How much money do Christians pull in and where does it go?

As a missional Starter and Artistic Creative focused on the 10/40 Window—the final frontier of missions efforts—I am always thinking about the misallocation of Christian giving. I say “misallocation” because the numbers are completely lopsided.

Here’s a few numbers to think about:

  • “Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income and spend 98% of it on themselves.” – Barrett and Johnson, 2001, 656
  • “North American and European Christians spend $12.5 trillion on themselves and their families each year.”Barrett and Johnson, 2001, 656
  • “Only 0.1% of all Christian giving is directed toward mission efforts in the 38 most unevangelized countries in the world.”Barrett and Johnson, 2001, 656
  • “American Christians spend 95% of offerings on home-based ministry, 4.5% on cross-cultural efforts in already reached people groups, and .5% to reach the unreached.”The Traveling Team
  • “Christians’ annual income is $12.3 trillion. $213 billion is given to Christian causes. $11.4 billion is given to foreign missions, 87% of which goes to work being done among the already Christian, 12% goes to work among the evangelized non-Christians, 1% among the unevangelized.”The Traveling Team


Do we really care about the those missionaries?

I have spent a lot of time in some of the poorest of Asia’s villages over the last decade and a half with Within Reach Global. I have shared life and the gospel message in the huts and homes of people who have never heard the name of Jesus before.

It burns in my heart to see these communities reached with the love of Jesus, but apparently, bringing the hope of the Christian gospel to these people is simply not a major priority for Christians worldwide.

Foreign and indigenous missionaries in the unreached and unengaged world are being hung out to dry as they try to reach the people groups in the 10/40 Window. If they were fully funded, there is a great chance that we could finish the task of reaching the world for Jesus.

“In AD 100 there were 12 unreached people groups for every congregation of believers. Now there is 1 unreached people group for every 1000 congregations.” – Ralph Winter

But only a tiny percentage of Christian giving goes to reach the least reached people of the globe.

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We tip our waitress 15% but we can’t even give God 10%?

On average, American church members give just 2.58% of their income with 25% giving nothing at all. Discovering for the first time that Christians are not giving at the level you may have thought can be depressing, but even at 2.58% it still adds up to over $103 billion given to American churches each year.

$103 billion dollars every single year is an incredible amount. It’s enough for the American church alone to eliminate the most extreme poverty in the world by many estimates.

So how is the money being spent? Here are the stats according to Empty Tomb, Inc.:

85% goes to Internal Operations:

  • 50% to pay the salary of pastors and church staff.
  • 22% to pay for upkeep and expansion of buildings.
  • 13% for church expenses such as electricity and supplies.

15% goes to Outreach:

  • 13% local ministry.
  • 2% for overseas missions (both evangelistic and charitable).

“The Lord did not tell us to build beautiful churches, but to evangelize the world.” – Oswald J. Smith

In the end, if you only give to your local church, odds are that only 2% of 2.58%, or 0.05% of your income is going towards “preaching the gospel to every nation” and helping the “poorest of the poor” combined.

To put that in perspective, if you make $50,000 a year, that is only $25.80 per year. Of course, all of this depends on what church you attend and how much you give, but it’s a sobering statistic for sure. – Believers Resource



The epic fail of Church embezzlement.

And if the statistics of Christian giving do not empassion us already, compound the disaster with the epic fail of Church embezzlement:

  • “Emboldened by lax procedures, trusted church treasurers are embezzling $16 billion every year out of church funds, but only 5% ever get found out.”
  • “Annual church embezzlements by top custodians exceed the entire cost of all foreign missions worldwide.” – World Evangelization Research Center
  • “Christians spend more on the annual audits of their churches and agencies ($810 million) than on all their workers in the non-Christian world.” – World Evangelization Research Center
  • “Christians worldwide will commit more than $37 billion in church-related financial fraud during 2013. Compare that to the $33 billion churches are expected to spend on worldwide mission work this year.” – Center for the Study of Global Christianity
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That may be a lot to swallow. Do you find it as incredulous as I do?


Partner with God to reach unreached people groups.

My question is this: Are we as believers truly interested in finishing the task of reaching the world for Christ, thus ushering in the end of the age? Do we truly want to partner with God in reaching every “people, tongue, tribe and nation” with the gospel to speed the return of Jesus as the blueprint of Matthew 24:14 describes?

Want to reach unreached people groups in Southeast Asia? Donate to Within Reach Global here.


Photo credit:

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
  • What’s really fascinating in the World Christian Encyclopedia & World Christian Trends is to note the “cost per baptism” indicator in each country. It’s perhaps not the best title, but essentially what it is is the total Christian income in the country, divided by the total number of baptisms, if I remember aright… That gets closer to the idea of the level of activity in any given country. Of course, as we all know, the “cost per baptism” would far lower in Majority World countries, simply because (a) there are more baptisms and (b) there is less money.

    Correlation? Causation? Coincidence? I leave it to other commentors to decide. 🙂

    • I like how you’re looking at a lot of the details of the issues. It’s too bad no one joined you in your missions banter! It could have gotten spicy!

  • 7bill_lee7

    So David what are your current projects with the 20/20 Vision? Come join us.

    • Good stuff guys! i love Create International. Hang out with the guys all the time. Thanks a lot for the comment.

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