How hard is this?
Take your wife out to the finest restaurant in town. Run up a three-figure tab, sans alcohol of course. When the server presents the bill, just say,
"I'm paying this with my percentage."
"Yeah, I'd like to pay by percentage."
"We prefer dollars, please."
Ah, brother, you are embarrassing your wife in public with your behavior. You lose credit for the expensive meal you just bought her.
I first heard the title phrase from Adrian Rogers back in the 1980s. Moderates were criticizing him for his church's low Cooperative Program giving percentage. Moderates often sported a lapel button that said "10%" as a way of promoting that percentage of undesignated church receipts to be given to the CP. Bellevue, Adrian's church, was under 4%. When the issue was raised, Adrian said, "Dollar pay bills, not percentages." Bellevue paid a lot of SBC and Tennessee state convention bills with their CP giving.
Since then the axiomatic phrase is always good for a discussion. While I understand the point of those who focus on the percentages, it is one measure of the importance of our denominational funding plan to that church and pastor, I think the logic behind the dollars/percentages statement is unassailable.
No one ever paid a bill with a percentage.
Why does it matter?
It matters to many because they see megachurches giving very low percentages to the CP, yet megachurch pastors are almost never rejected for denominational office because of that (Check my article, SBC presidents and the CP, for a rundown of this).
With CP percentages sliding downward, now under six percent for the average church, some point to megachurches as the cause. Perhaps in a small way they are. We operate on the star system in the SBC and megapastors are the stars. Lowly average church pastors imitate them in many ways.
In my local association the CP average is in the five to six percent range, about the same as the convention as a whole. There are five churches that give over ten percent. Their gifts total around $100k. The single leading CP church in dollars gives a much lower percentage but more than doubles the number of dollars.
Which total would you rather have to pay your bills? The five churches who give over 10% or the one church that gives far less than 10%?
Churches of any and all sizes exercise their autonomy in giving to the CP and pointing fingers at a church's "low" percentage may make some feel good but I doubt many churches will be shamed into increasing their CP percentage. Neither do I think that we will ever get back to anywhere near a 10% average CP percentage convention-wide.
There is, however, an area where I think percentages should be considered. I'll write of that in a few days.
For now, I'm headed to my favorite Third Place to drink tea and read the paper and I'm taking some dollars along to pay the bills.