In my doctoral research on spiritual formation of generosity in people, I discovered some (though not enormous) correlation between experience with church financial fraud and giving patterns of Christians. People who had been in a church with financial scandals tended to decrease giving going forward to churches with minimal internal controls, transparency, and financial soundness while they increased their future giving to churches that had strong controls in place, had appropriate transparency and were financial sound. It’s a shaping experience that can be among the most traumatic.
Then, last week a friend and I were discussing a statistic he came across. I couldn’t believe it when he told me, so I checked it. He was dead on. Here it is:
“The January 2011 issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research reported that Christian religious leaders will commit an estimated $34 billion in financial fraud in 2011 while $31 billion will be spent on global missions. Researchers from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimate that Christian religious leaders will commit $90 million in financial crimes daily and the fraud is growing at a rate of 5.97% each year. If the researchers are correct, religious financial fraud among Christians will almost double in 14 years to $60 billion annually by 2025.”
Let me boil that down: This year, more money will be stolen by church leaders than will be spent by churches for global mission. What’s more? The problem is getting worse, not better.
I’m thankful for the majority of churches around the world, who handle God’s money with the respect, care, and vision that pleases Him. However, we must and can do better. Our witness in the world and our desire for God’s blessing on our churches demand it.
Tomorrow’s blog will offer some suggestions on how to protect your church from this sin without killing ministry in the process. It’s vital that churches act on this. The goal isn’t to create a culture of suspicion or to tie up the flow of ministry with red tape. There are ways to defend your church against the Enemy and allow for free flow of ministry and a culture of trust. I’ll share some tomorrow.
In the mean time, I’d love to hear what you have to say on this. Does the number shock you? How have you seen churches and/or the Kingdom impacted by this?
If you want to read more, I have also included a link to a blog that does a fine job of compiling a lot of data in one place.