I grew up going to church and as I remember it the time of offering on Sunday morning was the only way that the church I attended got money. And by “got money", I mean the way it received the money that it needed to exist – to pay the pastor, the youth director, the music leader, and the rent and insurance, to pay for ministry events and coffee, and all the other things that go into being a church. So, we’d pass around a plate – the church I went to had these kind of awesome half-plate half-bowl things that were silver and, as I remember it, ensconced in velvet. Or velour. Or something like that. Anyway, all the money for the church passed through those awesome plates on Sunday morning.
But times have changed and so the Sunday offering may now seem, at best – a bit quaint, or, at worst – weird or silly. We use bags rather than plates at Intown, but the reason the offering might seem strange is because most of the money that funds the church's ministry doesn’t come to the church through these bags. In fact, about 75% of the money that comes into the church comes through online giving – and by way of a plug, you can give once or set up regular giving through this link. You can also give via text anytime by dialing 503-766-5673 and following the prompts.
But back to these bags. We still pass them around, and they often move through the rows pretty quickly, passed hand-to-hand without slowing down because people are already giving through some other method. And that’s great because it helps the church leaders budget more accurately. But, and you had to know a but was coming: having money come out of our bank account online can lead to a sort of thoughtlessness concerning our giving. Maybe we think about it once (hopefully at least once a year!) and then it just sort of runs in the background.
So, this Sunday, when the bag comes down your row, even if you don’t take out your wallet or checkbook when it comes by, take the time to remember that you DO make sacrifices for this church: through your online giving you enable the church to continue its ministry. Also, observe the people who collect the offering. They come up the aisles and then one of them takes the bags and places them in front of the communion table. This is because what is in those bags, or what is represented by those bags, is given to God in recognition of what he has given us in the bread and the wine – his son Jesus. God gives us the broken body and spilled blood of his son and as an act of gratitude we give back to God. Finally, during the offering, notice the person that hands the bag to you and think about the community of Intowners who love God and love each other, regularly giving all kinds of resources to sustain the work of our church.
The time of offering isn't just a pragmatic part of the service, it's a time to reflect and to respond to grace. As such, it's a vital act of worship.
(Guest post from Scott Bowman who is an elder at Intown and all around nice guy.)