About 3 months ago the pastor at the church we have been attending began adding little reminders in his emails to the congregation about how giving was down at the church. Nothing tacky or rude, just the usual, "bring your tithe into the storehouse" reminders. (I'll save my tithe/giving views for another post) So finally out of curiosity my husband and I picked up a copy of the church budget that was available in the foyer.
For the record, this is a church of about 200, an evangelical, protestant denomination. After attending church for the majority of my life, I believe it to be a good representation of the average American church.
The church's budget for last year was right at $330,000. Of that, $154,000 went to salaries (Senior Pastor is the only full-time), insurance, pension, and staff gifts. Much of the rest was for building upkeep, insurance, utilities, etc. There was almost $4,000 spent in the a/v department. There was $4,500 for staff mileage reimbursement. $900 for leadership development. I could go on....
But there is this one category..... Benevolence..... and the whopping total for that ministry.... $1,000. One. Thousand. Dollars.
James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
It's embarrassing. Or at least it should be. How have we gotten so mixed up? And what about the Great Commission? Our church sponsors 12 missionaries at an average of $30/month. That's $4,320 for the year. Out of $330,000 only a little over 1% of the entire budget went directly to missions.
But wait, there's more.
Because of the "financial crisis" the church is currently in, about $500/week below budget for the past few months, the Pastor and LBA have approved certain halts in expenditures. What was one of those halts.... missions. They will not be supporting any new missionaries until the financial crisis improves. Ridiculous! What about faith? Or how about we church members toughen up a little. Do we have to sit in a service where it's a pleasant 68 degrees? Why not bump the temperature up a little and save on electricity. Do we need new sound equipment and big tv's? Nope. For pity's sake, the church building is small enough just a simple mic would be enough to hear the pastor. But golly, then we'd miss out on all those cool graphics in the background of the power-point presentation when we're singing.
I've probably stepped on some toes and offended somebody with this (if anyone bothers to read it, that is). But it's been on my chest and I needed to help get it off. I've probably come across and judgmental and harsh, but I'm actually just burdened. I think many churches need to remember the goal, reaching the lost and bringing them to Christ.