Paul gets down to business in his letter to the believers at Corinth. He digs into the administration of the offerings. Did you know an estimated 50 billion dollars are stolen or embezzled from money that Christians give to churches, para-church organizations, and secular organizations all over the world? That’s according to Todd Johnson, Associate Professor of Global Christianity and Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

My friend Todd’s research shows that Northern America’s 281 million Christians have a personal income of about $14.4 trillion dollars, which is about seven times more than the incomes of Africa’s 768 million Christians. North Americans give about $568 billion every year, as opposed to Africa’s estimated $22 billion in giving to all causes. Evangelicals in North America give about $66 billion. Only about $20 billion is given to foreign missions.

Fifty billion in fraud and embezzlement is way too much. Before you get too excited and decide to stop being generous, consider some spending habits that keep us from investing in the needs of missionaries, effective discipleship, and worthy kingdom projects around the world:

In the USA, annual expenditures on pets is about $70 billion; on Halloween is about $9 billion; on cosmetics about $8 billion; on fantasy sports leagues about $2.3 billion; on unused gym memberships about $1.8 billion; and worldwide about $138 billion is spent on video games.

But preventing and reducing fraud and embezzlement of funds is urgent if we are to be effective in our witness to a watching world. Here’s what we do at YWAM Converge:

  1. Make sure we know who has access to the checkbook.
  2. Accountability for all receipts and expenditures, to a volunteer who checks our bookkeeping, a CPA who reviews our books and completes our annual tax returns, and our board of directors who oversee all our operations.
  3. Commitments for all staff and board members to sign conflict of interest and whistleblower agreements.

“I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal. We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. That’s why we’re sending another trusted friend along. He’s proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started. He’s heard much about you, and liked what he’s heard—so much so that he can’t wait to get there.”

2 Corinthians 8:16-20 MSG