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Privately Reforming from Inside
"Mandated Employee Tithing"
November 13, 1995 Letter to Joseph Tkach, Jr.
While it is a very exciting time as Jesus brings in our denomination a revival through the Holy Spirit, I know it continues to be a difficult time for you and your family. We appreciate your love, service and leadership through it all. Again, I appreciated your festival sermon. And, our prayers are with you and your family for strength and comfort.
I wanted to take an opportunity to write and implore you to reconsider the latest P.G.R. concerning "requiring" employees to tithe and checking records upon hiring or promotion.
Your festival sermon was so excellent because of your "appeal" to the membership to be a part of the church. It inspired ministers and members alike to come on board. And, it did so because it respected the will and volition of the individual Christians we serve in this fellowship. It was very grace-based, if you will. It encouraged people, and out of their hearts, they have begun to respond.
I know you have had to deal with some real difficult ones, but there are many employees out here in the field giving their lives, their time, their energies and their money to be servants of the membership for Jesus' sake. It has not been easy these past several years. But, we love God, we love the members and we want to serve. Share with us and the membership the financial needs. Ask us to be consistent, to pledge a certain percentage for the year. Ask us to then stick to it. Encourage us. Appeal to us. Tell us what you need and many will answer.
But, please do not make this seeming step toward a return to the authority and control that has characterized our past. I know it will take a little longer to get results by encouraging members and employees to give rather than requiring them. But, I believe, as you wrote, that as we look to Christ in faith that he will provide and guide.
At the very least, I plead with you not to print the portion on employees being required to tithe in the Worldwide News. You write that "members will be encouraged to know that employees are doing the same." I don't believe they will be very encouraged to know you feel morale is such that it is necessary to compel our employees to give.
But, even more than that, if you print this material regarding Christian stewardship being "far more demanding" and that a member's tithing record will be checked if the church considers hiring them, then I strongly believe we turn and make a step back down the road toward legalism. A membership that has in large part been religiously addicted will respond with guilt and legalistic performance to these statements. The joy they have received in giving the last few months will begin to ebb away.
While I don't believe we are presently manipulating our membership to give, I do believe the following quote from Toxic Faith brings an important perspective to the issue.
"Toxic Rule #9. Nothing is more important than giving money to the organization. Giving is an important part of anyone's faith. You don't really experience the depths of faith until you are able to give a portion of your money to God rather than spend it all on yourself. Christ often talked about money because it is such a clear indicator of what is within a person's heart. A person's cancelled checks and credit card expenditures point to what the person is like. When a portion is freely given to God, it indicates the believer's heart and mind are committed. Someone who does not yet understand the role of giving in the practice of faith has missed many blessings that come from trusting God with financial resources.
Toxic faith organizations do not keep giving in perspective; they do not view it as an act of worship. It is a means of funding for them. Religious addicts believe that nothing is more essential than the organization's continuation, which is funded by the gifts of the followers. . . . When ministries meet our needs, we must support them. But we must do that out of love and worship of God, not the manipulation of people" (Toxic Faith, S. Arterburn & J. Felton, pp. 256-258).
It will take time for us to become a church that you can't chase people out of with a stick because of the love, the joy, the worship and the fellowship. It will take time for us to become a church where the members and employees give liberally because they know the work of the gospel that is being done and the personal ministry they are receiving. But, for us to become that kind of church I believe we must of necessity also give up the approach of "demanding" attendance and giving. The fact is we are becoming that kind of church right now. You have been sowing the seeds of the gospel, of love and service, as your father did before you, but I believe we must be like the farmer who waits patiently for the land to yield its valuable crop.
One can be forced through guilt to sit in a church pew. One can be obligated to mail in a tithe. But the kind of joy and love in giving and participating we seek in our church fellowship comes only through the Holy Spirit working on the solid spiritual foundation of freedom in Christ. Doesn't our experience prove that "requiring" these things fails?
In Christian love,
(Name Withheld), NCC, Pastor
P.S. I thank you so much for the atmosphere of honesty, openness and love. I write this letter not in any way to criticize but because I want you to succeed. I want the church to grow spiritually for the sake of the gospel and the members. But I don't believe there are any short-cuts to becoming the healthy Christian church we all desire. And, I ask you to reconsider this policy.
Mike Feazell sent me a short note saying we would talk about the issue at the ministerial conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in December 1995. The statements about tithing were in the subsequent Worldwide News to members.
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