By Tim Lubinus
Have you heard this one: “This generation of young people today will only contribute financially to what they can touch.” Missions organizations are accommodating this by setting up expensive short-term missions projects. Their thinking is that if people come to the mission field they will more likely donate to missions. Churches and mission organizations cater to this desire by setting up complex funding mechanisms so that people can designate their giving to their own pet projects.
I would regard this trend of a need for personal involvement in distant ministries more as a maturity difference more than a generational difference. The problem may be rooted in a latent savior complex. This complex comes from the understanding of some immature believers who enjoy the feeling of personal accomplishment for giving toward a ministry that claims the gift will have a high measurable impact. They hear that their gift saved a life, they are like a savior. Ministry organizations take advantage of this complex by sending photos of individual children who need food or education (saving). I wonder if a sponsor misses a payment if the child really will go without food. In many cases, the reality is that funds are pooled from all donors and that children are cared for with little regard to a specific name on a check.
Often the impulse to designate offerings is not a mature one. For example, everyone who attends a church service benefits from the church paying the electric bill. However, I’ve never seen anyone designate his or her offerings to the electricity line item. Immature people want their funds to go to something they are “passionate” about and at the same time what someone else to pay for the services they receive from the church.
For me, I’m planning on giving generously to the general fund of the church where I’m a member and encouraging my church’s leadership to give to the cooperative program. There are other ways of handling church missions giving, but the cooperative program the best one stop shop for state, national, and international missions. I don’t have time to research every ministry; my experience has taught me that just because someone can produce a dynamic PowerPoint presentation, brochure, and newsletter doesn’t mean their ministry is one that I’d want to support. The SBC mission entities carefully screen out most excessive charismatic, political, eschatological, and other weirdness. These entities aren’t perfect, but they can be trusted. I’m resisting designated offerings and other fund raising gimmicks and giving to what I think is the key New Testament vehicle for world evangelization: my local church.
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