The new report from empty tomb, inc., The State of Church Giving through 2018, asks church members and leaders to consider, What if Jesus comes back in 2025?
The book notes that all Christian traditions affirm the ideas in the Apostles’ Creed, if not the creed itself, which states that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.
Chapter 8 states, “Jesus’ return could be today, or in 2025, or occur thousands of years from now.” The year 2025 is selected for discussion because three groups have set goals to reach by that year.
Chapter 8 also considers possible consequences if the church in the U.S. does not prepare as if Jesus is coming back in 2025, and possible consequences if it does.
The new book, the 30th in the empty tomb series, also updates church membership giving and membership numbers through 2018.
Overall, the report notes, giving as a percent of income, and membership as a percent of U.S. population, have been in decline among church members in the U.S. By 2018, for example, per member giving to churches as a percent of income had declined, on average, from 3.02% in 1968 to 2.05% in 2018, the latest data year available as of this report.
Church membership as a percent of U.S. population also posted declines. A group of 34 Protestant communions and the Roman Catholic Church represented 45% of U.S. population in 1968 and 33% in 2018.
The report notes that church leaders have not been able to tap potential increased giving among church members. Had giving remained in 2018 at 3.02%, which was the 1968 level, churches in the composite set would have received $8 billion more in 2018 than they did.
Had giving grown toward the classic tithe, or 10% of income, rather than decreased, churches would have had over $400 billion more to spend on their mission outreach.
The new book notes three groups have set goals to be reached by 2025. Wycliffe Bible translators is leading an effort to start Bible translations in every language by 2025. An umbrella group of organizations under the name Finishing the Task is setting a goal for having a worker to help start self-multiplying churches in every people group by 2025.
A third goal is to “close the Promise Gap” by 2025. The Promise Gap is defined as the difference between the target reduction goal “promised” (their word) by world leaders in 1990 and again in 2000, for the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) – – and the actual U5MR. Because the target reduction goal was not met in 2018, the new book estimates, 1.2 million children under the age of five died that year from treatable causes. The book proposes that church people work through their distribution channels, and, in Jesus’ name, prevent these deaths.
The new book also analyzes 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey data. As in past years, Americans reported that giving to “church, religious organizations” received the largest portion of income given, whether considered by age group, income level, or region of residence. The second highest category was “charities and other organizations,” followed by “educational institutions” and “Gifts to non-CU [consumer unit] members of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.”
Once again this year, the “Under 25 years” gave a low percentage of income. Of what they did give, they reported 71% of their donations went to “church, religious organizations,” consistent with most past years of CE analysis done in the empty tomb series.
The new book, published December 2020, is available at Wipf and Stock Publishers.
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