Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we talk about money and giving?
Mainly, because Jesus did. In fact, money is the most frequently mentioned subject in Jesus’ own words in the four Gospels. We talk about money in terms of Christian formation. Christian maturity involves, among other things, trusting God, not our own financial maneuvering, for our security. We give to demonstrate our trust in the God who has always been faithful to us. We also give to bring fruition to God’s purposes, locally and globally, with resources given through Christ’s church.
Churches use the word “stewardship.” What does that mean?
“Steward” is an English word that originally meant “the person who looks after someone else’s pigs”— a “(pig)sty warden.” Now the word “steward” is used to translate the Biblical word that means any person who has responsibility for the property of another. It reminds us that everything that exists belongs to God because God made it (Psalm 24:1-2). Everything we claim to own really belongs to God. We are responsible for using God’s property according to God’s purposes.
How much should I give?
The biblical model is to return a tithe (10%) to God. Put another way, the Bible teaches that a generous God invites us to keep 90% of God’s property that is under our care. The New Testament does not give a mandatory percentage for Christian giving. Some give more than ten percent, treating the tithe as a starting point, not a limit.
At First Baptist we encourage people who are not yet tithing to become ‘off-the-top percentage givers”. If you are not in the habit of giving to God’s purposes in the world, try giving 1% of whatever income you receive, when you receive it. (This gift from a person working a full-time minimum-wage job would provide 6 cans per week of soup and vegetables that the Decatur Emergency Assistance Ministry buys at bulk rates to feed the hungry).
If you are giving a little something now and then, try this: Step up to give $25 per week as an act of growth in giving. (If just 25 people moved to this level of giving, it would pay for one Habitat House and two new wells in Malawi).
If you’ve been giving something substantial but still less than the Biblical benchmark of a tithe, try this: Give 10% of whatever income you receive as you receive it. Make it the first gift you make, even before you pay your bills. This way you know that you are putting God first. (Do you know that if only half of our current givers tithed like this every year, we would never have a budget deficit?)
Who came up with the idea of tithing?
When God was teaching the people of Israel how to live together, God asked for ten percent (a “tithe”) of each person’s produce and livestock (Leviticus 27:30). Later, the prophet Malachi (Malachi 3:10) admonished the people to be faithful in tithing: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” The tithing principle comes to the Christian church from our roots in Judaism.
Does that mean if I give to God, I will get good things in return?
The so-called “prosperity gospel” has little basis in the Bible. In fact, Jesus’ own words called his followers to lives of sacrifice, not riches. Salvation cannot be bought. The Bible does teach, however, that God will supply all the needs of those who trust in God. It says nothing about getting material riches in return.
Does our church send support to other organizations?
Yes, like virtually every Baptist church, we send a portion of our offerings to support Baptist mission and ministry endeavors beyond our local church. The largest portion of this money is sent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which provides for theological education and support for missionaries all over the world. CBF also produces some of the missions education materials we use and provides many ongoing opportunities for spiritual development. This gives us an opportunity to do God’s work in cooperation with other congregations that none of us could do alone. We also support a local association of church and many local organizations that work to alleviate poverty, hunger, and homelessness in the metro area. [click here for a list]
How much debt does the church have?
About $600,000, incurred in 2012 to address some major facilities needs. Taking care of our campus is one of the ways we try to communicate to guests that we are always expecting company. Many of us are giving out of our “extra” to help pay off this debt as soon as possible.
First Baptist Decatur appears to be a rather affluent church. Does the church really need my small contribution?
Yes. The size of the buildings and grounds looks impressive and we are grateful to have inherited such wonderful facilities, but they require maintenance and repair. All of our gifts add up to support the many ways we “give away” our facilities in community service and fund formative experiences for our children, youth and adults. You might be surprised at how far a gift goes. For example, a high-school graduate in Liberia can go to college to become a certified teacher for only $5,000 a year. But more important than the church’s need for funding is the Christian’s need to give as a matter of trust in the God who has always been faithful to us.
Is the amount I give confidential?
Yes. All giving records at First Baptist Decatur are held in utmost confidentiality. The financial administrators handle the posting of gifts and prepare contribution statements. Both administrators are members of other churches. No church member of First Baptist, including the pastors, can examine records of how much people give.
My income stream is irregular. Do I have to give weekly or monthly to be considered faithful in giving?
Faithfulness in annual giving may be more important than keeping score on a weekly or monthly basis. However, the most consistent giver find it easiest to give every time they receive income. Many who have made a spiritual discipline of tithing make their tithe the first check or online payment in each pay period. The most important discipline is giving off the top of what we receive.
I give quite a lot of my time to the church in volunteer service. Isn’t that as important as giving money?
Christian stewardship concerns time, talents, and money; it encompasses all the gifts and resources God has granted us. We give back to God from every gift we receive from God. We don’t give from one kind of resource and hoard the others for ourselves.