With online giving through a congregation’s web site, or texting a contribution, or bank drafts, or offering boxes in a corner of the worship space or narthex, or discouraging visitors from giving an offering at seeker services, or giving through a Sunday school class or small group, or giving out of accumulated assets, or giving once per month instead of weekly, is giving an offering as an expression of weekly worship dying?
Or, is it now irrelevant to Christian worship?
Is the popular thought that younger generations do not believe in tithing through their congregation, of if they tithe they do so through a variety of church and community causes, or the idea they respond best to specific causes rather giving to the organizational side of their congregation, or the excuse they will start giving to church when they are financially stable while at the same time they have the latest large LED screen television, the latest Apple computer, stand in line to get the newest iPhone, and have a mortgage and two car payments, really a legitimate reason for not giving an offering as an expression of worship?
Or, have the older generations simply been bad examples and not passed this core value on to the next generation?
A recommitment to giving an offering as an expression of worship of the Triune God has motivated me to at least one new action in recent weeks. To reach the point of taking this new action I had to distinguish several things about my generosity as a Christian disciple.
First, whenever and however I give it, I have a commitment to tithing my gross personal income through my congregation. Second, the pattern by which I give it is a separate matter. Third, where I give an offering—in worship or not—is also a unique issue.
Nothing has changed in recent decades about my foundational commitment to tithing my gross income through my congregation. That is set, non-negotiable, and solid.
The pattern by which I give it has changed several times over the past decades. Once it was weekly. Then it became twice per month. Finally it moved to monthly. This is one element that began to bother me recently. Yes, that is more in line with how my household handles our monthly expenditures, and yes the tithe does come out first, but it is no longer satisfying.
Then during a recent year my wife and I were working with our financial advisor to refocus our retirement savings to gain and not lose too much value in the midst of the global economic crisis, and we ended up with one fund that had various challenges with it. It turns out the easiest way to handle it was to give it to charity. “Why not our congregation,” I said. Our financial advisor agreed so we gave our tithe in one lump sum for the next 12 months.
The next year the offering time was tough as I avoided eye contact with the usher as he or she came down the aisle with the offering plate during worship.
Where I give my offering has also changed. For decades I was a hold out on the pressure to give my offering through my adult Sunday School class. I did feel my offering ought to be given during worship. Now, however, we are using online giving and the personal pressure of the offering time is permanent.
Something has to stop this foolishness!
It finally occurred to me that the needed action was within my power. I would simply start giving an offering every Sunday because deep in my soul I know it is an essential act of worship as we express our respect, devotion, love, and thankfulness to God. I recalled this and other thoughts as I recommitted to a weekly offering during worship.
I realized that I am not going to stop singing in worship. I am not going to stop praying in worship. I am not going to stop reading Scripture in worship—although in this case I do read it on my smart phone. I am not going to stop listening for the still voice of God in worship. Why should I stop giving an offering in worship? I am not really giving it to my congregation. I am engaging in an act of worship. The often cited adage is right: neither God nor my church need my offering. I need to give an offering.
Here is the plan. We are going to continue giving our tithe online. It is quick, simple, less hassle for the church administrator, but does cost the congregation a small fee. Then each Sunday in worship I take a pew offering envelope and slip a dollar or two in it and place it in the offering plate as it is passed as an act of worship. These extra dollars more than cover the small fee it costs for my online giving.
Giving as an act of worship does not have to die. We just have to see it as an essential part of worship, and then act on that commitment.