Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Offering

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This is chapter 6 of the book that I have been working on.  Remember, that these are just rough drafts so any input would be very much appreciated]

In the churches of Christ we have nearly always taken a collection of funds to support the work of the local church and I really don’t see a reason to discontinue the practice. These funds are needed to pay for building expenses, salaries, missions, and for benevolence.

I would, however, like to say a few things about the meaning of the offering and how it has been traditionally practiced. I think there are some ways to improve upon it as we look at the history of the New Testament.

WHAT IS THE OFFERING?

We should start by asking: What is the offering and why is it taken? I think many have been confused as to what exactly the offering is.

First of all, it is not an offering but a donation. The only offering that we will ever need was given to us by Jesus Christ on the cross and we no longer need to make any offerings for any reason. It is inappropriate for Christians to make offerings under the New Covenant for this reason.

Some may be offended by my calling the collection a “donation” but that is what it must be seen as if we are to take a New Testament understanding of a local church (see chapter 4). The universal Church is a living thing (an organism) but the local church is a business (organization). The government is actually quite correct in calling a local church a non-profit organization. This means that a local church does not exist to make money but must make money in order to operate. This is the real reason that we take a collection.

I think we have (although I don’t think that anyone intended to) “spiritualized” the donation so as to feel more holy in giving it. We have also had to twist Scripture to make it command us to give so that the collection could be a part of our CENI pattern for work and worship. When Paul asked for a collection of funds to be taken, he was only asking for money so that he could give it to people who had suffered under a famine in Jerusalem. He was not expecting us to emulate that practice for the rest of the history of the church. Paul’s collection has been used as a proof-text to force people to give ever since.

WHY DOES THE CHURCH TAKE MONEY?

We need to be sure that we are always honest about why the local church takes money. We should not ever say that the money is being taken “for the Lord” (or some other similar saying) when most of the money goes to pay for our building and preacher salaries and so little goes to benevolence. The Lord did not say we had to have church buildings and paid preachers so it is wrong to say that the money is going to Him when we choose to pay for them. There is nothing wrong with a local church having these things, we just need to be honest about where the money is actually going.

It is very appropriate to say that the money is being taken to further the mission of the local church and very good for a person to give to an organization that is honest about why it is taking your money. Let’s just not make the collection into more than it actually is by trying to spiritualize it.

THE POOR

The last thing that I would like to say about the collection is concerning the poor. It seems that one of the main reasons for the collection historically has been largely forgotten by the churches of Christ.

Many churches started taking collections for the poor before they took them for facilities and salaries. Giving to the poor is also what many people assume they are doing when they put money into the collection plate but this isn’t always the case. Very few local churches (in any denomination) give more than two percent of their total collection to the poor and many give far less (and some do not give anything). This trend seems to miss the point of the collection all together. When I put money in the plate it is to help people, not just to support the organization.

We need to try to increase the amount that we budget for benevolence in every local church and dealing with the problem of poverty should be in every churches agenda in their own community. This may mean sacrificing some things, but then maybe we could actually say that we are taking the money “for the Lord”:

“…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40)

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Written by freeinchrist

February 16, 2010 at 8:00 am

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