The majority of evangelical leaders (76 percent) say that it is acceptable for Christians who tithe 10 percent to give part of that 10 percent to ministries outside the local church, according to the July Evangelical Leaders Survey.

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), said, “Giving to the local church is important. For most, it’s priority. At the same time, many evangelical leaders do not believe there’s a biblical requirement to give exactly 10 percent to the local church. Giving generously out of what God has done for us is the main message.”

“God’s work is God’s work,” said Nicole Baker Fulgham, president of The Expectations Project. “We need to support our local churches, because there are real financial needs to running a congregation. But if Christians feel compelled to share part of that with other ministries, I don’t see any biblical reason why they shouldn’t.”

Deborah Pegues, author and speaker, said that she gives 100 percent of her tithe to the local church. “I have been taught — without reference to any biblical mandate — that any amount given outside of the local church should be done over and above the tithe. Nevertheless, I believe that everyone should be fully persuaded in his own mind as to the distribution of his tithe.”

Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, said that giving part of one’s tithe to ministries outside the church is acceptable, but hardly preferable. “The church would have a much greater impact on America and in the world if in addition to tithing 10 percent to their local congregations, evangelical Christians gave an equivalent amount — or more — to other ministries.”

In their comments, a few evangelical leaders mentioned the “storehouse” principle, which comes from Malachi 3:10 that says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”

Some believe this teaching applies to giving to the local church today, while others note that giving to the storehouse is not an explicit teaching in the New Testament. Rather, the New Testament encourages generosity that may greatly exceed 10 percent. An Evangelical Leaders Survey conducted in February 2011 found that 58 percent of evangelical leaders do not believe the Bible requires Christian to tithe.

Anderson continued, “The good news is that so many Christians are so generous. We are blessed by God and want to bless others.”

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.