I came across some new data the other day that seems we need to have more and more conversations about organized religion and the dire need to give money to them. If there wasn’t money to be made, would evangelicalism (or any denomination of any kind for that matter) look the way it does today? Getting right to the point, we can see that most churches, according to this survey done by eccu.org for 2013, invest most of their income, that comes from giving, to just a few people and their buildings. Around 58% of all revenue coming into a church goes to pay salaries, pension plans, benefits, and personal expenses. Are we, as the Body of Christ, OK with this? I encourage all to ask themselves to really think about this issue. Add in the cost to operate the building, and administration costs and you are at an average of 82%. So, for every dollar you give to a church, .82 cents goes to pay for the employees and the building. Again, are we OK with this? Or, does this kind of religious business reflect the Kingdom of God? We seriously need to talk about this in a calm and rational way that look at these matters through the lens of Christ. As I see it, the laity is financing the careers and businesses of the religious leaders (which is not supported in the bible, now matter how much people want to think it is).
What drives this need to thrive in religion? Does it start out as an innocent nudge to do something good for God? Of course, each person needs to ask that of themselves. I will say this though…we do not need churches to give to to accomplish what we consider “good”. What seems to be the more logical conclusion is to give directly to those in need as God gives the opportunity, which I’m sure are many. If we take what Paul said in his writings, it would seem that the basic needs of those ministering should be met. Paying salaries, having tax deductions, and supporting lifestyles does not seem to be anywhere in the bible. But giving directly to those who are poor or in need is.
Here is another chart from the ECCU that gives more revelation as to where all the money is going. According to this graph, it can easily be said that churches create revenue for employees, with the few at the top making the most. The argument, of course is, “have you seen all the good that is done by those employees”. That line of questions doesn’t answer if we should support careers, just why we do. In reality, instead of supporting the orphans, widows, and the poor….we are paying people to do it for us. But I haven’t even brought up that the average of benevolent giving in these churches on average is around 3%. 3%?!? When I first started looking into where the money really goes at churches, I was expecting that most churches gave away 50-60% of what they brought in. Or even maybe 75-85% on a good day. But that is not the truth of the matter. Religion is big business and most of what we see today would not be happening if there wasn’t money to be made.
The point is this…do we care what religion does with money? Where it goes? That most of what religion spends money on goes to preserve its very existence? We all need to ask these questions to ourselves and those we live life with. Maybe it will spur on conversation that will open up new ideas or convictions. Maybe we can see a new way that looks different than the way the powers of the world operate. Let’s talk about it. Tell me what you think…