Should We Take up an Offering during the Worship Service?
It was likely the most surreal thing I’ve ever witnessed at a worship service. Not surprisingly it happened Sunday morning at the Orlando Convention Center. My esteemed father was scheduled to preach at this service in conjunction with the annual Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) convention. Back in those days, CBA was a huge deal, with more than 5,000 souls in attendance representing book and music publishers, authors, artists, and Christian bookstore owners. I don’t remember what big name sang the offertory, but it was a big name. Just before my father got up to speak, however, a gentleman in a nice suit went up the microphone to let us all know, “This worship service is being brought to you by the W@#R Music Group.” (I honestly don’t remember which music company it was, and if I did I’d likely leave it out to protect the guilty.) A corporate sponsor for a worship service? What?
My concern, however, is less with what happened 20 years ago and more with the perspective I fear may be behind it. Too often we look at the presentation of our tithes and offerings as some sort of commercial time out—that portion of the service where we tend to the necessary business of financing the work of the church. It’s sort of like a smoking break—necessary for some, a bit of an intrusion, and not a little unseemly.
I have these suspicions in part because of how I hear some churches explain their reasoning for removing the giving of tithes and offerings from their liturgy. We’re told they don’t want the unbelievers in the meeting to feel uncomfortable or pressured, and they don’t want them believing we care too much about money. But, they reason, the necessary chore of meeting the financial needs of the church can be met by a collection box near the narthex, or even direct deposit from members’ checking accounts.
I honestly have no strong quarrel with differing views of how tithes and offerings are collected. Nor am I particularly concerned with the practical side, wanting to make sure the church has the money it needs. Instead, I fear what we lose when we remove this aspect of worship from our liturgies.
That is, the giving of tithes and offerings isn’t a business transaction, but an act of worship. We are responding, in God’s presence, to God. We are handing these tokens back to Him as a way of acknowledging not that the bills must be paid, but that all that we are and all that we have are His. In the same way that we set aside the Lord’s Day not to say to God, “We love you so much we’re willing to give you a whole day,” but instead to say, “We give you this day to remember that all our days are Yours.” So, we do not say, “One tenth of our income is Yours,” but instead, “I have been bought with a price. All that I have received is from Your hand, and You have made me but Your steward. I, and all I have, belong to You alone.”
Might this make unbelievers uncomfortable? Perhaps. So ought the preaching of the gospel. Might it make them feel pressured to give? Perhaps. So ought the preaching of the gospel make them feel pressured to repent. Might it make them not want to come back? Perhaps. So might the preaching of the gospel make them not want to come back. We are there, remember, not for W@#R Music Group, not for the lost, not for ourselves, but for Him. Our liturgies ought to reflect such.