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Stewardship Month and Faith Promise Missions Giving in the IFB Church

tithing 2
This is mathematically impossible. 🙂

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers are known for preaching on money, particularly tithing and giving offerings above the tithe. For readers who don’t understand the “Biblical” concept of tithing, let me explain this money-raising scheme to you. The word tithe, in IFB parlance, means 10%. Church members are expected to give 10% of their gross income — God and the government get theirs first — to the church.

I heard countless sermons over the years on the subject of tithing. Preachers, with hands and pockets open wide, told congregants that God demanded at least 10% of their income. Even children were expected to give a tithe to the church from their allowances, yard mowing money, babysitting money, etc. These preachers knew it was important to indoctrinate children. Teach (expect) people to tithe when they are young, they will continue to do so when they are older.

Many IFB preachers threaten congregants with the judgment of God if they don’t tithe. They also tell church members that God will materially “bless” them if they do tithe. Some pastors check the giving records to make sure people are tithing. Those who don’t tithe are considered backslidden, rebellious, or out of the will of God.

Malachi 3:8-10 says:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Don’t want to rob God? Please make that check payable to Victory Baptist Church.

Unlike many of my Baptist peers, I rarely preached on tithing. I grew up in churches where my pastors constantly harped on money. Even in college, poor students were expected to give 10% of their gross income to the church affiliated with the college. These negative experiences affected me in such a way that I was hesitant to bug and beg church members for money. I just couldn’t do it. I grew up poor, and we lived at or below the poverty line for the first thirty years of marriage. The most I ever made in the ministry was $26,000 (with a family of eight). I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio for eleven years. The most I ever made in one year at Somerset Baptist was $12,000. I certainly wasn’t in the ministry for the money.

Many of the people I pastored were poor. I found it hard to ask people to tithe when they were barely keeping their heads above water. One year at Somerset Baptist, the highest paid man in the church made $21,000 (an auto mechanic). Appalachian economics applied to the church too.

Not only do IFB preachers preach on tithing, but many of them also preach on stewardship and faith promise missions giving. Polly’s uncle, the late James Dennis (please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis) would spend a month every year preaching on stewardship. The goal? To remind congregants that God expects them to give 10% of their income to the church; to remind congregants that God expects them to contribute to the mission fund, building fund, and any other “fund” the preacher cooks up.

IFB preachers are fond of humble bragging about how many missionaries their churches support. Instead of investing significant amounts of money in one missionary, churches will give fifty missionaries $25 a month. As a result, missionaries have to go to numerous churches on deputation hoping to raise $25 a month from each church. Many missionaries spend years on the fundraising circuit (the better the slide presentation of poor black people, the sooner the missionary makes it to the field). Some give up, never reaching their financial goal. Deputation is a cruel racket. It turns good people (regardless of what I think of mission work now) into beggars.

tithing

Some IFB churches have annual faith promise missions conferences. Missionaries come to the church and present their work (priming the pump for the money ask). Congregants are asked to promise God, by faith, that they will give $xx.xx a month to the church to support the mission program. What if they don’t have the money? Church members are expected to give the money even if they don’t have it. After all, they made a “faith promise.” Remember, congregants are told that God promises to “bless” them materially if they tithe and give offerings above the tithe. I pastored poor church members who gave 20-25% of their income to the church. I was one of those people until I figured out late in my ministerial career that it made no sense for me to do so as long as the church wasn’t paying me. Giving to the church so they can give it back to me was just me paying myself with my own money. Silly, right?

In the mid-1980s, a missionary from Bearing Precious Seed — a KJV Bible publishing ministry of First Baptist Church in Milford, Ohio — came to our church to hustle for money. I told him about the economic status of many church members, warning him that promising congregants a Bible in return for a monthly faith promise missions offering was a bad idea. The missionary ignored me, offering church members a brand new leather-bound KJV Bible if they would give a monthly donation to Bearing Precious Seed. More than a few church members took him up on his offer. The church was expected to collect the money and forward it to Bearing Precious Seed every month. Sure enough, after several months, some of those who promised to make a monthly donation defaulted on their commitment. Not wanting to look bad, I had the church make up the monthly deficit. Guess whose pocket that came out of? Mine.

Do you have a tithing or faith promise missions story to tell? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

36 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    Well, in our denomination we were taught that 10% was just the base of giving, the bare minimum. In retrospect I would’ve used that money to help my husband and me in our early marriage. But no, we had to support other people. Our denomination had a structure though, so I believe the money that went to our ministers came from the overall conference. Still, most pastors in our church appreciated being married to nurses and the like, as they made good money.

  2. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    Not a tithing issue but a mission type issue. The mission? Build a new church. We were asked to re-mortgage our home to help finance the church. Biker Dude handled that nicely. No!
    We were out of town for Xmas one year. Missed two weeks of tithing. Never thought anything about it as we took that money and donated it to The Salvation Army for turkey dinners for Xmas meals. And we went to church elsewhere out of town.

    A meeting was called to confront us. Our four sins were noted. We countered with, the out of town was about a sick and dying grandfather. We couldn’t reach the plate from where we were at the time. We thought feeding the poor and hungry was a good thing, and we thought church out of town was better than no church at Xmas.

    Wrong.

    Wrong.

    Wrong.

    Wrong.

    “How dare we!” (You had to be there.) It got worse.

    Ended with Biker Dude confronting the senior pastor with the appearance of an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the church who was not his wife. Now if you thought the first half of the meeting was abusive . . . it was nothing compared to the end of our meeting.

    We then resigned. They then attacked. We and the children shunned. Turned over to Satan. I was traumatized.

    The truth came out years later. We were correct about the affair.

    All this inhumane shit because someone was keeping tabs on our tithing. Who? Well the senior pastor having an affair, that’s who.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I know this happened to you and your husband years ago, but it upsets the Hell out of me big time. Awful behavior. All over money. Of course, what the preacher really wanted was power and control over you. I wish I could say such preachers are far and few in between, but they are not — especially in the IFB. 🤬🤬But hey, Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

        • Avatar
          William

          It’s amazing how verses like Matt 6:24 get flushed down the toilet.

          Then they preach that if you have Jesus you don’t need anything else.

        • Avatar
          TLC

          Tithing was the first loose thread I pulled in the Evangelical fabric. In the second sermon I heard on tithing, the pastor said, “If you don’t tithe, your gifts don’t count!” Couldn’t remember that in the Bible, so off I went to research. One thing led to another, and I found a ton of information on why tithing actually is NOT biblical.

          The end of my research was checking to see what Jewish people do, since the tithe is Old Testament law. Well, Jewish people haven’t tithed for centuries! When the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, all the required genealogical records were destroyed, too. So no one could prove their Levite heritage to collect the tithes. That did it for me.

          From there, I kept picking at the threads until I finally left.

  3. Avatar
    William

    There are few things more cultic in my opinion than the tithe. In the Old Testament, the tithe was what we now call today taxes, for the efficient running of the state bodies, their version of administrators (priests) and for social services (welfare).

    The New Testament is clear that we should give that which we feel is appropriate, because God ‘loves a cheerful giver’.

  4. Avatar
    Dave

    Tithing was just one more source of guilt and conflict during my church going days. My wife and I both worked full time and sacrificed to provide for our children and there was the church constantly asking for weekly offerings and extra money on top of that for ongoing building programs. I would pledge and fail to meet these and feel guilty about my failure. What bullshit! If only I had put that money into my 401k I would be a wealthy man

  5. Avatar
    Kevin Morgan

    I’ve never belonged to an IFB or evangelical church, I was raised Catholic and became an Episcopalian as an adult. But for some reason I have always managed to run into the most obnoxious fundagelicals you can imagine. In fact my late wife’s family was IFB though she herself was a “backslider.” But I digress.
    This story is about a man I used to work with named Kenny. Kenny was a born again Christian, this was during the 70’s when being born again became a bit of a fad because of Jimmy Carter. Kenny talked constantly about God, Jesus, and church but what he talked about most was tithing. He made sure everyone knew he tithed, 10% right off the top! He really bragged about it. We worked in a large copper and brass manufacturing plant in Buffalo, NY. And it came to pass that we went out on strike…for 6 months. Kenny lost his brand new pick up truck, very nearly lost both his house and his wife and he apparently lost his faith because when he came back to work we heard nothing about Jesus, church or tithing ever again. If that 10% had gone into the bank he might have been able to ride out the strike a bit easier.

  6. Avatar
    Kevin Morgan

    I’ve never belonged to an IFB or evangelical church, I was raised Catholic and became an Episcopalian as an adult. But for some reason I have always managed to run into the most obnoxious fundagelicals you can imagine. In fact my late wife’s family was IFB though she herself was a “backslider.” But I digress.
    This story is about a man I used to work with named Kenny. Kenny was a born again Christian, this was during the 70’s when being born again became a bit of a fad because of Jimmy Carter. Kenny talked constantly about God, Jesus, and church but what he talked about most was tithing. He made sure everyone knew he tithed, 10% right off the top! He really bragged about it. We worked in a large copper and brass manufacturing plant in Buffalo, NY. And it came to pass that we went out on strike…for 6 months. Kenny lost his brand new pick up truck, very nearly lost both his house and his wife and he apparently lost his faith because when he came back to work we heard nothing about Jesus, church or tithing ever again. If that !0% had gone into the bank he might have been able to ride out the strike a bit easier.

  7. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    My last church, an Episcopal one, had constant fundraising. There was never a break. The church treasurer always had a column in each newsletter tracking income and expenses. Oops, a deficit again! Give, give, give because we’re guilting you, praise God. Fool that I was, I became the founding chair of the fundraising committee. I worked hard, physically and mentally, to pull in money, including setting up special fundraising events. The rector also asked me to look into learning how to ask people to do bequests for the church! I was uncomfortable doing that — “Hey, George, ever think of including St. Luke’s in your will, so once you die the church gets money? And you’ll continue the work of the church, blah, blah” No, I didn’t go that far. And do you think I got any special recognition for my efforts? No. They had a “Service Cross” for people the rector deemed worthy, which I never got. If I got any thanks at all I sure don’t remember it. When I finally left that church I realized I’d been taken advantage of, spiritually and otherwise.

  8. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    The harping techniques of the IFB churches sound identical to the ones you hear both on the radio and in say, Assembly of God and the Pentecostal churches, including a 100 % return in this life if you give tithes and offerings. I always wondered why the 1040 window believers never had the blessings , like American Christians have ……………

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        “The 10/40 Window is a term coined by Christian missionary strategist and Partners International CEO Luis Bush in 1990 to refer to those regions of the eastern hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the western hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, a general area that was purported to have the highest level of socioeconomic challenges and least access to the Christian message and Christian resources on the planet.”

        Now ya know. 😂 I heard a lot of sermons on this years ago.

          • Avatar
            Matilda

            And the missionaries I prayed ardently for when the 10/40 window was current, were mostly in that band….which was all muslim. We thought they were specially brave to do that cos they might suffer torture, imprisonment or death for jesusing there. Actually, one or two got deported for not obeying the country’s laws banning proselytisation – oh the persecution of it – and I’m guessing any muslim converts they made would be the ones suffering torture, incarceration, shunning by families and employers and even death.

    • Avatar
      William

      A believer would probably refer to American Christianity as Laeodicean,

      ‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:’ Rev 3:17

      Toward the end of my tenure in Christianity I found myself with a revulsion towards Western Christianity and had put almost everything in place to begin my own evangelical crusade, which just so happened to be when I finally found the evidence which showed Christianity as a religion was not true.

  9. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hi, Bruce ! How’s it going ? I think about that darned 10- 40 window almost daily. My father was from that sad, stressed region. This would be Russia. The snobbery and contempt, mixed with pious mouthings, when referring to the area. It really rankeld me over the years, this smug ” We’re safe and blessed because we’re American” attitude ! Anyway, we used to give lots of offerings to televangelists like Kenneth Copeland, TBN, etc. We thought they had answers to the dilemmas we had to deal with. Turned out they didn’t- no surprise there. And Zoe, I’m sorry that happened to you and your husband, with that abusive church attacking you both that way ! Their behavior puts me in mind of the ” Red Guard” with that fanatical hysteria that goes on. There’s some striking parallels between Christianity and Communism.

  10. Avatar
    anynameleft

    In s. pacific (examples from Tonga) every church has want is called missionale’s (sic) where (primarily Weslayan) they announce who donated how much while shaming lower contributors and praiseing higher donors. They push to the point of essentially bankrupting some with limited funds.
    After major Cyclone (Isaac) which nailed every island group in Tonga in Ha’apai (a group of islands that was part of Tonga) within 2 days of hurrican while housing was still destroyed and bodies being reburied after waves had exposed the dead the Churches called for fund raising to rebuild destroyed and damged churches before people had shelter, salvaged crops or repaired fishing vessels.
    I got in trouble with the ministers when a 30′ boat belonging to Catholics was chartered by a different church for a picnic on another island. They loaded approx. 60 to 80 people on the vessel. It captized and people died. According to all thechurches this was “gods” will. I stated it was negligant manslaughter. Got denounced from at least 2 pulpits.

  11. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    Anynameleft — Wow, that’s quite a story! Clerical greed and arrogance happen all over the world. And then those jokers being so cold about the deaths of the people on the ship! I just remembered an example of clerical fundraising similar to yours, from my teenage years. The priest at my Catholic Church actually printed the names of parishioners and the weekly amount they pledged in the Sunday bulletin for a while. I guess he was trying to shame folks for the paltry amounts he thought they were giving. Or maybe he thought the parishioners would start being more competitive and up their pledges. Anyway there were a lot of people who were angry about this and he abruptly stopped doing it. He was an alcoholic but was known in the diocese to be a fabulous fundraiser!

    • Avatar
      anynameleft

      KARUNA GAL – —
      small nit pick. Boat not ship.
      Several technical answers to difference but bos’n rule of thumb is if you can pick it up and put on another vessel it is a boat. If not a ship ( except Submarines are always “boats” for some reason).
      30′ ft is approxsize of modern “lifeboats”
      Sorry but we all have our tender spots on details.

      • Avatar
        Karuna Gal

        I’m a landlubber, so thanks for educating me on the difference between boats and ships, Anynameleft! 🙂 ⛴🚢🛳

        • Avatar
          anynameleft

          The tradition is that when one leaves the sea that they carry on oar over their shoulder and when some one stops and asks what that funny shaped piece of wood is That is where they stop and settle.

          ps these events happened in the early 1980’s

  12. Avatar
    Goyo

    I tell my friends that after I deconverted, I got a 10% raise and an extra day off!
    I stopped tithing after I noticed our youth pastor had a new pair of Nike shoes that I had wanted, but denied myself so I could tithe…I had paid for his shoes, and I couldn’t have any?

    • Avatar
      Troy

      One of my brothers (in Pentecostal church, not IFB) double tithes to his church. My dad managed to get him a good job and gave him good advice on how to keep it, so he was making good money, yet he ended up defaulting on his mortgage. I happened to attend their church for a funeral and it was a new church in a very spacious, nice building. So the irony wasn’t lost, my brother lost his house (and stiffed the bank) so the pastor could buy a nice new church.
      As a kid, I did notice my liberal Lutheran church did occasionally educate people about how much the church needed, otherwise you get some that would just put a $1 in the collection and think it’s going to pay for a grandiose church with its huge utility bills. I think of a church as a social club, and if you get enough out of attending a community of like minded believers you should pay your fair share and the Pastor should make enough to have the same standard of living as the parishioners. The 10% “tithe” is an abused absurdity though.
      I like Zoe’s comments though, I wondered does that 10% actually ALL need to go to the home church? I suppose one answer is that you threw all the money in the air and the omnipotent Grand Ol’ Designer could take what he needed to heaven, and what falls back to Earth “He” wanted me to keep.

      • Avatar
        ... Zoe ~

        Hi Troy,

        You wondered: “I like Zoe’s comments though, I wondered does that 10% actually ALL need to go to the home church?”

        Zoe: At our former church? Yes.

  13. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Wow,Anynameleft ! That’s really terrible, what happened in Tonga. Why denounce you from two or any pulpits ? You’re 100% correct regarding what you were questioning ! How sad and horrible for the survivors of that hurricane ! And cavalier and heartless to just say,” well, that was God’s will.”. Disgusting ! How the hell would THEY know ?! Jeeze, some people !

  14. Avatar
    Obstaclechick

    It’s weird that an omnipotent deity needs goods and services from us when it could just poof any goods and services into existence. It’s like the deity isn’t actually omnipotent.

    My father-in-law went to seminary to become a Catholic priest, and his thoughts on sacrifices and gifts were that priests (who aren’t contributing goods to society) need to be housed, clothed, and fed. He got pissed off seeing how lavishly priests were eating on Friday nights when parishioners were admonished to eat fish, and to eat frugally, on Fridays.

    I will never forget how we kids were used by the church to put on a skit about Ananias and Sapphira in the lead up to a new fundraising campaign. Gross.

    There are some really horrific stories in the comments here – talk about church abuse!!

  15. Avatar
    KiwiNFLFan

    Why would you tithe on your gross income? You never actually get that amount in your hand, so shouldn’t you tithe off your net income, i.e. what you actually get, not a theoretical number that you never see?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render unto God the things that are God’s.” Government and God both get their cut of your pot of money. Or so Evangelicals say, anyway.

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Bruce Gerencser