Scrapping the Offering from our Worship Gatherings (Guest Post: Al Molineaux)

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).

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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?

Let me explain my reasons for assigning this practice to the ecclesiological waste basket.

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
therefore its time to make our offering plates redundant.

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    Isn’t it funny what we cling to, one church I used to go to the ushers used to collect the offering and hold it up to the altar- it always seemed vaguely inappropriate and brought Matthew 21 to mind, especially when goods were being sold in the foyer! I understand the same place now makes charges for bible study groups…and has a declining membership.

    I like the creative ways of fund-raising which bring the community into the church and church into the community- coffee shops and concerts and quality childcare. But I still think the main purpose for a Christian church is to serve the poor, sick and in need, and there’s a duty to underwrite those programmes where people have no money.

    Last week we hooked up a keyboard to play as a church organ at the church I work at, we usually only have a grand piano and a praise band- and people loved the music, from Stainer’s Crucifixion, I got lots of positive comments. I understand why the organs have had to go- hardly anyone can play a pipe organ these days, and they are an expensive item to purchase and maintain. But they are a glorious sound!

  • http://altonwoods.wordpress.com altonwoods

    Our modern perspective on tithing has ruined what should be a great opportunity for people to step out in faith by their giving. Instead of being the church of

    “lets make this thing happen!”

    We’ve become one of…

    “Oh, you want money AGAIN”

    “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.”

    This perception is based on the assumption that what the visitor witnesses is just another dead church ritual…

    you’re in the wrong church brother!

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    At the church where I work when the pastors see visitors they stress that there is no pressure to give; personally I feel no one should be under pressure to do anything they don’t do freely and spiritually. And that includes rituals- dead or otherwise!

  • http://www.ozab.com David Ozab

    I’m fine with offerings in church, but I dislike passing the plate. I deal with it because I have to. I’d prefer the plate be left at the back of the nave with the bread and wine and any other offerings (like a food basket). Drop in your pledge envelope or a few bucks as you enter. Then all the offerings are brought up together, which makes more sense liturgically.

    And don’t get me started on projection screens ;)

  • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

    Great article. It has left me wallowing in nostalgia about the churches in which I spent the most formative years of my life (about 15 years beginning about the 6th grade in school). I went to ‘nondenominational’ churches which many people refer to as “Plymouth Brethren”; and one of the distinctive aspects of those churches (we preferred to call ourselves “assemblies” rather than “churches”) is that they didn’t take up an offering. Plates or baskets were placed on a table near the main door of the church building, and people could drop envelopes in as they entered or left the meeting. Sometimes there would be a brief announcement made for newcomers about where the collection baskets were placed, but more often nothing at all was said. Many newcomers were like my parents when they first started attending the ‘Assembly’ – they had to ask someone how in the world they were supposed to contribute financially if no offering was taken! :shock: Then, of course, they were directed to the offering baskets. But doing it that way made it plain that offerings were made from a willing heart, rather than social pressure. Isn’t it much better to have people asking how they can contribute, rather than having to beg and plead with them to help God’s cause?

    People from those ‘Assemblies’ used to regularly poke fun at the lengthy pleas for money at other churches, or meetings at Christian Schools. And they particularly liked to mock the “share-a-thons” on Christian Radio stations. It sure didn’t sound to us like those share-a-thons were expressions of faith in God! :smile: Okay, we maybe were at least a bit ‘self righteous’ about our ‘dependence on God, rather than on men’, :sad: but I believe the principle was correct. Thanks for the article.

  • http://ourquest.org Anthony Wallace

    About 6 years ago we stopped passing the plate. We announce that we have boxes in the back where offering like everything else is between you and God.

    What surprised us was that our offerings went up about 40% when made that change.

  • ray sanchez

    I like this, topic becuse it just lets us think were in control of somthing. People are more concerned about what other poeple think and not what god thinks. First of all, he has given the money we have, and all that we posses, including the very air that we breath. so when it comes time to give back what is already his, i don’t understand why we don’t have the attitude of gartitude, in joyful giving. I don’t give to the church i give back to the lord, the church is just the one distributing the money. I trust they do the right thing with it, the lord is always watching. Jim Baker was a t.v evanglist with a huge number of people watching his teaching. He was a man that had opened alot of churches through out the nation with millions of members. He had become so involved with money, and not so much the lord, that he lost his way. He went so far as to say publicly ” the lord needs this ministry”. Bringing the demise to the church of Jim Baker. just food for though..

  • Helen

    In our church in the UK, the collection is just embarrassing. Most people give by standing order – in the UK a church or any charity can claim back the tax you pay if you give their written permission, so standing order is a much more effective way of giving – so when the plate goes round, we’re lucky to make £20 in an evening where 80 people attend. Of course the regulars know that most money gets to the church in other ways, but visitors at the back often look a bit shocked when there’s just a note and a few coins rolling around.

    We often ask visitors not to give money, but often they feel obliged.

    I don’t think we’d lose much by getting rid of the collection, at least in the evening service, replacing it with a box at the back for those who want to do some anonymous giving.

  • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

    I feel torn on this issue. On one hand I agree that there has been a lot of misuse in the ritual of offering taking. I think Al Molineaux raises valid concerns.

    On the other hand the gathering together as a community is to encourage one another in our walks with the Lord; in other words, we purposely put ourselves into situations where the social pressure is going to encourage us to do what is right.

    In my society, there are a lot of influences to be greedy; to earn more money, to spend more money -even money you don’t have, to buy yourself gifts when you are out buying gifts for other people, to have the bigger, better, fancier, latest whatever it is. In my society, it’s considered rude to ask how much someone makes. We like to hide our wealth and our poverty.

    The problem with hiding something is that it becomes a perfect opportunity for sin to fester and grow in that area. That’s why it is important to create transparency with other people who will encourage you to grow. Grow in responsibility of managing money, grow in giving generously.

    If we want our congregations to be generous people then our congregation leaders have to demonstrate generosity. If there is no communication about what or how much anyone gives, who is going to learn proper giving habits? If there is no way a participant sees the practice of giving, how are they going to learn that it is an important spiritual discipline? Is a confirmation/baptism class enough? Children may learn from their parents, but what about persons who didn’t grow up in that kind of an environment? How can we become people who encourage generosity without turning giving into some sort of competition or value of someone’s worth?

  • http://www.rememberthepoor.org.uk Dan R

    The passing of a collecting plate or velvet purse always makes me uncomfortable too. The feeling of obligation sits poorly with our confessions of freedom. Our Church practice is to have a single plate near the front of the room (to the side) where people may bring tithes and offerings as an act of worship during our praise and worship time. We explain to visitors quite explicitly that we aren’t expecting anyone to give.

    However I recently became aware that our tithe is as much a “sacrament” as breaking bread. In Genesis when Abram returns from the rescuing Lot he is greeted by Melchizedek (a type of Jesus) who gives Abram a blessing and bread & wine. Abram recognises his Priesthood and responds by giving a tenth of all. Throughout the bible the tithe is always made to the priest. I believe that there is New Covenant picture for us – Jesus our High Priest brings us the bread and wine of his perfect sacrifice for us together with His eternal blessing. Our response is to recognise His eternal priesthood and bring him a tenth of all. As we recognise His Priesthood, Jesus functions more fully in our lives as High Priest, bringing us the full blessings of the New Covenant, so we can export these blessings to the whole world, so they will see His goodness and turn to him.


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