06 December, 2005

Does it bother anyone else? (revised)

I have noticed over the past few years that church attendance and giving drop significantly during the months of November and December. It happened in my last church, but not as drastically as where I pastor now. And it is not a new trend either. I went back over the records of the church for 16 years and it is a trend that has happened every year but one during that period. The lone exception was the year they moved into their new building, and I can only conclude that excitement was up that year. I have spoken to several other pastors and they have echoed pretty much the same thing.

One has to wonder what causes this to happen. I had someone suggest to me that maybe it was the cold and that many of the elderly cannot come out in that type weather. I would buy that, but over the years I have been pastoring, I have seen just the opposite occur. When it is cold, ice on the roads, deep snow and so on, guess who it is that shows up to church? It sure ain't the twenty-somthings! It is that older generation that grew up being faithful to the church. And another funny thing about that older generation; if they cannot make it to church, you can bank on the fact that they will either call pastor come get their tithe, or it will arrive in the mail that week. So, I toss out the idea that the elderly cannot make it in the cold and snow.

We can speculate all day on this, but I am pretty sure that if we got right to the truth it boils down to this one thing: Christmas is coming and the tithe money becomes shopping money.
Why the drop in attendance?
Because people conveniently find a reason to stay home so that they will not "have to" pay their tithe. The bottom line comes down to what I just spent 3 weeks preaching about; (of course half the church was not there to hear any of it) It is a matter of not recognizing who the owner is, and that we will give an account for our stewardship.
I actually had a woman in my last church say to me that G0d had told her that it was a better use of her money to buy Christmas presents for her kids than to pay tithe, because the church had enough already. Ironic as it may seem, she told me this as I was delivering a trunk load of presents to her house that people in the church had purchased for her and her kids!
I came home and told my wife, "There is something wrong with this. Her kids are having a bigger Christmas that our own kids, and here we are buying her presents."

Does it bother anyone else that this is going on? Not the fact that her kids got more. My family is blessed, and I am not complaing about that.
I mean; Does it bother anyone else that for 2 months of every year, people rob God?
It bothers me deeply, and it is not for the reasons you might expect.
It bothers me first and foremost because it tells me that the church is has a spiritual problem!
The church were I pastor saw a $3,000 decrease in tithe from the month of October to November. Typically, it will be even worse in December.
What does that mean to our church?
It means that we will have to cut down drastically on expenses, just in order to pay the bills.
Heating costs begin to soar during these months, and we will use up any surplus that we had.
There are always additional costs during these months as we prepare for the Christmas program and so on, further depleting the cash reserve.
Well, you cannot let the utility bills, or the mortgage payment go, so guess where the cuts must begin?
In ministry!

This time of year there are always more hurting people who need shelter from the cold, help with power bills, food for their family... and sadly, the church, the one place that should be meeting those needs, has to turn them away... because people stayed home and diverted their tithe money into shopping money.

In my series on stewardship (See the 2 posts on "Can God Trust You") I reminded the church that everyone is a steward, whether we acknowledge that fact or not.
Either we are a good steward or a foolish steward. We will stand before God and give an account of how we managed what he entrusted us with.
The definition of a steward is, "Someone who manages the property/possessions of another, according to the desires of the owner.
The problem is one of two things:
1) Either we fail to recognize who the owner is, or
2) We want to manage it our way, not the way the owner desires.
Either way, there is a huge problem here!

This trend bothers me, because one can judge the spiritual health of a church by how observing the tithe.
Does money equal strong spirituality?
No, not so much as in how much money comes in to the church, it doesn't.
But the consistency and faithfulness of the tithe shows that the church has good stewards who recognize that God is the owner. Drastic swings tells a wise observer that there are those in the church who view tithing as an optional thing.
The funny thing is, if they really believed that, they would come to church anyway.
But they know if they come to church, they will further feel the conviction of their choices, so they stay away.
They will return usually on or around Christmas, and they will begin tithing again. But the ministry oportunities have been wasted and many needs went unmet.

One day, people will stand before God and he will say, "I was hungry... and you did not feed me."
What a sad day that will be.


Henry Haney said...

Wow, that's pretty powerful stuff Bro. I've never done the research (our church is only two years old) but that's an interesting (and disturbing) trend you've discovered.

Most of us teach on stewardship at the beginning of the year, but it would seem to make more sense to do it before the Christmas shopping frenzy- by the time we teach on stewardship, everybody has a mountain of Christmas credit card debt.

Isn't it so true that Jesus said "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." A sobering thought that we will all give account of our stewardship one Day.

God bless

Libby said...

I am greatly disturbed by this trend. If a person's walk with God is so shallow that buying Christmas presents comes between them and God, what do they do when something serious happens?

Sean McKee said...

If God's people lived 'within their means' and not 'on credit' like the world the lack of funds at Christmas time, offering time, charity time, or any time there is a need for extra money, would not be an issue.

Christian's have bought into the idea of ‘if I can make the payment' instead of 'how much is it' and 'do I have the cash to pay for it'. Go to a car dealership and ask them how much a car is… 10 to 1 the answer will be ‘such & such a month’.

I want it and I want it now! --- lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life

Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17

The day "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" will be a sorrowful day for the American-ized Christian, if he is even there...