Deacons should learn how to evaluate charities because it is partly their duty and responsibility, but by doing so they can also encourage church growth. They can provide a great service to their members and to the needy alike…
Giving to charity is not optional for Christians. This is because all Christians are required to tithe to their local church. Then, it is the duty of the deacons to distribute that money to the poor and needy (Acts 6:1).
When a Christian gives to his church, and when the deacons distribute a portion of the church’s revenue to worthy charities, then by the covenantal principle of representation the tithing Christian is giving to charity.
You are probably familiar with the story of Jesus healing the Roman centurion’s servant:
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.Matthew 8:5-10, ESV
There is another version of this account provided in Luke 7:1-10. In that version, we see that it wasn’t the centurion himself who approached Jesus, but elders of the Jews (verse 3). Jesus speaking to the elders, who represented the centurion, was covenantally equivalent to Jesus speaking directly with the centurion.
Jesus himself affirms this representation principle. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mat. 25:40). Jesus said that whenever we feed the hungry, we are feeding Him.
So by giving a portion of the church’s money to worthy charities, the deacons are helping to fulfill their member’s responsibility to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Diaconates that neglect this duty are letting down their church members.
RELIEVE DONOR PARALYSIS
One highly practical reason that deacons should become skilled at evaluating charities is that many would-be donors want to donate to charities, but they don’t know how to evaluate a charity. This paralyzes them.
Many people know they should put in the time to research and evaluate charities, but they don’t know where to start. They don’t really want to donate a dollar to whatever charity the grocery store clerks are pushing on them. Primarily, because they know they know nothing about the charity, and it seems irresponsible to donate out of expediency. But many end up doing so anyway because they do feel guilty for not putting in the proper effort to evaluate charities and identify one that is worthy of their time and money.
Giving the dollar doesn’t assuage their guilt, its memory just lingers as a constant reminder every time they go shopping that they aren’t doing what they ought.
If the deacons learn how to do this themselves, then they could provide a tremendous benefit to their church members and even to non-members in their community.
They could teach free, all-day courses on how to go through this process with examples. This would work especially well also as an online class through free video conferencing software like Zoom.
At the end of the course, the deacons can provide a brief lesson on representational giving. They can explain that anyone who is a member of their church and tithes is fulfilling their moral obligation before God because the deacons screen and evaluate charities which are deserving of the church’s contributions. Show proof: how much money did the deacons give away last year? How many charities? To what causes?
Serving charitable causes encourages church growth because people are attracted to active institutions of social healing. They want to contribute their money, time, and talents to an organization that is having a measurable impact in relieving pain and suffering in the world. Free seminars and training on how to evaluate charities is also free advertisement for your church.
GIVING IS AN INNATE COMPULSION
Church members will want to give offerings above and beyond their tithe. You just can’t stop this. People are blessed in different ways with different talents and wealth, and so some are going to want to support particular charities regardless of what the deacons do.
These offerings could be in money, but they could also be in the form of time or talents. First, the deacons should be able to recommend to their members a list of worthy local, regional, national, and international charities. This will save the members some time. They should be able to trust the deacons to vet charities. Christ calls different Christians to give their offerings and talents in diverse ways (Romans 12:6-8). One size won’t fit all when it comes to charitable giving, so members should be given options. The individuals may have other charities in mind that the deacons haven’t evaluated.
If so, the deacons should be able to teach the member how to evaluate the charity to ensure he is stewarding God’s resources responsibly (or offer to evaluate the charity on the member’s behalf). If members want to donate their time and talents by serving directly in an organization, the same principles apply. Members’ time is valuable and shouldn’t be put to waste.
Charitable administration is part of deacon’s official duty. Evaluating charities correctly is challenging, emotional, time-consuming work. Rich men don’t have time for this. Most middle and lower-class families don’t, either. The husband is working for much of his week and should be spending his free time developing a side business to retire into or working on his calling. Wives may also be working or homeschooling the children. They should all tithe to the church, and the deacons, whose duty it is to specialize in administering the church’s charitable resources, should handle the bulk of their members’ charitable giving on the members’ behalf. Because of the covenantal principle of representation (point two of the Biblical covenant model), what the deacons do, the congregation members also do representatively through them.
THE BENEFITS OF PARTNERING WITH CHARITIES
One benefit to the diaconate that works with charities is that the charity administrators know how to properly screen applicants. Some of the poor and needy are professionals when it comes to extracting money from the naive and inexperienced. They are known as “chiselers.” Merriam-Webster defines a chiseler as “a dishonest person who uses clever means to cheat others out of something of value.” Chiselers know how to tug on your heartstrings. They are masters at extracting a dollar from a kind-hearted Christian. Chiselers are experts in guilt-manipulation.
The undeserving chiseler extracts resources that should go to deserving recipients. He is a thief.
But dedicated charities are (or should be) professionals at screening out the con-artists and denying those who are unworthy. This is good stewardship.
Another advantage charities have over the deacons is that they specialize in their particular area of charitable service.
They have accumulated years or decades of experience and training. Partnering with a charity can be much more efficient for a diaconate than starting a similar ministry from scratch. This is especially true for smaller diaconates who simply lack the manpower. By partnering with worthy charities, the deacons can leverage the power of the division of labor to amplify their work.
If the diaconate does want to start a new organization as a direct extension of the church, the deacons should seek out the most effective experts in their area and consult with them. They should ask them if they will provide the deacons training. (For this reason, deacons should choose which local charities they want to directly compete against carefully. Unless there’s some kind of ethical issue at hand, the deacons should cooperate with local charities.) To find the best in the charity business, deacons will need to know how to evaluate charitable organizations.
The fact is, most Christians give less than 10 percent to the church and charity combined.
Think about what will happen when most Christians start tithing to the church as they should. A large portion of the over $400 billion given to charity every year would be redirected to the churches instead.
About 80 percent of all charitable donations come from individuals. About a third of them go to churches. To tithe, many families would have to shift their charitable giving away from non-profit organizations and to their church.
When church members start tithing, then a greater responsibility will fall upon the deacons. Much greater influence will come to the church with such a great influx of charitable money. It will become the deacons’ responsibility to administer this money. This wealth and influence will shift away from the preferences of individuals and to the Kingdom of God.
This is the way it should be.
Deacons ought to embrace this responsibility now in order to prepare for the times ahead. Nobody else is doing this. The church and the deacons have an opportunity to get out ahead of the problem. Your church can be in a position of local leadership when the widespread loss in faith in the government sweeps the country because of the Great Default.
Christ’s kingdom is in the growth stage. It is experiencing steady and continual expansion, even if it is, as times, imperceptible to our senses. But we know that wherever it expands, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. They will be broken down. The broken will be healed. And Jesus’s deacons are going to be the primary agents of that healing.
Begin now, when the risk and responsibility are small. Start with a small budget. Commit to evaluating two or three local charities using the information on this site. Learn to be faithful with a small amount of resources, and your church will be rewarded with greater responsibility…and greater resources with which to fulfill that responsibility (Matthew 25:23; Luke 16:10).