Tithing and The Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….

11 Apr

I was in the middle of my brief tenure as a Vineyard worship leader, at the last church I would ever attend as a member.  We were a few weeks into the new year and my pastor called me to discuss the church.  We agreed to meet at Starbucks to go over the upcoming schedule and events.

Later that day, we met up for an overpriced cup of joe and some conversation.  After talking kids and politics, we finally begin talking about the new year for our church.  I had some minor suggestions for developing the worship team, but beyond that, I was interested in hearing what my pastor had in mind.

He began talking about the current crunch financially that the church was facing.  It was before the housing bust and stock crash, but the pinch was beginning to hit a lot of families and giving was down, the church was in the red most months and was beginning to dip into savings just to cover it’s weekly expenses for pastors and facility costs.  I asked how the church had gotten so far behind in the budget.  He told me that they recently had moved locations (a move instigated by my pastor) and that it increased their expenses  by 20%.  I gulped when he told me that number.

“You committed the church to a twenty percent increase in expenses?” I asked.

“We did…I figured our new location would bring in more families and giving would go up to cover the costs” he said.

“If my boss told me I needed to increase my sales 20% with only the same customers, I would have told him he was crazy.” I replied. “Unless God specifically told you to do this, how could you have done this without letting the congregation know?  It just lacks wisdom..” I continued.

It was at this point that he pulled out the silver bullet from his bag of pastoral tricks and told me “Well, I think we just need to teach people to give…I’m planning on a 6 week series on giving and tithing.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Old Testament tithe was an offering of 10% of all sorts of grains and foods that were given to the Levitical priesthood to provide for offerings, feast days, and for consumption by the priests and sometimes the poor.  But the one thing tithes were not, was money.  But this hasn’t stopped many a Christian pastor from insisting that his congregation tithe (give 10%) of all their money to the church.  Even using ominous verses from Malachi, which warns that those who do not tithe are robbing God.

And now my pastor was suggesting he needed to hit our little congregation over the head about tithing, because HE had decided to obligate the church for 20% more money than was typically given to the church.  I wasn’t buying it.

He asked what I thought about the idea for his upcoming sermon series…I flat out told him that I HATED the idea.  First off, because tithing is not even taught as a requirement for Christians and that secondly, it seemed to me that he was using tithing to guilt trip people into giving more money for a decision in which they had no say.

I literally thought he was going to jump out of his skin.  He looked both angry and panicked that I was not going to have his back on this.  He began to desperately try and convince me that Jesus mentioning the tithe in Matthew was justification for teaching it to the church.  I countered that Jesus mentions it in passing to those still under the law and that he used it as a negative example.  Hardly the wringing endorsement that justifies using it to cover up his own financial follies.

I don’t remember all the specifics of our conversation after this point, but I do remember that it was tense and that my pastor decided he was still going to teach on giving, but maybe do a little research on tithing.  But there was one more thing he wanted to discuss….two services.

Even though we didn’t fill out the church with one service, he figured more people would come if we had two services.  Again, it seems that the decision to go to 2 services was based on the hope of growing the church quick, to help cover the bills.  It seemed that very little thought was given to the fact that the worship team and many other volunteers would now be doing double time on Sunday morning.  I didn’t like the idea, but I held my tongue.  I had frustrated him enough already and two services was not a given at this point…

I am sad to report, that he did go ahead and beat the sheep with his tithing and giving series.  He also laid out the church financial crisis without ever taking any responsibility for the decision, and he did finally get his wish of two services.

He decided to begin two services on Easter Sunday.  So, he fished his wish.  But he also lost a worship leader that Sunday….it also happened to be my last Sunday as an active church member.  It will probably be the Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….

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19 Responses to “Tithing and The Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….”

  1. D'Ma April 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    I’ve just been lurking here for a bit, but I’m enjoying your blog! Some of your experiences it awfully close to my own. Thanks for sharing.

  2. christianagnostic April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Lurkers are always appreciated….thanks for the comment. I’d be curious to hear about some of your own similar experiences…but only if you’re comfortable sharing.

  3. christianagnostic April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    D’MA-

    Just clicked on your blog….wow, really good stuff. I’m adding Gullible’s Travels to the blogroll right now.

  4. Freedom April 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    The Tithe was originally a tax to support the government of the time, and it wasn’t 10%. It was more complicated than that.

    The Tithe today was an invention of the Protestant movement to fund the church. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches do not teach the tithe as the various Protestant churches do. Heck, one of the ways the Roman Catholic church came up with to fund the church was one of the reason the Protestants broke away from that church (see Luther and indulgences)

    Pretty good scam for a Pastor “hey, God is requiring you to give 10% of your GROSS earnings to the church. It’s not me saying this, it’s God. You’re stealing from God by not tithing” Pastor doesn’t have to feel guilty for pulling money out of other peoples hands. And, like with CA’s experience, if the church is short on cash, start telling people they are in sin if they aren’t giving 10% of their gross income. And hopefully the money problems will go away after the series on giving. Through in a few Bible verses, a few “here’s what is good about giving” and hope the money problems go away.

    I can tell you if I interviewed for a company and their goal was 20% growth in 1 year, I would not take that job. 20% growth is not the norm – 10% is a normal growth number that can be sustained. 20% is insanity, unless you have come up with something so revolutionary that everyone will want to get their hands on it. Even then, it is not sustainable. A new church or a new location is not revolutionary. Sounds like Pastor Disaster at the local Vineyard read the latest Church Growth (which is really a book on how to increase sales) handbook and decided to get a piece of the action.

    I am not a fan of the Tithe and I view it as nothing more than a money grab. That’s all it is – nothing more, nothing less. It’s the Pastor’s 401k fund. Now, I do agree that if you a member of a church, you should give because you are a member. If you are a member of any club, organization, country club, etc you pay membership dues so the organization can function. A Church is no different. Sure, pay your membership dues. But, a “tithe” that God requires or you are in sin is total BS.

    Great topic – so sad that so many people have paid the ungodly church tax to the point of debt and who knows what else all so a pastor can make his budget…..

    • christianagnostic April 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

      You said

      “20% is insanity, unless you have come up with something so revolutionary that everyone will want to get their hands on it. Even then, it is not sustainable. A new church or a new location is not revolutionary. Sounds like Pastor Disaster at the local Vineyard read the latest Church Growth (which is really a book on how to increase sales) handbook and decided to get a piece of the action.”

      Ok, that is too funny….Pastor Disaster….I just might have to borrow that one. And yes, 20% is insanity. In all my years of business, I’ve only ever seen 20% growth once, and it was for one year after taking a management position in which a lot of the basics had been neglected. Growth continued for years after that, but only at a 5-10% rate.

  5. Freedom April 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    D’Ma – took a quick look at your blog, will have to read more later. Interesting so far!

  6. D'Ma April 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Our last pastor decided we needed to build a whole new church with so-many-square-feet-per-person in each SS class because “research” showed that it would bring the people in. He also decided we needed to add new parking because if more than 80% of the parking spaces were used people wouldn’t come because of a lack of parking.

    “Build it and they will come.” Ugh!

  7. D'Ma April 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks, CA, for the add and thanks for checking me out, Freedom.

    • Freedom April 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      You are welcome! I have heard that church field of dreams growth thought process before – build a big sanctuary and just like a growing foot fills a show, the church will fill up……..

      • D'Ma April 11, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

        Thing about it was we were already in a deficit each week for our budget needs. This new $16M endeavor was a way to grow the membership, increase the Kingdom, and increase giving…not necessarily in that order of priority. Our church had about half of it’s Sunday School classes being unused. We needed to build a shiny new one because the layout of our current building wasn’t really suitable to church growth.

  8. Freedom April 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    That is just nuts, but then again I am rarely surprised at the thing people do
    “in the name of God”. BTW – had a chance to read your (um… Ruth’s) story on your blog – just heartbreaking!!!!

    • Debra Baker April 12, 2012 at 1:38 am #

      CA,

      I know you know me and it humorously irritates me that I have not discerned your identity but your vineyard pastor sounds a hell of a lot like mine.

      Now, I like the Vineyard and they put up with me which is a big order for a bunch of proper Christians but the one area that drives me batshit crazy is the legalistic tithing teaching. It is cliche’ and they use every catch phrase in the book (and I presume there is a book.)

      Church growth, do you really want unchecked proliferation? That usually metastisizes into some sort of tumor or carcinoma. Very well regulated growth is sustainable and healthy.

      Build it and they will come says Frankenstein to Igor but what is built is a mutation what they will come see is a side-show which I would rather not support.

      • christianagnostic April 12, 2012 at 7:02 am #

        DB-

        you said

        “Church growth, do you really want unchecked proliferation? That usually metastisizes into some sort of tumor or carcinoma. Very well regulated growth is sustainable and healthy.”

        That’s ironic, I used to say something similar about cancer and weeds being the only things able to grow at a fantastic rate.

        As for Vineyard, very accepting people and easy going was my experience. But they were just as leagalistic about certain things, like small groups and tithing. The California vibe was a nice switch from the East Coast Mafia like feel of SGM.

        Oh, and prophecy stuff could just be weird sometimes….but that was Vineyard ,I guess.

  9. graceone April 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I certainly agree that his pastor is off base. You were right on with your concern. But, why allow someone else’s muddle headedness to impact our relationship with the body of Christ in general. There is no perfect church for sure, but not all are the same. I’m sure there are plenty of congregations out there who would affirm your views and position in this. Surely, your gifts and input are needed and valuable, AC.

    I feel sad that this is the last Easter service you will ever attend.

  10. NM July 9, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Why stop there ? Now you have begun to rationally assess just what a load of dishonest, maniplulative rubbish this church rep[resents, you know what comes next.

    Katie Holmes did it, so can you, and before you point out that was “not my church”, from where I sit, there is NO difference.

    And, take a few of the other abused congregation with you.

    • christianagnostic July 10, 2012 at 6:25 am #

      NM..thanks for the encouragement. I did speak my mind to anyone that would listen.

      I’m not sure if that’s what you meant by “what comes next”. Feel free to explain further, if you get the chance.

  11. amanda March 19, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    I think you’re opinions on tithing are ridiculous, as is your story. You have no idea what you’re talking about in terms of giving to the church. Food and grain and cattle things of those sorts WE’RE considered money back in the old testament times. Those things were your livelihood. How you were able to eat and sleep and provide for your families. so of course as times change and society develops there is a change n the way the scriptures are APPLIED, not what they IMPLY. The implication is that you give back to God 10% of what you make to create your living habits. I personally am glad you are no longer a leader in that church. I would’t want to be oppressed by someone’s selfish agenda in terms of giving. And as for your pastor, Faith without works is dead. Your pastor took a very spiritually courageous move to have two services. He is preparing for the harvest and as you were not supportive of that maybe you need to find a different faith. If you can’t do radical things in the name of your faith, then i would question whether or not you are actually a believer, your actions say differently. i feel bad for thee people that you are corrupting as they read this. You have made your pastor seem like a man after money and prone to poor decisions an further more you have taken the word of god to mean something that it doesn’t ( just like you said “other churches” do. its people like you that make others feel so poorly about Christianity and giving to the church. I am in college and working a part-time job with crappy pay, i get 12 mpg and have a 25 gallon gas tank, plus a mountain of other bills and i still find a way to give faithfully on every paycheck and I often give more than my 10%.. why do i share this with you? because i act out in faith and have NEVER made a late payment, NEVER gone hungry, and NEVER had to stay home because i didn’t have gad. i don’t know about you, but MY God provides for all my needs, and he had blessed me greatly. Its’ called faithfulness, you should try it sometime.

    • christianagnostic March 19, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

      ugh….amanda, your comment is chock full of stuff to respond to, but alas, I must run out the door to pick up a kiddo from Track and another from the local library.

      I’ll try to respond more fully in the next day or so.

      Thanks for the comment and best wishes.

      CA

    • M April 26, 2017 at 12:59 am #

      Yikes

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