We know that physical cash and checks will still be used for many years to come, but a growing number of people desire the automation and consistency that online giving provides. In today’s culture many people have become very comfortable and even dependent upon online financial tools. A 2009 Federal Reserve study showed that electronic payments now represent more than 75% of all noncash payments. We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to nurture and inspire spiritual growth.
It ties our giving directly to the earning of our income. In the Old Testament, God’s people did not give cash or checks, they gave livestock and produce. They were commanded to give the first-fruits of their crops and the firstborn of the flocks. Therefore, their giving was not done weekly or monthly, they gave when they harvested a crop or when they received offspring. The principle of first-fruits required them to bring the first tenth of their crops to the tabernacle / temple. These offerings were used to meet the needs of the Priests and Levites and it was kept in a storehouse (Malachi 3:10 says “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse”). When it came to their livestock, they were required to give the first male offspring from every mother (a foreshadowing of the Gospel when God would give his firstborn). These animals were typically sacrificed as an act of worship. For the Jewish people, offerings were tied directly to income. They gave whenever they harvested a crop (the timing would vary depending on the crop) or whenever they were given a firstborn male offspring. One of the great things about online giving is that it ties our giving directly to our earning; in other words: as soon as I receive from God, I immediately give back to God. Certainly, this can also happen when we give by check or by cash, but what often happens is that we don’t make it to church that week or we forget to bring the checkbook or we just get busy. For those who want to be more consistent and disciplined in their giving, automated giving is a great way to make that happen. It ensures that we truly do give the “first-fruits” of our income. It ensures that giving doesn’t depend on church attendance. Today, the typical American, Evangelical Christian attends a worship service about 60% of the time. Between illnesses, bad weather, work schedules, kid’s activities, out-of-town travel, etc., most families make it to church about 3 out of 5 Sundays. According to one researcher, the biggest reason for the decline in weekly church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago. For many people, giving is tied directly to church attendance: when they know they are going to be in church, they bring their offering. There are some believers who are disciplined and faithful, and will give online, or “catch up” when they miss church. However, many people don’t take those steps to stay consistent in their giving. The advantage of online, recurring giving is that it ties my giving to my income rather than my church attendance and it ensures that I am truly giving a tithe of my income on a consistent basis – whether I am physically in a church service or not. It works well for a younger generation. Currently, 90% of people under age 35 carry a debit card but the vast majority of this same group does not consistently carry a check book. They manage their finances online or through their smartphones, and they make most of their purchases using a credit or debit card. According to the latest research, 67% of adults in the 18-29 age group use online banking services and 54% manage their finances through mobile apps (compared with only 14% of senior citizens). For younger people, giving electronically fits with how they manage every other aspect of their finances. Giving by cash or check is actually a barrier for them.
The clear command in Scripture is that we put God first in our finances by supporting His Kingdom on a consistent basis. Scripture does not mandate a particular means of giving that would span all cultures and times. If we believed that Scripture stipulated a particular method of giving, we might all be bringing sheep and barley to church! Think about how giving has changed over the centuries. Centuries ago, giving was done primarily through livestock and produce. As cultures changed and economies developed, giving was done through various forms of currency (coins and paper). Within the last century, the majority of giving transitioned from currency to checks. We are in another period of transition due to advances in technology. Nothing is better or worse about online giving from a Biblical perspective; it’s just a new way of implementing a timeless discipline.
To “bring the tithe” (Malachi 3:10) doesn’t disqualify online giving any more than writing a check does. Checks aren’t the actual funds, they just represent the funds. The church must “go get” the person’s tithes and offerings through a process of bank deposits and the internal transfer of funds between the donor’s and the church’s bank accounts. Online giving is simply a way of streamlining that exact same process. The command to “bring the tithe to my house” was given to people who had no other option but to physically carry their gifts to the place of worship. In our culture, we are blessed with more efficient ways of ensuring that our tithes and offerings are brought to God’s house.
Some people want to feel that they are participating with others during the offering time in the worship service. Some parents want to model the discipline of giving by having their children observe them physically contribute to the church’s offering. If that is the case for you, we would be happy to provide you with giving envelopes and each week you can simply drop the envelope in the offering bucket with a note enclosed saying “I gave online.”