“Take a look at your own heart, and you will soon find out what has stuck to it and where your treasure is. It is easy to determine whether hearing the Word of God, living according to it, and achieving such a life gives you as much enjoyment and calls forth as much diligence from you as does accumulating and saving money and property.” - Martin Luther
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 16:21 NLT
The Offering Game: Yes, I know . . . try to look like you wrote a really, really, really big cheque . . . do a massive circuitous hand wave as you drop it in the plate . . . and then gleam at the person beside you with a visual dare, “Match that, buddy, if you really have faith as great as mine!”
Somehow, the offering must be more than that.
The offering truly is an act of worship as we offer our complete selves in response to what Christ has done for us.
Perhaps, let’s start with what the offering is not:
1. It is not just a convenient time to present the announcements
2. It is not just a convenient way to pay the bills
3. It is not a way to gain favour with God
4. It is not a way to feel good about how sacrificial or superior we are
5. It is not a way to increase our health or personal wealth
Just as offering our songs and prayers to God in our public worship services is to be a communal experience, the offering in worship truly is an experience for the entire gathering of believers. We hear the great truths of God and then respond through gifts of gratitude. It’s like breathing in and out. Both are necessary (If you don’t believe me, just try to leave out either one). Unfortunately in many churches, the only opportunity for expression is in the singing of select worship songs and perhaps standing up and sitting down on cue. Sally Morgenthaler writes, “In some contemporary churches, the worship all comes at you from the stage, TV-style. The opening 20 minutes of singing is the only interaction that worshipers get. But liturgy by its very nature is interactive."
The traditional placement of the offering in the worship service also indicates this breathing in, breathing out and its communal experience. We prepare our hearts together (served through preludes, quiet reflection and call to worship), we confess together and hear the assuring words of forgiveness in common, we respond with songs of praise, we hear the Words of scripture (often the Old Testament reading, the Epistle, and the Gospel), we hear the great news of the Gospel through the sermon, and we respond in a resounding expression of thanksgiving for all God’s gifts in our offerings.
We acknowledge that we are simply giving back to God what is His in the first place as a small gift of value to He who is infinitely invaluable.
The offering is one more way that we can involve the entire body in a common expression of worship within our services. It reduces the spectacle of ‘presentation’ from the platform and allows everyone to share of themselves.
It also allows us to drive a stake in the ground, proclaiming that that which so easily becomes our greatest snare (our wealth) will not be our greatest treasure. As we give to the work of Christ in gratitude, we proclaim that God Himself and the work of His Kingdom are our greatest treasure. (Remember: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 16:21 NLT)
Try to remember to reinforce the truth that the offering is truly an act of worship. Unless we are reminded, we soon forget the higher purpose. When we forget the higher purpose we lose the act of worship. When we lose the act of worship, we lose worship itself. When we lose worship, we forget the Creator, for we begin to focus on the creature and not the Creator; we become but shallow breaths rather than God-breathed life . . . . and that is a hollow existence far beneath God’s purpose for us all.
Some points from Arlen on the offering:
· There are many creative ways to receive offerings and not all of them involve the passing of the offering plate. More and more churches are setting up auto-withdrawal systems (EFT – Electronic Funds Transfer), a plate at the back, credit and debit card machines in the foyer as well as other electronic forms.
· I believe that more and more churches will employ the digital wallet capabilities of cell phone giving.
· Micro-giving by cell phone texts is widely used when natural catastrophes happen but are generally very small amounts and the administration of setting up micro-giving can be onerous for most churches.
· Large bins can be set up for large item collections such as non-perishable food items for those in need
· Small offerings taken in Sunday school are a wonderful way to teach children about the principles of giving to God as an act of worship.
· Online donations are growing in popularity. Our own ministry uses CanadaHelps to receive donations online and to issue instant tax receipts. You can see how it works here.
· I won’t share my opinion on tithing here as it’s too contentious of an issue. If you want my opinion we can go for a venti decaf skinny sugar free vanilla latte and we can chat at length.
Next entry – we’ll chat about public prayer.
If you'd like to learn more, why don't you join 15,000 of us at Break Forth Canada 2012, January 27 - 29 in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Many of the top Christian speakers, authors, teachers, artists and worship leaders come together for the largest event of its kind in North America. You can learn more here.