Republican Senator Charles Grassley's current inquiry into the spending habits of six prominent televangelists, coupled with recent revelations about financial misdeeds at Oral Roberts University, is causing legitimate concern at every level of faith ministry. Professional fundraisers worry about the impact such stories may have on giving, which is--by some estimates--already on the decline, since peaking in 2006.

 

What a tragedy it would be, should thousands of ministries suffer for the indiscretions of a mere half-dozen. We here in Philadelphia still shudder from the chilling effect on ministry fundraising caused by the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy scandal in 1995. And the echoes of the devastating 1980s “TV preacher” embarrassments ring anew in the halls of Oral Roberts University. But the reality for most ministry organizations—as confirmed by the work of the Pew Foundation, the University of PA, and others back at the turn of the century—is that faith-based ministries are the top social problem-solvers in the communities they serve. Moreover—in Philadelphia alone—a thousand congregations in the city provide a conservatively-estimated quarter-billion dollars’ worth of “hidden” social services per year.

Non-profit church organizations are remarkably accountable, great stewards of their resources, and invaluable in terms of the work they accomplish. The bottom line: if the work of the Christian church was to be suddenly pulled out of the community, our cities would—very quickly—implode. Even if the government was able to somehow come up with a plan to replace the services rendered by the Christian church, the effort would soon bankrupt every taxpayer in
America.

 

So, please…as frustrating as the news may sometimes be…don’t give up on supporting your favorite ministry. The vast majority of Christian charities that ask for your support are legitimate, caring, and irreplaceable members of our community. If you suspect the reliability of a ministry asking for money, there are two great places to look: charitynavigator.org, and ecfa.org—that’s the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Between the two, you should be able to find the information you need to give with confidence.

 

For a clear, Biblical understanding of a believer’s privilege in giving, check 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. You’ll find that such generosity will result in a “harvest of righteousness,”* not necessarily worldly wealth.  

 

If you’re a Christian and feel no desire to give…you might just want to check your pulse, instead.  

 

 

*2 Corinthians 9:10 (ESV)