Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD


What Paid Employees Must Teach

Southern Baptists everywhere —  reject this false doctrine of tithing!  Our leadership will not defend it because it cannot be defended honestly in context from God’s Word! Speak up in your churches and conferences.  The denomination is slowly trying to make this a mandatory doctrine for membership.  It is pure legalism.  They will not allow discussion. Help me change this with God’s blessings.

Southern Baptist Position Paper Rebuttal by Russell Earl Kelly




127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37234-0182


[Inside: page one of two unnumbered and undated pages]


Stewardship and Tithing:

The “Covenant for a New Century” adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 1997 assigned stewardship education to the Sunday School Board as a new area for our ministry to the churches. With this new assignment, Lifeway Christian Resources, formerly the Sunday School Board, wants to identify clearly the biblical stance related to stewardship and tithing that will form the basis for our ministry in stewardship education. This basis will guide those working in the area of stewardship education as well as employees who produce programs, materials, and other resources for the churches.

Lifeway Christian Resources ministries, programs and materials will affirm the following principles on stewardship and tithing:

Stewardship is a fundamental part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ and relates to all we are. It involves the dedication to God of time, talents, energy, material possessions, and all other dimensions of life. We will focus stewardship education on assisting churches in developing Christian disciples who are stewards in all areas of their lives.

Stewardship is a response to God’s grace and is a part of the believer’s daily worship of God. It recognizes God as Creator and owner of all, and it affirms that all God has provided for us has been given to us as stewards and trustees of His good gifts. We will focus stewardship education on assisting churches in expressing through worship and daily living gratitude and joy to God for His abundant blessings.

Stewardship is God’s plan for the church in carrying out the Great Commission. God intends for His people to be involved personally and fully in making disciples of all peoples. The stewardship of time, talents, energy, possessions, and all other dimensions of life provides the

[page two of two unnumbered inside pages]

engine that propels the church into the world with the gospel. We will focus stewardship education on assisting churches in mobilizing resources for fulfilling their mission in their communities and to the ends of the earth.

Tithing is the biblical standard for the stewardship of possessions. Giving the first and the best of possessions to God is a biblical model that must not be supplanted by any other standard. Believers may fall short of biblical standards, but the standards themselves must not be compromised by implying that something short of the standards is acceptable and pleasing to God. We will focus stewardship education on tithing as the standard and the beginning point that God has established for believers in their stewardship of possessions.Tithing is an act of obedience to God. Like all of God’s commands in the Bible, it is meant for the believer’s good. Tithing is not a legalistic standard that is pre-gospel, pre-Christian, or sub-Christian. Instead, it is a means by which God’s people acknowledge that everything ultimately belongs to God and that what we have, we receive from God’s gracious hand. We will focus stewardship education on tithing as an expectation God has for obedient believers.

All that we give to God should be given in love and gratitude. The attitude behind the act is what transforms giving from an obligation, a legalistic expectation, or a burden into an act of loving obedience and joyful thanksgiving. The tithe is not intended to limit the limit the believer’s giving. Voluntary giving over and beyond the tithe will often serve as an expression of the believer’s love and gratitude to God. We will focus stewardship education on providing positive channels for believers to express their love and gratitude to God for His unspeakable gift in Jesus Christ.

Note: Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this document only in its entirely. [End]………………………..

From pages 269, 270, Should the Church Teach Tithing, Russell E. Kelly

The Southern Baptist’s official statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message, is widely distributed for all to read. This document still does not contain the word, tithe! However, behind this outward statement is the controlling, yet almost unknown (to most parishioners) Stewardship Position Paper, adopted in June 1997. The Position Paper is the current leadership’s interpretation and application of the general stewardship statement. It is clearly an effort to usurp the local church’s authority to determine its own doctrinal stance in matters of giving principles.

It is the Position Paper, and not the Faith and Message statement, which MUST be followed for all stewardship-related teaching and publications such as Sunday School literature. Since partial quotations are forbidden, I shall summarize what it says. The first of seven paragraphs says that tithing is the clear biblical stance which must be used as the basis for all denominational employees who write denominational literature on stewardship. (You will have to go out of your way to read this for yourself.) In other words, hidden behind the officially distributed Faith and Message, the Position Paper compels employees who produce the unofficial literature to teach tithing. However, while tithing is “fair game,” the Convention leadership would not dare issue position papers on other current divisive issues such as the inspiration of the Bible, prophetic interpretations, biblical hermeneutics, or hierarchy-controlled leadership.

Referring to tithing, the fifth paragraph of the Position Paper uses the word, standard, six times and the sixth paragraph uses the word, expectation, once. Denominational employees are thus ordered to teach tithing and they “must not” replace it with any other approach to giving. Therefore, unofficially, tithing is the only acceptable standard and expectation of giving.

Any person who has read the introductory pages of The Baptist Faith and Message will see in the Position Paper a forcing of the conscience contrary to the very nature of Baptist churches. Although there have been many Baptist statements of faith since the first one in 1644, it took over 300 years for merely the tithing texts like Genesis 14:20, Leviticus 27:30-32 and Malachi 3:9-10 to first appear in the 1963 The Baptist Faith and Message! Why? The previous Faith of 1923 did not include any tithing texts! Again, Why? Although brochures on tithing overwhelm the literature rack inside most Southern Baptist Churches, the word, tithe, still does not appear in the 1998 revision of the Faith and Message! Why? Yet an Internet search on the S.B.C. site produces articles about some of their churches which already require church members to “tithe.”



Southern Baptist evangelists are REQUIRED to affirm that they are tithers to their local church. When this affirmation is combined with the Position Paper (see this site), then it is twice-mandatory that Southern Baptist evangelists teach tithing. It does not seem to matter whether or not God’s Word teaches tithing in the New Covenant. Neither does it matter whether or not their own SBC Faith and Message still does not contain the words “tithing, tithe, or tithes.” And it does not matter that their 1925 Faith and Message did not even contain tithing texts! Although their own 2006 survey admits that 20% of SBC pastors do not teach tithing (see this site), “once a doctrine, always a doctrine” has a very recent and new application to tithing.

First, one would expect than an evangelist would qualify to keep any money contributed to him in order to further his own evangelism into areas which were poor and could not donate much in offerings. Second, one would expect the evangelist to give part of his offering back to the church from which he received it and not give all of it to his local church. There is not NT principle making this a rule. Third, since OT tithes were not used for evangelism, then there are no tithing principles to bring forward into the New Covenant. OT priests were not required to pay tithes and tithes were never used for evangelism of non-Hebrews.

What doctrinal is next?  May I suggest that there are forces trying to change SBC churches into Methodist and Presbyterian-style organizations where the bishop appoints pastors and the local church is subservient to regional authorities, that is the Southern Baptist hierarchy.




We the members of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists do hereby, before the Lord and each other, affirm the following statements concerning our accountability as vocational evangelists.


We are accountable to the local church where we are members by participating in its programs and supporting it with our tithes. We will strive to conduct our ministries so as to build up the local body of believers by proclaiming the great doctrines of the scriptures.