Recently I sat down with a group of pastors and we were discussing the topic of tithing. One pastor brought up the idea of using a special giving card that offered a “Money Back Guarantee.” Here is a short summary of the idea:

Have your church’s leadership approve a money back guarantee for first-time tithers. When John Maxwell was pastoring, he would do this once a year. Following the month-long stewardship preaching series, they ask regular givers to turn in a card saying they will tithe the next year. They ask non-tithers and new people to sign a card saying they will begin to tithe. The church offers a full money back guarantee to anyone who tithes for 90 days and then regrets this decision.

To me the “Money Back Guarantee” of tithing is just Prosperity Gospel for Baptists, but in my most recent conversation, something new hit me. I asked the group of pastors who were in favor of using this giving card a very simple question, “what is your biblical and theological basis for using the “Money Back Guarantee” card? One Baptist pastor simply replied, and I quote him exactly,

“I don’t have a biblical foundation for one, and while this may not even represent good theology; it works!”

The reality is that the words of this one pastor are not isolated. There are a lot of “successful” churches who have embraced pragmatism over obedience. I have noticed a trend among “Evangelical” churches over the past years. The Evangelical church is consumed with the methods, practices, theology and ethos of pragmatism.

Part of what has become Evangelically Sexy is the reliance upon results as the bellwether of God’s hand of blessing. In short, pragmatism has become the new ethos that seems to govern so many of our churches. John MacArthur has made this same observation in his article “What’s Inside the Trojan Horse?”:

What is pragmatism? Basically it is the philosophy that results determine meaning, truth, and value–what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.

There are a lot of people out there promoting what is Evangelically Sexy and putting pragmatism above obedience. God’s ways are not our ways. God often asks us to do things that will not “work” in eyes of our world, but they are still God’s ways!

Examine your own actions and make sure you are not letting this Trojan Horse into your faith practice.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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