Giving Back

Idol Gives BackI admit it, I’m a fan of American Idol. And tonight was the second year of “Idol Gives Back”. I saw videos of rock stars touching people in Uganda, Reese Witherspoon in New Orleans at after-school programs in depressed neighborhoods, and Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus visiting depressed parts of Kentucky.

And I asked myself again, Where’s the Church?

American Idol raised over $70 Million last year. They may top $100 million this year.

If the percentages from 2006 hold to form, Southern Baptist churches will give $557,226,488.89 to the Cooperative Program this year. If, on average, each church gave 5% to the Cooperative Program, that means Southern Baptist churches will take in $11,144,529,777.80 during 2007-2008. Folks, that is over eleven billion dollars. That means that churches will KEEP $10,587,303,288.91. There are 44,223 churches in the SBC. Know how much that is per church? Drum roll please…


That’s right, on average (notice I didn’t say the average church), each SBC church keeps almost $240,000 in tithes and offerings of its members. Now I know a percentage of that will go to the church’s local association. I do not have figures on that, or any educated guess, so I left those numbers out. I might guess an average of 5%-7%.

So I began to think about these numbers. What if the SBC churches alone came together and gave $1 billion to partner with people and support after-school programs, clean water in Africa, AIDS research, clinics, etc. What would be the impact on each church? Let’s see:

$10,587,303,288.91-$1,000,000,000.00 = $9,587,303,288.91. The average per church drops to $216,794.50, a decrease of $22,612.67.

Do you know what that would amount to for average church? Educational literature, and the music budget, or 9% .

Now I know the majority of the churches in the SBC are at 75 folks on Sunday. Therefore, the burden would fall on those church who would raise the averages to the $240k range. But still, the point is made. The SBC and it’s churches could overwhelm the amount given by the country at large for less than 10% of SBC churches as a whole keep for themselves.

American Idol raises $70-$100 million from a pool of 300 million, including corporate sponsors. SBC churches could raise $1 billion from a pool of 16 million people. And still not be affected.

Now note: this is not a critic of the SBC. I only looked at numbers from my own denomination. This is representative of one denomination among hundreds in the US.

Churches have trained people to come to our buildings and so we must protect our buildings, and the salaries of professional staff. We have trained our people that real ministry happens in our location. So most of what we bring in is used for overhead.

But what we have also done is tell the world that we don’t really care about you. We only care about you if you come and be part of us. We have it all backwards. Notice Jer. 29:4-7

4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (NLT)

When God called Abram, He told Abram:

1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3, NLT)

In Jeremiah, God told the people work for the prosperity and blessing of their enemy. In Genesis, God told Abram he would bless all the nations of the world.

Yet today, when the nation thinks of people who bless the world, who do they think about? The church or American Idol? When they think of people impacting children and the crises that are devestating parts of our world, who do they think of? The church or Brangelina? Or Madonna? When is the time of the year when activist stars join hands with greedy corporate executives and sing kum-ba-ya? During American Idol, Idol Gives Back.

What would the world say if a local church, all 300,000 plus in the US, had the slogan, “My Church, a church giving back”, and actually raised money for hospitals and shelters and partnered with after-school programs and groups working with AIDS patients and found a myriad of ways to bless the community they were a part of?

What would that look like in your church? What would that look like to the church’s budget? Would that mean you studied the Bible instead of Sunday School literature? Would your music program suffer? How about that Christian concert that was booked?

What is the reputation of your church in your community? Do they celebrate your as a church that gives back or look with disdain?

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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1 comment
  • This is a great post, Ron Sider….er….David. ūüėČ

    Seriously, the church has become so institutionalized that we can hardly conceive of it apart from our buildings and programs. It isn’t that buildings and programs are bad, but as you point out, when a disproportionate amount of our resources go to those things at some point we have to stop and ask about the wisdom of that.

    Oh…and last night we flipped through the channels and I stopped for a sec on Idol Gives Back. A woman was getting ready to sing and my wife said, “Oh, look, a Mariah Carey wannabe.” I had to break the news to her that it was, in fact, Mariah Carey.

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