Shall we qualify the tithing expectation?

Tom Arthur, pastor of Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church, seeks the advice of elders about the wisdom of telling enquirers classes that tithing is an expectation of members:

Our church has a tradition of expecting its members to tithe or to be working toward tithing. There is no formal process for determining whether someone lives into this commitment or not (we don’t ask to see paycheck stubs or anything like that), but rather in membership classes the commitment is presented, and if someone chooses to be a member the follow-through on this commitment is up to him or her.

This requirement naturally keeps many people from joining as full members. The commitment to tithe is a significant one, and not many people are willing to make that commitment. They do not generally leave the church at this point, but they do not enter into full membership. They continue attending regularly. Many are serving in significant ways.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this system creates a perception of “pay to play.” I don’t believe that is the intent of the expectation, but that is how it comes across at times. It does also have the tendency to make some people frustrated at the least and angry at the most that they are not granted the privileges of full membership (e.g. voting). On the other hand, our Wesleyan heritage does have a history of setting high standards for membership to societies and classes, and Wesley regularly and forcefully preached about money in such a way that makes the requirement to tithe seem rather small and insignificant, and both he and Asbury’s lifestyle left little to no room for early Methodists to complain that their leaders weren’t living into what they were teaching and requiring of others.

The post is at Faith & Leadership.

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