From an email correspondent….
I get so angry when I hear stories like this. I was in a church two years ago that had somewhat similar teachings. Every Sunday, before taking the offering, there is a short “offering challenge”. It’s supposed to be a very short teaching about Biblical principles of giving and tithing. Usually, the person giving the offering challenge also gives a testimony about how abundantly they’ve been blessed (materially) because they’ve been faithfully giving to God. It psyches the congregation to give.
I started wondering what would happen to the people who gave and gave and didn’t see that kind of blessing in return? When asked, the pastor said the blessing didn’t necessarily have to be material, but the fact is the emphasis was on the material returns and Malachi 3:10 was quoted ad infinitum as the ultimate incentive to give. Let me tell you, I am so SICK of that verse!!
In fact the pastor himself told the church that he couldn’t let his members “out-give” him, so he was going to sell his beloved car (a sports Honda) and give part of the proceeds to God. He announced his belief when he gives to God, God will give him something even better. “My dream car is a BMW [I can't recall the particular model]. Look out, because one day you’re going to see me driving around in my BMW! And when the time comes, I’ll sell it off too!” Even if the BMW part was meant as a joke, it was pretty jarring.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the pastor used John 12:24 to teach about giving money to God. He used this passage to say that when we give, we must die to that offering and detach ourselves fully from it, otherwise it won’t grow and produce a harvest in the Kingdom. I just couldn’t stomach that, because the passage has nothing to do with money; it’s about surrendering one’s life to God! To me it was blatant misuse of Scripture to promote one’s own ends.
Before I left, I spoke to the pastor. He said the church was small, had just started out, so of course they had to raise money for sound equipment, musical instruments et al. That’s why, he said, there was more of an emphasis on money. No wonder several times he’d told the church that “money is important” because it’s needed to buy these stuff & carry out the ministry. He said of course he knew John 12:24 was not about giving, but he was trying to apply the *principle* of it. I just felt it was dangerous because his church is made up almost entirely of college and university students, many of whom are new to the faith… you can’t simply take Scripture out of context to “demonstrate a principle”! I shudder to think how many will eventually leave utterly disillusioned and disappointed.