Tithe.ly takes fewer than five taps, and built-in geolocation means he can contribute at any of the 1,000 churches that subscribe
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:14-17,20 (KJV)
Jesus Christ says, in Revelation 3, that the last Christian Church age would be the Laodicean Church that was neither hot nor cold, and totally focused on money and personal comfort. In fact, it would be so bad that Jesus Himself would be relegated to the outside, knocking on the Church door to be let back in. In 2016, as wealthy Laodicean megachurch pastors seeks to get richer via the “tithing hoax“, mobile apps like Tithe.ly are leading the way.
Dylan Ciamacco, 25, first went to the Los Angeles outpost of international megachurch C3 as a teen. His mom thought a lot of the young people there—in skinny jeans, chunky sweaters, and leather jackets—dressed like him. He’d emerged recently from a “sick” (as in awesome) atheist phase, he says, mocking himself, and was looking to go back to church.
A typical service, Ciamacco says, opens with a band that would fit in at the Coachella festival, were it not for the Jesus lyrics: “What a savior, my Redeemer/Friend of sinners, one like me.” (In one podcast, a pastor, sermonizing about society’s obsession with markers of achievement, uses an Internet-approved term of endearment to channel his audience, asking, “When am I going to get my own bae?”) At the end, a member of the “worship team” will call on parishioners to tithe and pass the collection plate. But not all people reach into their wallet. Many take out their phone instead.
Ciamacco gives each week, using the Tithe.ly app. It takes fewer than five taps, and built-in geolocation means he can contribute at any of the 1,000 churches that subscribe—a feature that’s especially useful around holidays like Easter, when many people travel. Tithe.ly lets worshipers set up automatic recurring payments, but because Ciamacco’s paycheck fluctuates with his work as a freelance video producer, he tithes on demand—usually about 10 percent of whatever he’s brought in.
Tithe.ly is one of a handful of apps leveraging that spending behavior for the good of the church. Pushpay, which about 3,000 congregations employ, works similarly; worshipers decide whether to donate to a general budget or a specific program the institution designates. Another, EasyTithe, features a text-to-give option. It also provides technology for a Square-like credit card reader to await the faithful in church lobbies. Regardless of which app a congregation chooses, the point is convenience. “We call it frictionless giving,” says Dean Sweetman, Tithe.ly’s co-founder and a former minister at C3 Atlanta. He designed the app with C3’s wallet-light clientele in mind: “We see people giving all times of day and night. Nothing stands in the way.”
Ciamacco’s friend James Crocker, also 25, says it’s much more awkward to donate the old way: “Putting your personal credit card details on a piece of paper and leaving it there? For millennials, there’s no way.” Ciamacco agrees, if for different reasons. “I was so anti writing my name on an envelope—it was a holier-than-thou thing,” he says. “When Tithe.ly came out, I was like, ‘Hell, yeah.’ ”