At Life.Church, we like to say we will do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ. That might include things like using movies or popular TV commercials in church to illustrate truths from the Bible. As a result of being really focused about reaching the lost, we often have a lot of visitors or new believers attending our experiences.
This is why we must be intentional about our messaging. One example of this is how we communicate a God-honoring perspective on tithing. Here are a few communication practices that have worked well for us:
- Tithing isn’t for everyone. Because we have a high number of visitors, not everyone who attends our services is a Christian. We’re upfront about the tithe being an act of worship meant for God’s people. You don’t have to do anything before saying “yes” to Jesus, and you shouldn’t feel compelled to give or tithe before you’ve committed to follow Christ.
- Everyone’s next step is different. Even though new Christians are called to tithe, there are other next steps that are just as important. We encourage them to do things like coming back the next weekend, reading the Bible, joining a Life Group, and serving. A relationship with God is a growth process, and not everyone is ready for all the next steps at once. To lead people toward irrational generosity, you have to meet them where they are. And that starts with building relationships. Tithing is a next step, but it’s not the first or only next step. And that’s because...
- We’re not legalistic. When we get too wrapped up in the “rules” of tithing, we miss the point, and it can even alienate visitors or new Christians. For example, we don’t push that tithing is a salvation issue or that non-tithers are stealing from God. We also don’t focus on legalistic questions like whether we should tithe on gross or net income. We leave it up to each individual to decide. When talking about tithing, we believe it’s more important to focus on the heart and being a cheerful giver.
- We don’t focus on tithing at Christmas or Easter. This is when we have the highest number of visitors and people who don’t attend church often. If the first thing they hear is about money, they might think that’s our first priority. We think the tithe is important, of course, but with visitors we haven’t yet cast vision and laid groundwork for why it’s important. (This is why we also avoid this topic for high-visitor weekends like our At the Movies series.) We’ll still pass around the offering bucket, but we’ll be focused on what’s most important—the life-changing gift of Jesus.
- Tithing and giving aren’t the same thing. This is an important distinction. The tithe is 10% of our income. It’s holy and set apart, and we’re really just returning it to God. Giving starts after the tithe. When we dip into our 90%, true generosity begins. To encourage generosity at Life.Church, we offer different options. For example, if someone’s passionate about opening new campuses so more people can hear about Jesus, they can designate their gift to our building program, Spaces and Places. Or maybe an attender wants his gift to go toward Relief and Restoration to help fight poverty, provide crisis relief, and protect vulnerable people.
Regardless of how we get there, our goal for tithes and offerings is to honor God and change lives. We don’t ask for money. Instead, we invite people to be a part of God’s plan for resourcing the local church and the capital “C” Church. We want to lead people well and draw them into generosity through good communication and the right heart.