Church

Work in Love, Not Fear

Thanks for Jim Wallis’ thoughts in “A Pastoral Strategy for Hard Times” (December 2008). Our church is gearing up to assist more folks in our church and local community. These activities help us keep our eyes on God by opening our hands to our neighbors. Fear is much more manageable when we work together. Blessings to you for faithfully speaking to our current time.

Mary Cole-Duvall, West Des Moines, Iowa

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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The Giving Plate

In the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depres­sion, tens of millions of Americans have suffered substantial financial losses, with many losing their savings, homes, and jobs. An estimated two out of every three families have been noticeably affected by the financial setbacks in the United States, and nearly one out of every four individuals surveyed say they have been impacted in a “major way,” according to a report from The Barna Group. Among those hardest hit are churches and nonprofit organizations, which stand to lose an estimated several billion dollars in donations.

  • 150 million. The number of adults who say they have been affected by the economic crisis, with 20 percent of U.S. households decreasing their overall giving to churches or other religious centers.
  • 31. Percentage of Americans who have lost 20 percent or more of their retirement fund value who have decreased their church donations.

  • 35. Percentage of church attendees surveyed who have seen their church address the financial crisis in some way, either through a program, sermon, or direct monetary assistance.
  • 31. Percentage of adults who have already reduced the amount of money they planned on donating to nonprofit organizations. Among these, 53 percent have simultaneously decreased the amount they give to their church.

Sources: “Churches Stand to Lose Several Billion Dollars in Lost Donations Due to Economic Downturn” (2008), The Barna Group; “Weathering an Uncertain Economy,” The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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Stingy Givers

The massive economic crises of recent months have led to drastic cuts in the American family budget. These crises are sure to have financial implications on what is, according to Christian Smith, Michael Emerson, and Patricia Snell, already less-than-generous church giving.

In Passing the Plate: Why Amer­can Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, the authors shed light on why U.S. Christians are astonishingly un­generous. They outline giving trends with current data, startling statistics, and a clear sociological delivery—leaving the conscientious reader very troubled about the failure of Christian tithing.

According to their research, 20 percent of American Christ­ians give nothing to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities. The remaining 80 percent give something, but not much. The mean average of giving is 2.9 percent of their after-tax in­comes—no­where near the mark of biblical mandates of tithing.

For the authors, this lack of generous giving is a riddle of enormous consequence. Consi­dering cur­rent domestic and global needs, generous giving “could transform the world, starting right away,” they write. And, U.S. Christians appear to have the financial resources to give generously in light of these needs. Nearly every tradition in American Christianity teaches tithing. In light of these factors, why don’t we give away more money?

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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