Could Your Church Give Away 50% of Its Income?
from Bret Johnson, the Founder of the Hastening…
When I graduated from college I traveled around the country for a year with Josh McDowell during the height of his ministry on college campuses. Every day was pretty exciting. One day while we were at First Baptist Atlanta a guy met us from Birmingham, Alabama. This guy in his later 20’s wanted Josh to come speak on the smaller college campuses in Alabama where they were starting a ministry. I was startled when Josh said to me, “Hey Bret, why don’t you go over to Birmingham and spend a few days with them and see what they are doing?” I did end up going there and what I saw took my breath away. Briarwood Presbyterian Church had started in a laundromat (!) in the 1950’s and had become one of the larger and more prominent churches in America in thirty years. Their founding Pastor, Rev. Frank Barker, served there for decades. They decided as a church (from day one!) to give away 50% of their income to missions and outreach ministries.
About twenty years in, they decided to start a faith promise program (click here for what faith promise is) at their church on top of their 50% giving. When I arrived to check out what they were doing in 1981, they were giving away $3.5 million a year to missions and outreach ministries (!!). Surely their church must have suffered from such generosity with no staff and no facilities right? Nope. They were fully staffed and had a nice (but not extravagant) large campus on a major highway. They were the largest single church supporter of Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity and Navigators! And many international missionaries as well of course.
This church launched what today has become Campus Outreach (www.campusoutreach.org) with an initial vision of placing staff from their church on every small college campus in the state of Alabama. Not only did they do that, they have started a global movement very similar to Campus Crusade (now Cru) in its first few decades.
May God raise up a few more Briarwoods! Today, the average evangelical Christian (worldwide not just American believers) gives away 2% of their income to the work of Jesus and the average congregation gives away less than 10% of their income to ministries outside their church. The 750 million evangelical believers worldwide have $100 trillion dollars in net worth, the same amount as the 330 million Americans. Because of this disparity it takes the average new missionary eighteen months to raise their financial support. Instead of promptly getting on the field, they have to struggle to make appointments, often make hard and awkward “asks” of people to consider being on their support team- with many evangelicals hardly understanding the concept of supporting someone financially.
In the Kairos Course (www.kairoscourse.org) and Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (www.perspectives.org) we challenge participants to think through their financial commitments in light of the great commission, in light of eternity and in light of the incredible needs around the world.
Are you a church leader? Maybe you could prayerfully consider the example of Briarwood Church in Birmingham, Alabama and ask what God might want to do through you to be more generous to the work of God around the world?