(MNN) — A wobbly housing recovery continues to stir economic uncertainties
across the United States.
from the recession has been volatile, and few have gotten through
unscathed. For non-profits and
faith-based groups, deep cuts have left scars.
church leaders have continued to teach on the practice of tithing, Americans
have pretty much made up their minds on the subject. Barna Group research indicates that shrinking donations, rising costs, and greater
need are stretching thin the finances of many congregations.
In 2009, the same report shows that almost a third of
adults had reduced giving to their churches, and nearly half said they also had
curtailed their donations to other non-profits. By April 2011, that number stood firm at 30%, with 24% of
that 30% saying they had stopped giving to their churches.
Evangelist Sammy Tippit says everyone
has felt it. "Every ministry that I know organizationally is down in
their income because of the economic uncertainties and the things that have
happened in the past couple of years. They're not just down a little bit,
they're down substantially."
Despite the numbers and the seemingly pessimistic forecast of growth, however, Tippit
says the crisis has forced churches to take a good look at mission and
priority, sometimes leading to re-prioritizing themselves. "God uses these economic
difficulties to make us take a hard look at what it is that we're doing and see
what it is that's really fluff, what's really substantial, and what it is
that God's in."
Tippit also notes a somewhat unique take on the paradox of the bottom falling
out. "Jesus once
said that those that have His Word and abide in His Word, He's going to prune
so that they can produce more fruit." Tippit goes on to say that he hears churches
saying the same thing. "I look
around today at our culture and our society, and we're very materialistic. For years, people have been saying
'materialism is our problem.' God's
speaking to that issue."
The result? It's likely some kind of spiritual
revival, says Tippit. The conditions are right. All it needs is a little spark, he says. "The last Great Revival
that took place was when there was an economic crisis–150 years ago during
what was called 'The Great Prayer Revival.' It took place when the bottom
fell out in the financial district in New York City. I think what happened then
is what's happening to a lesser degree right now."
Burns penned these words in 1909, in the book Revivals, Their Laws and Leaders: "The period immediately preceding a widespread spiritual
awakening is generally characterised by a profound sense of dissatisfaction
awaking in many hearts."
Tithing sermons aside, it's time to
refocus, re-prioritize, and let the pruning finish its work. "If our priorities are straight," Tippit
explains, "we go through this process of seeing what God wants us to cut
out and what God wants to put in, and that's a healthy process. Then we end up
doing all that God wants us to do."
Wobbly housing often reveals a wobbly
foundation. That can be changed, Tippit says.
"Keep yourselves rooted and grounded on those things that God says. These
things [economic crises] aren't going to make a difference concerning what God wants to
do. But it could be that if you aren't there, that God wants to get you to
where you place your feet on that Solid Rock."
There are links to more resources to
help re-ground at our Featured Links Section.