Friday, 30 September 2011

The offering shall now be uplifted

At Eagleside church (that being the church of my placement) they, like many churches, have encouraged their members to give via standing order, rather than into free-will offering envelopes. This is easier and cheaper for the church, as it saves counting and banking of the cash.

A problem they were having was members of the congregation, even if they gave via standing order, did not like not being seen to be putting something in the plate during the whip-round. Consequently, they were putting money in the plate to look good (the rant on this comes later; patience). So, they are now trialling the offering plate being available for donation prior to the start of the service. But that doesn't seem to be working and the giving has dropped.

Now, they are considering printing cards for member who give by standing order stating this is how they give, to be used when the offering is uplifted during the service. To look good.

I object to this on many, many levels

Firstly, it's not very biblical. I wonder what Jesus would say about people making a show about giving and not liking not being seen to put something in the plate? I give you Luke 18:9-14  as an example of his opinion on people making a show.

Secondly, what about someone going to that church either for the first time or after a change in circumstances, where they genuinely cannot afford anything or more than they have already given? What kind of impression does that give to the poor? How can the gospel be good news to the poor when a church does not teach against bragging and showing off in people's giving? Many questions, but I think you can grasp my opinion on this.

I know of a church where many people give by standing order and cards like this were used for a while. Some people used them (mainly the treasurer who's idea it was and who didn't like not showing he was giving), but most didn't as they didn't feel it was the right thing to do before God. Now, no one uses them. Consequently, visitors see regular church attender not putting anything in the plate and passing it over. Okay, they are giving in other ways (not always financially), but the visitors don't know that and don't feel obliged to. Sometimes they are more generous because of this.

What differs in these two churches? It's early days for me at Eagleside, but I think it's the teaching from the pulpit and the hearts of the people. I know that sounds harsh and I am trying not to judge (honest), but as soon as you do something for the show of it, you are doing it for the wrong reasons IMHO and not for the glory of God.

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