Things went well on the Sunday morning here at Dungannon Vineyard; the people are so warm and hospitable. I talked about personal learnings we’ve experienced at VCC regarding generosity and the poor. Also showed the Luke 4 Recap video in which we announced our pledge amount following The Luke 4 Challenge: Our City, Our Future, Our World. It still makes me cry. I think believers all over the world want to be challenged with big dreams and vision; people respond to vision before they respond to needs. Anyway, we’ve been treated royally here.
Met Ed Gungor and his wife yesterday in Dublin through Jason Scott. Ed's pastors Peoples Church in Tulsa and is the author of several books including a new one called There's More to the Secret, a kind of rebuttal to the massive bestseller that Oprah pushed called The Secret. We had breakfast with him, our team and Jason. The credit card machine was broken and Ed was the only one with euros (the currency of Northern Ireland is the British pound, as opposed to the Republic of Ireland where Dublin is located), so he picked up the tab for the whole party. Nice guy...otherwise I'd still be washing dishes in the back of some pub saying “Pardon?” after every other sentence.
We fly out on Friday and will be home in time to catch Joe on part two of Tackling the Elephant. I love the tithing experiment...it’s so simple and just. Remember when we had Ron Sider speak at VCC? In an interview in Christianity Today sometime back he said:
“Materialism continues to be an incredible scandal. The average church member [from across the denominations] today gives about 2.6 percent of his or her income—a quarter of a tithe—to the church. Evangelicals used to be quite a lot better [in giving] than mainline denominations. But their giving has declined every year for several decades, and they're now getting very close to the norm. The average evangelical giving is about 4.2 percent—about two-fifths of a tithe. Six percent of the "born-again" people tithe; nine percent of evangelicals do. Our income has gone up fabulously over the last 30-plus years. The average household income now in the U.S. is $42,000-plus. If the average American Christian tithed, we'd have another $143 billion.”
Just think what $143 billion could do toward the homeless? Toward reaching lost people? Toward poverty in America alone? And we’re not really talking about sacrificial giving, but what is simply due God. Fascinating. I think that’s why I like this experiment so much. We’re asking everyone not to give a “special” offering, but just practice giving ten percent of our incomes for three weeks and then we’re done. And then we’ll give away everything above our normal operating expenses.
It could be revealing.
Often in evangelical circles is talk about revival—lost people saved, worship breaking out, signs and wonders coming. But interestingly enough, in Hezekiah’s great revival in Israel—which followed tearing down their idols—the most powerful thing was that people tithed.
…They gave freely of the first portion of their grain, new wine, oil, honey, and everything they grew in their fields. They brought a large amount, one-tenth of everything. The people of Israel and Judah who lived in Judah also brought one-tenth of their cattle and sheep and one-tenth of the holy things that were given to the Lord their God, and they put all of them in piles. 2 Chronicles 31:5-6 (New Century Version)
I hate to admit it, but the way we think about disciplined percentage giving probably reveals more about us than we like. And tearing down our idols precedes it.