Why Southern Baptists are not tithing

Southern Baptists are not even approaching anything close to a tithe of their total income.” –Dr. Will Hall, “The Baptist Message”

The Baptist Message for October 8, 2015 goes into detail about the financial situation facing our denomination.  For the first time ever, we’re told, designated receipts are outpacing gifts to denominational causes through our Cooperative Program.

What that means is that our churches–and that means our pastors–are directing larger and larger portions of the offering plate money to the causes they wish to support.  As a result, they are slowly beginning the process of defunding the causes they’re not supporting.

Underlying the various aspects of this financial crisis is one huge factor: Fewer of our people are tithing their income through their churches these days.

Editor Will Hall writes, “Southern Baptists are robbing God…. Southern Baptists teach tithing, but whatever we are doing is not connecting with our people…”

That stopped me short.

I appreciate Will’s positive spin on things in saying we teach tithing.

But he’s wrong.

We are not teaching tithing.

We used to.

There was a time when churches would have stewardship revivals and conferences lasting for several days or even a week. They would bring in outside speakers who would teach the biblical concepts of giving. They conducted stewardship campaigns inside their churches, most of them lasting for weeks, culminating with a churchwide banquet and a pledge day on Sunday.  Our people came to conferences and revivals and study courses devoted to nothing in the world other than stewardship and tithing.

Try that now and let me know how it goes.

Ask any pastor. Our people simply would not attend.

Whether churches quit holding these stewardship conferences and revivals because the people were not attending or they quit attending because the leadership no longer offered the meetings is anyone’s guess.

The bottom line is we are not teaching tithing.

We are preaching tithing.

I don’t know of one SBC pastor who does not believe in tithing and mention it occasionally in his messages.

But it’s a rare pastor who will devote more than one or two sermons a year exclusively to tithing.

And we wonder why the younger generation is doing little more than tipping God when the offering plate goes by.

Several fallacies are current in our churches these days. Here are some of the most obvious ones….

1) The typical SBC pastor actually believes that good preaching is going to bring in bigger offerings. The only way that works is if the crowds get bigger and bigger each year. And where is that happening?

2) Our leaders believe that if people get “good and saved,” they’re going to become faithful and generous givers.  We make jokes about “baptizing their wallets.”

We are expecting them to do something they are not being taught. Where is the sense in that?

3) This generation thinks that if their church is doing well financially, there is no need for sermons on tithing or an emphases on stewardship.

They have forgotten that the individual Christian needs to grow as disciples and honoring their Lord with their income is a major way of accomplishing that.

4) Many pastors are afraid to mention money.

I’ve had them admit that to me.  “My people don’t like me mentioning money.  It puts them in mind of the prosperity preachers on television.”

I wonder what about the biblical admonition to “Preach the Word”?

Two predictions, both of them awful…

One:   At Judgement, multitudes of Christian people are going to point accusing fingers at their pastors for not teaching them to be faithful stewards of their money, for not leading them to become victorious tithers. They will arrive in Heaven and learn they have not “laid up treasure in Heaven” as our Lord commanded.

Two:   At Judgement, untold millions of the unsaved will point the finger of accusation at God’s people who did not send missionaries their way.  Because we chose to spend God’s money on ourselves, on expensive luxury items in our homes, and on fancy campuses and technological doodads for our churches, missionaries were called home and people died without ever hearing the gospel.

What I’m calling for…

I am not suggesting a return to 1960 with its weeklong study course meetings on stewardship, although there would be nothing wrong with it.

What I am urging is for pastors and church leaders to face one massive fact which we cannot get around: People have to be taught and motivated to tithe. 

However we do it, they have to be taught, and that means using all the proven techniques of teaching concepts and changing behavior.

They have to be taught that tithing is a matter of faith.

People say, “We’re going to start tithing just as soon as we pay our debts and get a little money ahead.”

I tell them, “No, you’re not.”

There will never be such a time. Furthermore, God does not want you to tithe that way.

When we say we’re going to start tithing as soon as the money is available, what we’re saying is I’m going to tithe just as soon as I don’t have to do it by faith.

But that’s not how it’s done. We tithe by faith, the same way we do everything else in the Christian life!

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

“For we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

And the big one: “The just shall live by faith” (found in Habakkuk 2:4 and 3 times in the New Testament: Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38).

It’s hard to start tithing. It’s uphill. It’s counter-intuitive, meaning it looks like you’re making matters worse for yourself financially instead of being really smart.

Only those who truly believe in Him will tithe.

Ask the old-timers in any church, people who were taught to tithe generations ago and have given faithfully and regularly ever since. Tithing was hard at first.  They had to make sacrifices. They had to rearrange their priorities.  The second year it was still tough. But for most, tithing became easier over the years and they readjusted their spending. And now, as that generation comes toward the end of their earthly pilgrimage most give thanks that even the humblest have given a small fortune to the Lord’s work.

Only the pastors and leaders who truly want to bless their people and grow them in Christ will be willing to teach tithing.

Only courageous leaders will give more than lip service to tithing and take extraordinary steps to really help their people.

Our Lord asked, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Whoever teaches me to tithe has blessed my life forever.


15 thoughts on “Why Southern Baptists are not tithing

  1. Teaching something like “Multiply” in small group settings might help. If members were true disciples and disciple makers they would give out of a love for the Saviour, not by being taught to tithe. That is a symptom of members spending no personal time with God. If 25% of the members were living in a real and personal relationship instead of “doing church” there would be no problem. The problem is much bigger than the money.

  2. Bro. Joe,
    You covered a lot of great truth here that so many churches & Christians should heed. But please give us your advice on dealing with “old timers” (as you put it) who do know all or most of what the Bible teaches about giving but who refuse to tithe or redirect their tithes to the designated building fund in attempt to make the staff suffer because they’re mad at the preacher or don’t like the music or both.

  3. I am a life long tither. There is no doubt the importance of tithing and I agree it should be taught as God’s principles. At the individual level this is about our trust, blessings, and personal relationship with God.

    Two bullets I might offer in context of the article.

    Also contributing to the drop is the lack of growth of the church with the younger families. Not a new problem but the cumulative effects of years of decline.
    I’ve also been a long time supporter of cooperative programs. It’s no secret there have been increasing questions about the efficiency of the programs, as well as the wisdom of spending. An example out of Ms was a full page color add for animal rights in a recent Baptist record. For years we’ve had members calling for cutbacks or defunding on cooperative prog. So a prayerful streamlining is overdue as well.

  4. Joe:
    The issue of dealing with money is always delicate for the pastor of a church (regardless of size). About 20 years ago, when I was the new pastor of a small church where tithing had been taught for years but rarely practiced, I decided to try an approach, based solely on New Testament scriptures (though often derivative of Old Testament passages), which I felt reflected Paul’s teachings,

    An important recognition was that virtually no one in the church worked from a family/personal budget so we decided to work with the congregation to develop the annual church budget and so model how they could develop their own personal/family budget.

    Preaching a sermon series from texts such as Phil 4: 15-17; I Cor 16: 1-4; 2 Cor 9: 1-11; 2 Cor 8: 1-13; Gal 6: 9-10; Titus 3: 13-14; I Tim 5: 18 we set the Biblical framework for generous and responsible stewardship of financial resources The term ‘tithing’ or ‘giving 10% of income’ was NEVER mentioned once in the sermon series.

    A half-day session was devoted to developing a church budget which addressed all the identifiable expenses associated with the church’s internal operations (utilities, salaries, benefits, program expenses, etc) and generous support for identified needs outside the church (with the stipulation that there be a proper train of accountability for the moneys expended outside the church; consequently, we required access to the truthful budgetary information of the outside agencies/individuals supported – this often disqualified some church members’ favorite TV evangelist!). Having developed the expenditures side of the budget we then addressed the income side of the budget based on the previous year’s total income. Needless to say, it was necessary to make some difficult decisions to arrive at a balanced budget – some individuals saw their favorite program/external ministry cut from the budget. Addressing the budgetary gap between proposed expenditures and anticipated income provided a powerful teaching experience for the members of the congregation.

    Over several years the practice of developing each year’s budget in this way resulted in a budget where over 30% of annual income could be devoted to support of ministries outside the church’s own ministry while maintaining strong internal programming.

    Not using the term ‘tithe’ aided in the congregation’s development of a biblical pattern of responsible and generous giving..

  5. There is a real issue here. I am a former pastor who has also been in business. I wouldn’t dream of not tithing. However, there are few verses that preachers have twisted more than Malachi 3. The reason that we tithe is that the storehouse may be full. However, we don’t even know what the storehouse was in Malachi’s day. Pastors today totally spiritualized it. However, in the time it was written it was much more practical. It was the way that God took care of those in need. Of course, it provided for those who were responsible for teaching and caring for the place of worship, but that was only a part. Many OT Rabbis worked trades to support themselves. The Apostle Paul did as well. I am not saying vocational ministers today should do that. However, I believe our stretched interpretation that the tithe is a spiritual exchange only and neglecting to properly care for widows and orphans is something church leaders will account for. I give more than my tithe. I give to my church but also give directly to storehouse causes often forgoing tax benefits costing me a dollar for everyone I give. The younger generation today is far more giving than the baby boomer generation but they give to organizations that produce tangible results not black holes. I know this isn’t popular with religious leaders but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is the spiritual leadership that needs to wake up. Show results beyond your own consumption and the giving will take care of itself.

  6. I believe there is a big discrepancy nowadays in teaching the tithe biblically in churches. Pastors teaches tithing out of context. In many cases they (pastors or church leaders) have interchangeably used the word tithe with offering/giving. What is worse is that they have not appropriately used the tithe as it was taught biblically. Churches kept the money in the bank instead of allotting it to ministry/ies that needs to keep on moving. A big amount is allotted for building and maintenance and a small amount allotted to workers that do the ministry. Churches have become materialistic and have forgotten that the church is not the building but the people who needs care and equipping.

  7. Good observations. I appreciate the point of us being enamored with fancy buildings, technological gadgets, and other luxurious spending on ourselves. All too often, my age group and those younger would be willing to spend more on Great Commission fulfillment than having our really nice stuff. There is coming a generational shift in the modern church as to how we spend our monies. I can only hope that those in leadership make wise choices that will stimulate us from feeling the need to earmark, or appropriate every dollar to a specific project.

  8. Tithing is a matter of faith. Only those who live it can testify of how they have been blessed because of it. The Lord says, “prove me” in malachi and then promises to pour out blessings from heaven. Every person who has lived that command has told me how it has blessed them. My friend told of a time when he was newly married and in college. he was going to use it to by food, but a friend told him to pay his tithing first which we interpret as 10% of your increase. My friend had faith and paid his tithing, and a check came in the mail the next day from his mother and father. I could tell you dozens more of stories. Invite people to live it, and then ask them about the blessings they receive from it.

  9. Pingback: The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of November 2nd | Brian Dodd on Leadership

  10. Anyone that teaches people to tithe their income upon penalty of a curse from God is a false teacher and is the one robbing God’s people.
    why don’t you people be Honest about it.

    • Why don’t you show me where I said the penalty is a curse from God. You’re condemning me for something I did not do. Talk about dishonesty!

  11. There’s no reason why a pastor can’t hold a regular job and tithe like everyone else yet they drive around in Cadillacs and act holier than thou which was the cause of my quitting church to begin with. Religion is nothing more than one big hoax so a few can live lazily off the masses.
    Your Agnostic Friend,

    • You looked and you looked and you finally found a preacher driving a Cadillac, did you? (I know hundreds of preachers, but not one who drives a Caddy.) — We find what we’re looking for, friend. I expect you had other reasons for wanting to dismiss the preachers and the gospel we preach, and you concocted one to suit your fancy. Too bad you’re not honest about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.