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Home > Books > Author > Ronsvalle, John L. and Ronsvalle, Sylvia

The Hidden Billions: The Potential of the Church in the U.S.A.
John Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle (C-4 Resources, 1984)

Order this book In The Hidden Billions, researchers John and Sylvia Ronsvalle consider the incredible potential of the American churchís giving. Potential is the key word: As they especially considered the drastic needs of poverty and injustice which surrounded the evangelical church, they found the giving of the church (across all denominations) woefully inadequate, far below the Old Testament standard of the tithe. This comparison is not to be confused with an argument for the continuation of the tithe; rather, the Ronsvalles used the standard of the tithe (which in the New Testament is to be surpassed by generosity for Godís kingdom) to show just how inadequate the churchís giving has become.

They give a great deal of statistics to back up their case, citing research of church giving trends. But in the face of this data about foundering generosity, the authors didnít merely state a case for giving: They also give suggestions for how to increase giving and make it a more significant part of the Christianís life. The Ronsvalles observe that personal relationships with those to whom we give, particularly the poor, bridge the gap which separates givers from the urgency of their task. Reaching out makes poverty real, emphasizes oneness within the church, and helps giving to be more effectively coordinated with needs.

Coordination is a major theme in their work because, according to their research, if the church applied the tithe (giving 10 percent of oneís income), a host of needs could be met, and massive margins of church income could be given away directly to needs of evangelism and mercy ministry. Because of currently lacking giving, most churches have to use the lionís share of their income for self-sustenance. So if giving were to increase, most of the increase could be utilized to meet real needs. Coordinating this new generosity would take political will. Churches would need to judiciously guard increases in giving from fattening their own local budgets because God cares about the poor and wants his people to minister to them, rather than consume all of Godís resources for themselves.

This book is especially useful for its capturing of giving trends (even if somewhat dated), its emphasis on the social aspect of Christian ministry to the poor, and its discussion of how churches need to coordinate and steward their giving. It is also very challenging, issuing a difficult indictment to the American church for its poor record of giving. But the challenge is a necessary one which can edify us in many respects.

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