Tithing largely ignored as an important act of worship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The man who helped train 500 facilitators to present seminars on financial management believes the church must be a strong voice for the principle of tithing.

In the past 25 years of Christian history, teaching tithing as an important act of worship largely has been ignored, said Gary Aylor, former church stewardship service director for LifeWay Christian Resources.

A church administrator for 20 years before coming to the agency, he helped develop LifeWay's current resources on money management.

"Most people don't tithe and people are afraid others will leave the church if they talk about money," said Aylor, who as director of central operations still teaches regularly about tithing. "But we have to be prophetic. God's people need to fund God's work."

Because many church members don't know what the Bible says about money, they fail to give generously, Aylor said. However, pastors who fail to teach on the subject will also be held accountable by God, he added.

LifeWay's leading resource is a day-long seminar titled "Successful Christian Financial Management."

Various state convention and associational officials nationwide are available to teach the course, which includes a workbook at a cost of $5. The only other expense is paying for the speaker's travel and an honorarium.

Customarily held on a Sunday, the course begins during Sunday school with an outline of seven Scriptural principles to money management. Among them are being careful about debt, the wisdom of saving and investing, and the fact that God owns everything.

During church, the seminar leader delivers a message on giving. That is followed by a 75-minute afternoon session on putting together a 10-70-20 budget, which refers to a person's after-tax and tithe income. The 10 percent is for savings, 70 percent for expenses and 20 percent for paying off debt.

The day concludes with an evening teaching on "grace giving," which looks at giving beyond a tithe.

The sessions help people recognize God says a lot about money, Aylor said. Instead of getting angry or walking out, he said couples often line up afterwards to ask more questions.

"I've had pastors walk up to the pulpit and say, 'Gary told us everything from God's Word; please forgive me for not teaching this,'" Aylor said. "Some pastors have held up their (offering) envelope and admitted it wasn't a tithe, tear it up and say they will be obedient next week.

"With people who don't give to God, it's not because they don't have the money," he added. "It's because they're stingy and selfish. To not give of the money you have, it's the heart."

Aylor said an excellent follow-up resource is "How Much is Enough? 30 Days to Personal Revival," a daily devotional guide that examines biblical concepts of lifestyle stewardship. That includes time and talents as well as finances.

Teaching is a vital component of increasing giving in a congregation, Aylor said. This is especially significant because so many people are living on borrowed time, he said. Statistics show the average Christian spends 117 percent of income -- meaning debt is the only way to meet all the bills, according to Aylor.

Among other LifeWay resources available for personal or small-group studies:

-- "Jesus on Money" by noted financial counselor Larry Burkett, who died in early July. This series of three books contains six lessons per book and reviews money management in various stages of life.

-- "Money in Marriage," also written by Burkett. This is a workbook that helps couples strengthen their financial position. A kit is available that includes a CD-ROM to assess finances, two audiocassettes, two workbooks and a facilitator's guide.

-- Snapshot Gold CD software lets users get a quick picture of their financial picture, develop a custom spending plan, and get out (or stay out) of debt. Among its features are a calculator for interest accrual and amortizations.

LifeWay offers a series of materials for churches as well, such as:

-- "The Five Phases of Stewardship Development: Sized to fit Your Church," by Jimmy Terrell and Eddy Oliver. This resource assists leaders to develop a customized program whose ultimate goal is to help church members become better lifestyle stewards.

-- "ABCs of Church Budgeting, Promotion, and Stewardship Education." This is an annual plan book that guides a church through the entire budgeting process and outlines a plan for year-round stewardship training.

-- "Managing Your Church Finances...Made Easy," by J. David Carter. This book covers the most common financial issues churches face, from budgeting and contribution records to purchase orders and ledgers.

At the heart of giving lies a dependence on God, Aylor said.

"Are we going to trust God or not?" Aylor asked. "Fifty percent of the people who come to church don't give a dime. If everyone in the church gave like God wants them to give, the church wouldn't need to have debt either."


Note: To schedule a "Successful Christian Financial Management" seminar, call 615-251-2808 or e-mail stewardship@lifeway.com. To order various stewardship resources, call 800-458-2772 or go to www.lifeway.com.

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