What a cool thing it is to connect with so many people, from so many places, and with so many perspectives. I want to hear from others, about how God is at work in their own theological, philosophical, cultural, and social ethics journey. For contribution opportunities, go here. I personally do not endorse everything that the guest contributors may have to say; and it is possible that I will outright disagree with them on some points, but I am always open to dialogue Here is a guest post by a blogging/twitter/ & Facebook friend- Al Molineaux. He and his wife have become great encouragers of mine from abroad (UK).
It’s hard to think of much in church life that hasn’t been placed under the strobe lighting of change in the name of relevance. Hymnbooks wait under chairs and pews whilst congregation’s heads are lifted to view worship songs on a screen. The church organ, if not removed altogether, waits patiently for possible inclusion in an occasional funeral or wedding. Notices are now displayed via PowerPoint slides or short videos, replacing the faithful deacon with his church diary and pieces of paper hurriedly handed to him just before the meeting has started. So much change and yet one area seems to have stemmed the tide of development with only the slightest hint of amendment: the offering.
Why, in a world were everything seems to be up for change, has the collection been so resilient? An old time Pastor once criticised me quite harshly for not having an offering as part of our regular Sunday worship. I asked him for clarification and was informed that it had both played an important part in worship for many years and, more pragmatically, that people forget to give if they are not reminded. I wasn’t convinced by either point and so we have continued to adopt a practice of being offering free. So let me ask: why, when all other areas have been subject to change, do we continue to take an offering?
Firstly, I can’t see how it honours God or indeed the Gospel we display to shake a plate, bag, or bucket under the nose of visitors when the finally decide to come to church. John Phillips from Lincoln once called this ‘tipping God’. It’s like saying ‘thanks for coming, now can you help us to pay for the chair you are sitting on’. Our communities already think that the church is just after money. This practice seems to confirm this view whenever they visit.
Secondly, it seems to represent a lack of faith by the church rather than the opposite. My elderly Pastor friend expressed it well when he said that people need reminding to give. I once heard a senior leader confess that he wanted to close his Sunday evening meeting and replace it with a more useful programme. He was unable to do so because the church relied so heavily on the offering gained from the meeting. I sympathise to some degree because we have a responsibility to meet budgets. If, however, the meeting had already been offering free then his changes would have been relatively simple.
Thirdly, it does not teach our congregations discipleship giving. There are so many ways for people to give on a regular basis that don’t include making a public show of it. If we are to decide in our hearts what we should give then setting up a standing order or putting a regular amount in a box as you leave can be an equally valid part of our worship to God. Out of these three it is the effect the offering has upon visitors that often leaves me feeling cold. The comedian George Carlin describes how the churches message sounds to him ‘God loves you and he needs your money’.
So, come on leaders it’s time to make a change. After all, it is said that only a small percentage of Christians engage in regular giving so clearly the current practice is not working. If your congregation is so forgetful that they need reminding to give then we need another strategy. If, however, we are expecting our friends and neighbours to visit our congregations then the offering sets our message in the wrong context and