Thursday, January 15, 2004

At our worship gatherings we don't take up a collection . . which sometimes raises questions. Here is my reply to an individual who was wondering why:

. . . I want to address the concerns you raise about giving, because I agree with what you say. Perhaps I can clarify our intentions and actions.

The main reason we chose to stop taking up a collection (not to stop giving!) was because visitors, especially some of the people we are trying to reach, often have a view that churches are all out to get your money. These individuals are turned off by extravagant buildings, inflated salaries, preachers who drive expensive cars and wear expensive jewelry, and have a skeptical outlook on churches in general. We want these visitors to see that we are not simply trying to fleece the flock. This is not a church that thinks constantly about money. Money is not that important. It seems that Jesus says the pagans are the ones who have material things foremost on their minds (Matt. 6:32-33).

I also believe that too many churches teach that you must give to that particular congregation. I believe that a more biblically correct teaching would be that we give, but I will require no one, not even one who regularly worships with us, to have to put their giving into "our" work. That is the “institutional” focus of church that I want to get away from, and develop a more “Jesus focus”. We want to make it clear that we preach commitment and discipleship to Jesus, not to our church. I want no one to make loyalty commitments to Disciples' Fellowship – but to Christ and the church which is universal and spiritual. I’ve seen too many people confuse supporting their congregation with being true to Christ. That seems to me to be dangerous. I could use harsher language . . .

Our choice had to do with visitors primarily. Visitors who are poor and have little, and who do not yet understand a Christian view of giving, would not understand about our giving. Rather than make those visitors feel uncomfortable before they have learned, I would rather teach them about giving and not let the collection plate get between them and coming to worship with us. Because we are concerned with teaching about a proper view toward our possessions, we made the decision to incorporate a prayer of thankfulness in each worship time to express our conviction that everything comes from God and that we are to be thankful. We are simply trying to make giving truly a “free-will offering”.

Passing the plate helps teach our children about giving, but not passing it won’t mean that our children don’t learn about giving. Real teaching about giving is going to have to take place more than when the plate comes around. So I don’t think that not passing a plate each week means giving is unimportant to us or that teaching it is unimportant. I believe there are simply other ways to give and teach about giving.

When it comes to giving, I do not believe that I should teach any of the following:

1) If one gives one will always receive back, especially in terms of what was given (Sometimes the blessing is treasure in heaven when the gift was some thing or action on earth).

2) The reason we give is so that we will receive (this is only greed and treating God as the best investment).

3) God’s blessings are contingent or dependent on our actions – that God only blesses after we give or do what is right, etc.

4) God promises anything more than daily bread – which is a lot less than any of us enjoy.

5) If one is a good Christian then one will prosper in this world.

My theology of giving can be simply stated as “we give because God gives.” God gives without receiving or expecting to receive. To be like God, we are not only givers but those who give without hoping for repayment, from God or anyone else. That God does often lavish us with blessings, not because we gave so well but even when our best giving is so poor, is a testimony to his grace.

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