for this, even if the thought ever seriously entered their minds). The poor and worthy causes beyond their own little circle, if remembered there, are forgotten as they pamper and indulge themselves more and more.
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 Beloved, God has dealt with us abundantly in grace and mercy. As we truly imbibe the wonderful teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us have everything in proper perspective. And then reach out unselfishly as Christians individually and collectively to fulfill our mission as his church in this world. We have freely received, let us freely give. Genuine love and appreciation will not let us do otherwise.
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