Should Christians Give to Secular Organizations?

Should Christians give to secular organizations? It’s a harder question than you might think. Let’s tackle the easy one first: should a Christian give to an organization that is opposed to the faith–opposed to Christian values? No brainer, right? If it is against the faith, don’t support it.

On the other hand, what if the organization is morally neutral? They are neither for nor against Christian values. It is the soup kitchen that never shares the gospel. They just feed people. Or it is the youth organization that simply encourages volunteerism. Perhaps, it is the camp that simply wants to get kids out into nature. Maybe it is the relief organization which brings supplies to those in need, but nary is a word said about Jesus Christ.

Of course, most would argue that there is no such thing as morally neutral. Regardless, I’ve met some who argue that there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit agencies in the country today. The majority of those tend to be “secular” or nonreligious. Likewise, there are approximately 100,000 private foundations in the country today. The vast majority are non religious, secular funders. There are only about 4,500 Christian foundations that take applications (See www.christianfoundationgrants.com). In short, the argument is that a Christian should not fund a secular agency because there are plenty of secular funders.

On the other side of the fence, there are some who argue that some secular agencies provide a valid and needed function which is not found in the Christian community. For instance, the arts have often been neglected in the Christian community. The list can be expanded: Boy Scouts, Red Cross, medical research, hospice houses, higher education, etc. So is the argument that when a secular agency provides the service they should be supported? Or is it wise to instead reach over the wall to be an influence?

The question is an important one—particularly in the coming years. We see many Christian organizations and educational institutions struggling. Many secular institutions have built large endowments, and the reality is that the Christian influence in this country is shrinking. There is great need.

What’s your response?

William F. High is the President/General Counsel of the Servant Christian Community Foundation (www.servantchristian.com). Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at whigh@servantchristian.com.

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6 Responses to “Should Christians Give to Secular Organizations?”

  1. Linden Says:

    Christians should give where God leads them to give. Sometimes that may be to a secular organization that is “neutral” or “positive.” My wife and I gave to the American Cancer Society when a relative died because that was the charity and of choice and it was a way to acknowledge our loved one. But when asked to give again, we declined. While I believe in a philosophy of abundance, there are only so many dollars on any given day, and I think best stewardship means I invest in ways that will make an eternal difference.

  2. Brian Says:

    Many organizations that service the general public might be professionally organized and classified for IRS purposes as a “secular” organization but in fact are ministering in the public arena. Schools, courts, social service settings are among some of the most needy for the christian message but will not welcome a christian organization through the door, yet a “secural organization” that brings a message of hope through christ serves greatly in this matter. I would say truly research and understand an organization (its leadership, staff & board) beyond its charter and IRS affiliation. Many great secular organizations are doing great christian work in non-traditional ways.

  3. Pastor Jack Wilson Says:

    Jesus said that are neighbors were the saved as well as the unsaved. He also said to take care of the poor. If we see someone broke down with their car or drowning we would save them irregardless. With that said, I believe that as much as is possible, Christians should support Christians. As a non profit myself: http:www/payatasmissionoutreach.com, I have come across the secular who would not donate computers because we are a religious organization even though the focus was on after school and college prep. I see leading others to Christ a more critical need than the arts. I see feeding the hungry more important than saving the one legged spotted grasshopper. (pun intended) I also say when there is a choice (I believe there always is, then support the work of Christ.

  4. Chris Reed Says:

    I direct a Christian nonprofit, but I see value in supporting certain secular nonprofits under specific circumstances: 1) – the secular nonprofit has access to resources that faith-based nonprofits don’t, or 2) the secular nonprofit has the ability to meet a need that a faith-based nonprofit doesn’t (or simply isn’t.) An example of the latter might be the ability to access a country or region that will not permit the presence of a faith-based organization.

    In cases like these, ministry isn’t done by the organization itself, but by the people it mobilizes. Similar to working in a secular environment, Christ is glorified and proclaimed through His people, regardless of where they are serving. Accordingly, in supporting a non-Christian nonprofit, I would want to look for a way to resource particular individuals within the organization who take a Christ-centered worldview into the field with them.

  5. Scott Crosby Says:

    I struggle with the framing of this conversation: sacred vs secular, us vs them, and orienting to our differences instead of common desires. The conversation is much broader than this – the Great Commandment and the call to be Christ-like is still relevant to the 21st century church.

    Qualifying words like “just” (just feed people) or “simply” (simply encourages volunteerism) create unnecessary barriers to engaging the world with the gospel. Feeding people, especially the poor, is simply morally right – as is evangelism. We are not given the choice in scripture to choose one or the other in our calling as Christians.

    It’s difficult to imagine God looking at the world and viewing it in “sacred” and “secular” parts. He created it all – the seen and the unseen. He made the physical elements of earth and flesh (the seen), but also the structures of the world – culture, society, needs, beauty, and souls – the unseen. And these are being re-created in the new heavens and new earth. All are of inherent value because they were created.

    The broader question seems to be what can the greater church do to engage all of creation in the redemptive and transformative purposes of God?

    One can argue that a key reason the church is exerting less influence in the world today is that we refuse to engage it except on our terms (evangelism and church attendance). The broad and deep influence of faith in the world is seen most clearly and sustainably when believers involve themselves in the world and not remove themselves from it. They are faithfully present in every realm and sphere. Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity”, and James Hunter’s “To Change the World” are great books to delve into for more on this.

    As someone engaged in evangelism I see a robust church being one engaged at all levels and in all realms of society, seeking the welfare of the city (Jer. 29) in all manifestations.

  6. 1sojourner Says:

    Having worked in both “sacred” and “secular” non-profit organizations, I have seen a lot of overlap in both.

    The sickest part of the American Church is that evangelical part that drives only for “converts” who say the magic words and get wet, and a disciple is someone who teaches others to do the same. When one goes back to read or hear the gospel with fresh eyes, something totally different emerges from what Christ and the apostles taught. I am no liberal or social activist, but the evangelical Church has really missed the point of both the great commission and the great commandment – good works are integral – go read Ephesians 2:8-10 again, and then the whole Bible.

    We are to serve (justice and mercy) the widow, fatherless, poor, immigrants in our land. The 5 love commandments: God, neighbor, enemy, one another (all believers), our wives.


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