I hate to have to revisit the same topics, but some people leave me no choice.
I think one of the biggest problems with the Church today and why we are having such difficulty bringing more people to Christ is because of how we carry ourselves as Christians. Not saying this ought to be considered a valid excuse, but people get turned off by some of the things Christians do. If a non-believer sees a Christian at church on Sunday and out at the club sloppy drunk on Saturday, chances are that person has damaged their credibility with the non-believer and would be ineffective if he attempted to lead the non-believer to Christ. I hate to use the word “image”, because image to me has a connotation of fakeness…like celebrities or politicians who try to portray themselves as being different than they actually are. Christians ought to live a life that is reflective of the Christ that we are trying to represent. There can be no fakeness there, because people are going to be able to spot it. (And I do realize that fakeness is not the best word, but it is highly appropriate).
Behavior inside the church also drives people away. Case in point–my son belongs to a wonderful choir that performs here in Ypsilanti during the spring. The choir is a collaboration of multiple churches in the area. They began rehearsing in Friday and had their first performance last night. THOSE KIDS DID AN AMAZING JOB. Amazing. Amazing. They were praising and worshiping God and it was awesome. There were some praise dancers that were absolutely spectacular, and those kids and their beautiful, pure crystal clear voices encouraging us to praise the Lord was something marvelous.
Then a so-called man of God ruined it.
After the children did several selections, it was time for an offering. Mind you, I like giving. However, I am in a state of spiritual growth that enables me to understand the necessity of my giving and to be able to do it with a loving heart. But, not everybody in there was at my level of spiritual growth, and maybe some people there weren’t even Christians–maybe they were just there to support a loved one. There are so many people in the world that think of tithing and giving offerings are supporting the pastor.
Of course the cartoon does not belong to me. I did a Google search and found it at http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2013/06/their-fabricated-tithing-doctrine-this.html. However, the illustration screams someone who has either a) never bothered to read the Bible, or read it like those who try to discredit it by picking out bits and pieces and taking them out of context, or b) visited or belonged to a church where the pastor came off like he was money-hungry.
Let me share my experience with the churches I have attended, and mind you, I have pretty much been at the same one all my life, with the exception of my college years.
Let’s see what are some of the expenses that go along with a church?
1. Lights are important. (DTE bill)
2. People use the bathroom, so we have to make sure the water stays on.
3. People come to church when they are hungry or in a financial bind. We have the resources to help them. That takes money.
4. Although not necessities, there are equipment expenses. Every now and then we get new Bibles or hymnals–but last time we did that, we took up a special collection for that. There are also pews for people sit on that get worn and torn.
I could go on, and mind you, the church is open seven days a week. Think of stores, for example. Stores have customers. The only way a store stays open is if the people buy their products. Museums have expenses that are paid for by monetary donations from philanthropists and admission fees. Schools stay open because homeowners pay taxes. Either way it goes, whatever the building, there are expenses associated that MUST be paid in order for it to stay open. Money has to come in somehow.
The pastors I know all had jobs (most of them worked for and retired from either GM or Ford, since those were the major employers here back in the day) and DID NOT SUSTAIN THEMSELVES OR THEIR FAMILIES ON THE BACKS OF THE CHURCH MEMBERS. That is why I take offense to the cartoon–at one point in time my own pastor worked three jobs to support his family. He did NOT take congregational contributions that were meant for GOD’S WORK. Nor is he supposed to. Now, does the church give him money? Yes, we do. But if that was all he relied on, he’d be homeless, because it is not nearly enough for one person to sustain himself, let alone a family.
Now, although I have been blessed enough to be around pastors who are contrary to what is portrayed in the cartoon, I can definitely see how that sentiment has developed. Last night, after the kids had done several amazing selections, each one more beautiful and crisp than the one before it, a “reverend” (and God forgive me for using that term loosely, but I do think a reverend ought to do better than this) got up to ask for the offering. He did something I absolutely despise:
“Reach down deep into your pockets and give me twenty dollars”…
Even when we go to church, we have to be mindful that everyone in there may either a)not be a Christian; b) be a babe in Christ, or c) be a seasoned saint. We also have to keep in consideration that there is a difference between tithing and an offering. The word “tithe” itself means ten percent. This was mostly applied to the Israelites in the Old Testament, who were to give a tenth of their flocks and produce. The New Testament does not specifically mention ten percent, just that we give generously according to our own measure. And there are definitely no financial strings attached to giving an offering.
Basically, we have to give according to what our heart tells us to give, because it is more important that we have the correct attitude when giving, not how much we give. Look no further than the story of Jesus and the poor widow in Mark 12. She did not have much, but she gave correctly–with an attitude of love, knowing that her offering would be a blessing to someone else and because of that, she would be blessed in return. Now, if Jesus had told her that her offering was not good enough because it wasn’t twenty bucks, do you think that woman would have been interesting in dealing with Him or heeding His message?
There are a lot of elderly people in the church on fixed incomes. There are younger families like my own who are struggling to find their financial footing. However, we give cheerfully what we can, and we know that it is going to a good cause. But for someone to do something as worldly as tell us to give a certain amount was blatantly disrespectful and out of line with the Word of God. That is not his place to determine that everyone should give twenty dollars. Putting a dollar amount on the offering takes away that most important aspect of giving for the building of God’s kingdom–that it is done willfully and in the spirit of love and generosity. When someone assigns a dollar amount, the giving is usually done begrudgingly and simply because that person requested it, not willingly.
I was disappointed, and concerned when murmuring occurred through other people in attendance in the pews. Most people did not appreciate it, and a lot of people tucked their money back in their purses or pockets, feeling offended that their two, three, five, or ten dollars was not good enough, when, in all essence–it WAS.
I am going to follow up with someone to ask that that does not happen again.