Giving USA, the leading authority on charitable giving, has just released its findings for 2011. Giving as a whole rose by roughly 4% to 298 billion dollars. This is about a 1% increase when inflation is factored in. Giving was particularly strong from individuals, with bequest giving up by over 12%. Giving to health, education, human services, arts, international affairs, environment, and animal organizations were all up. However; giving to religion DECREASED BY NEARLY 2% and is now down to 32% of the whole, its lowest level on record.
The authors of the study wrote, "These (individual giving) increases are encouraging signs of two things: that Americans are feeling better about their personal financial situations . . . allowing them to continue and even increase their donation levels and that they feel philanthropy remains a core value worthy of support." But what does it say about their feelings regarding the church?
I am not at all surprised that giving increased in 2011. I heard from too many donors that they were in much better condition to give last year and they had a renewed confidence in what the future would bring. As they chose to give again, or chose to give more, in many instances, they made a decision to leave religion, and specifically the church, out of the equation.
It is interesting that gifts to international charities rose by almost 8%. All this money leaves the United States. The local church is right down the block!! Persons are saying loudly, it seems to me, that they have far more confidence in these organizations to make a difference in people's lives than they do the missionary efforts of churches. They trust hunger organizations to fight hunger better than their church. They trust educational organizations to fight illiteracy better than their church. They trust health organizations to fight disease better than their church. They trust peace and justice organizations to fight for peace and justice better than their church. Right or wrong opinion, the facts do not lie and it is abundantly obvious that Americans are losing confidence in the church and distributing their dollars to others to make a difference.
The clear mission of most churches is simple. They are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. They are to take persons who do not know Jesus and introduce them to Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. THAT IS THE MISSION AND THE MORE WE MOVE AWAY FROM IT THE MORE THE DOLLARS WILL MOVE, AS WELL. When we do our job of making a disciple then that disciple may lead a hunger organization or peace organization or health organization in the name of Jesus. But we did our job when we made the disciple. Have we too often first tried to heal, feed, or educate and forgotten Jesus in the process? I think persons are saying by their dollars, Yes you have!
Do your people have any clue as to what the mission of your church is? Do they cheer for a new soul saved and know they have won a victory when one person repents? Do they gather weekly to truly touch the face of God and worship His Holy name or just like the fellowship and doing some good every now and then? Dollars say people do not think we are doing our job!