Last week at Annual Conference, the “hammer was dropped” on two of our larger churches who do not participate in the tithe system set up by our conference.
In the case of both churches, it is not a case where they simply don’t have the money to tithe and cover their expenses. It basically boils down to choice. They have made the choice not to give in the system our Annual Conference has set up. It’s not that these churches avoid giving…both do incredible things in their communities and in our world. These are thriving churches with amazing ministries and outreach. They have simply decided not to meet the expectations of giving set by our Annual Conference. And, I’m sure they have their reasons.
Bishop Coyner made comment that basically stated, “if you want to find reasons not to give, you can find them.” He went on to say something along the lines of “instead of finding reasons not to give, I’d like to focus more on faith and trust.”
It’s interesting… There are ways in which these churches could be disciplined, if so desired. Some would says it’s because of their size that they have not been “forced” into meeting giving requirements. However, I think in the practice of grace, the desire is to simply remind them of our call…and to continually offer the opportunity to participate.
At the same time, it’s somewhat easy to talk about and focus on the 2 big churches who do not participate (or do not fully participate)…especially because it’s highly likely that they did not have any representatives in the room during that particular session. My guess is that if both churches tithed to the district, conference, and general conference, money would not be much of an issue. These are large churches with large budgets.
But, what about the other churches that do not fully participate in our system of giving? I know that some churches have to decide between paying the light bill or their tithe. But, isn’t that what faith and trust and obedience is all about?
If we are obedient and faithful in our giving, it is my belief that God will provide. Somehow those lights will stay on.
Afterall, isn’t this what we ask of our people on a weekly basis? The individual sitting in the congregation on a Sunday morning is confronted with a choice…”do I give to the church or something else…and how much do I give?” Choices! “Do I give a full tithe…or do I hold on to some in order to supersize my McDonald’s order after church?” At the same time, the question could be, “Do I cut back on my personal expenditures and give more than a tithe?” Choices…
The bottom line is that giving is a choice. Whether it’s the local church or an individual, we all make a choice on what, when, and how we give. In those two big churches, the pastors and leaders have made a decision not to participate in our conference’s system of giving. Other churches and individuals struggle with the same choice. I know that Christ UMC started 2010 off with a desire and commitment to pay our full tithe. It’s a matter of choice.
So, when it comes to giving…what choice will you make?