Banning the Collection Plate

By “collection plates”, I mean to include any practice where people in a Christian worship meeting have a plate, bag or box held in front of them so they can give offerings of money to the work of the church. So it doesn’t include boxes which people can put money into at any time convenient.

What’s the big problem? To answer that, I thought I’d make one of those “101 Reasons” lists, but I don’t know if I have that many, so I’m going to do a Q & A until I run out of ideas.

Why do we collect money?

In the Bible, the Lord’s people collected money for the Lord’s work. In the Old Testament, we see collections for buildings and the support of the religious leaders. In the New Testament, it’s all for people, including widows, orphans and those in full-time preaching ministry.

We don’t have genuinely poor people in our society, do we?

In the West, the state has structures in place for the support of the poor, and they do it with an efficiency the church could never match. Today, almost all the money collected from Christians is spent on church buildings and salaries.

So that means we need to collect money forever, doesn’t it?

Because there are regular outgoings for heating, insurance, etc. there will always be a need for collections. Some congregations pay for a full-time pastor, too. But when it comes to fundraising matters, if the need has been met, or if the church’s bank balance is large, the fundraising should stop until it’s needed again. An example would be helping a neighbouring congregation with paying for a roof repair, or helping out a poor pastor abroad.

Let’s get that collection plate going around then!

Steady on…there are some problems in doing it this way. Those who are not giving for whatever reason could feel embarrassed, seeing that the whole procedure is very public. Even the collector can find it awkward to have to read body language to judge whether anything will be handed over. If he gets it wrong, he could find himself holding the plate for a few awful seconds under the nose of someone who it turns out has nothing. Both people embarrassed, and for no good reason. And do we need to mention the impression it gives unbelievers who visit?

But if everyone’s supposed to give, there shouldn’t be as much of an issue, should there?

It’s not up to you or me to judge how others spend their money, and even the idea that “The main thing is that you give something” just isn’t Biblical; it would make the giving symbolic rather than practical as it was in the Bible. Like every other Christian act or belief, giving money publicly can result in a proud heart which looks down on those who haven’t given, or haven’t given as much. Remember that these critics haven’t given everything they have. They’ve kept money to spend on TV, mobile phones, holidays, and many other luxuries, so they need to be extremely careful and humble when making judgements about others. The irony is even bigger than that. These people’s thinking should rather be, “I’ve noticed she hasn’t put anything on the plate again. Maybe she’s struggling, and the church could help her out with a gift of money. I’ll tactfully ask her.”

I was told it’s part of our worship. Is that wrong?

Giving money is meant to glorify God just as everything we do should be. But you won’t find it included as part of corporate worship in the practice of the NT church. The creation of money-giving as a religious ceremony is an invention of men. The early church, according to the likes of Justin and Tertullian, collected money after the public worship was over. Interestingly, the treasurer’s job is usually done by deacons, which could imply it was considered a necessary function, like organizing church-renovation, which was not tied to public worship,.

But isn’t giving individually going against the spirit of corporate activity?

It may sound pleasant to give “as a body”, but a nice thought is all it is. Many activities are carried out individually, such as when someone in church makes the tea and coffee, paints the vestry, cleans the toilet, banks the collection money, builds the church website, and we could go on and on. There is nothing in these activities which undermines the idea of the unity of the body, and neither is there any principle that we should treat money-collection differently and artificially make it a public exercise.

And in our church we do it twice on a Sunday…

Which means that some people split their money in half so they have something to put on the plate morning and evening and thereby take part fully in the Ceremony of the Money.

Didn’t the Apostle Paul talk about collections on the first day of the week?

Read the passage (1 Cor. 16). He tells them to do their fundraising before he came, so that there wouldn’t be a collection when he was there. If it was meant to be a ritual, Paul would have asked them to make sure they brought cash so they could perform it when he came! Some commentators believe the money was saved up at home, then brought in at an appointed time, which would do away with the whole idea of weekly public collections.

So what do you think we should do?

When we understand that this is about fundraising and not religious rituals we might decide to put a box on the wall in our church building so people can give whenever it’s convenient. But remember that employees and people on benefits are almost all paid electronically, so a bank-transfer or Paypal transaction would be most convenient. Think about this bizarre scenario. A man get’s paid. He goes to a cash machine to get bank notes out. He then takes them on a Sunday and hands them over. The treasurer processes it all and travels to the bank to re-deposit the notes. Hardly a great use of our time. What’s sadder is that, if the worker gets paid monthly, they repeat the whole process four or five times a month!

It’s time to get rid of the collection plate. If we have to raise money for a particular purpose, let’s allow people to give in such a way that their left hand doesn’t know what their right hand is doing. Stop the withdrawing and re-depositing cycle which wastes believer’s time. Put the giving so much in the background that the world can’t see us as money-centred. When we have enough, let’s tell people so, like Moses did. And let’s be more compassionate to those who feel they are struggling to pay anything at all. After all, the Lord desires your mercy more than any sacrifices.


~ by Animus on April 5, 2016.

One Response to “Banning the Collection Plate”

  1. A Christian pastor says:

    “…so far as I understand the New Testament, people knew what their money was going to be used for when they gave it. Although the specific individuals who would receive funds were not known, nor the exact amount each would receive, people gave through the church to the church in need, and that church distributed these funds. I am sure that people gave without always knowing exactly how their money was being spent, but so far as the evidence of the Scriptures is concerned, there is no recorded ‘offering’ to which people gave without having any idea how it was to be used.”

    “Biblical giving is to be done thoughtfully and purposefully. All too often our conception of giving is that we sit in a church service and suddenly are jolted by the fact that the offering plate is on its way down the pew. We quickly fumble in our wallet or purse and snatch out something to put in the plate as it passes by. I do not see that kind of giving in the Scriptures.”

    It’s the duty of the church to communicate exactly what the money is for. This direct connection between the giver and receiver is what brings the greatest blessing.

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