"A little research shows that passing the offering plate was not a regular practice until the 19th century"

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Donn R Arms's picture

Really? Seriously? Not passing the plate is more biblical? Do what you want, but don't give us this "more biblical than thou" nonsense about it.

Donn R Arms

Jonathan Charles's picture

It irks me when pastors like this preface an explanation for why they do what they do by setting tradition and Bible against one another.  What is an unbiblical tradition?  One that isn't mentioned in Scripture?  Or, one that is clearly disobedient to Scripture?  My church does many things that aren't biblical in the sense that they aren't found in Scripture, yet they are by no means disobedient to Scripture. 

The temple had a "giving box" (the temple treasury), so what?  Where does one think the Pharisees did their giving to be noticed?  A giving box on the back wall of the church does not avoid the first four points of his argument.  The only thing it might do is to reduce the pressure to give that passing the plate might exert. 

The early church met in homes, they didn't have pulpits or pews.  Jesus taught in the synagogue from a sitting position.  Don't get me started.  There are ALOT of ways that we are not "biblical" like the early church or like the temple.  Not being biblical doesn't always mean being disobedient to Scripture.   

 

Jim's picture

I wouldn't use a box: I find it interesting but I just send a check to the church. I use a bank bill-pay service. The check always gets cashed. The financial secretary is informed. And no one complains. 

One young seminarian asked me if it bothered me that people would be watching me as the offering plate is passed and I don't put anything in it. Answer: not really! 

Jeremy Wallace's picture

Jonathan,

I understand what you are saying, but you are reading too much in to my post. Stating that we do something that is non-traditional is not a criticism of tradition. However, I will stand by my statement that using tradition as the sole determining factor when making a decision is a serious problem. I am not putting the Bible against tradition. I am saying that we cant ignore the Bible in order to be in agreement with tradition. 

Further, I did not say that passing the offering plate was unbiblical. Its just that we think there is a method that easier aligns itself with the principles we find in Scripture. 

Donn R Arms's picture

When you find yourself in a hole you should stop digging. Your clarification makes things worse.

Quote:

I am saying that we cant ignore the Bible in order to be in agreement with tradition.

You use passing the plate to illustrate your point here. For you, the problem is that Jonathan and I are too obtuse to understand you. Would it not be better to accept reproof, learn from it, and do better next time?

Donn R Arms

Wayne Wilson's picture

Good post, Jeremy. We've been doing the box in the back for over twenty years.  It works great.  Personally, I like it when people ask me "How do you give around here?"  The main reason for this practice in our church, along with those Jeremy mentioned, is the impression left on unbelievers.  Like it or not, unbelievers think we're after their money.   This is an obvious impression from the public face of Christianity many see on the airwaves, and, sadly, in many churches.  I think it helps when that impression is shattered in a service where money isn't brought up, and the plate never passes the unbeliever by, and that "uncomfortable wallet moment" never happens.

Is it wrong to take an offering? Absolutely not!  But there's no reason to do it either.

Jim's picture

  1. Giving is an act of private worship before it is an act of public worship.
  2. We are not to give to be seen of others.
  3. When giving, our right hand is not to know what our left hand is doing.

I'm not sure if I understand what # 3 is anyway. I would have to study that out. 

So how is putting $$ in the box:

  • More private than putting $$ in a passed-plate? I mean don't people line up to put $$ in the box?
  • Ditto with # 2

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

We considered the box idea many years ago.  There are some aspects that certainly appeal to me.  What kept us using the "traditional" plate passing?  (modern tradition)  The worship aspect of giving.  When you put money in the box at the back, it is on the way out, when corporate worship is over.

We consider congregational singing a Biblical aspect of public worship, so we sing during the church service.  Likewise with prayer and preaching.  We also consider giving an aspect of public worship, so we include it in the items we "do" in the worship service.

This is also the reason I give weekly (even though I'm paid monthly).  I believe participating in giving is an important-enough aspect of public worship that I want to participate in as many services as possible.

G. N. Barkman

Jonathan Charles's picture

The Pharisees that Jesus criticized for turning their giving into a public performance gave at a box, so Jeremy's first three points on what giving should be like aren't successfully addressed by moving from passing the plate to giving at a box.  Either method can be abused.  People will see you doing both, giving at the box is not a private matter.  The only way to make giving a private matter is to have people mail in their giving, or to give electronically; even then it will not be a totally private matter since at least one or two people who handle what is given will know who gave what.  I think the burden is on the giver and how he or she gives, and not on the church to come up with some way of making giving a completely private matter.  ANY method can be abused.  That being said, I'm not opposed to "giving at the box," it is Jeremy's freedom to do what is best for his church.  Perhaps the passing the plate method was being abused in his church.  In fifteen years of pastoring my present church, I have never noticed any such thing.    

Greg Linscott's picture

Since we're discarding established traditions in the interests of becoming "more biblical," I'm looking forward to reading the next entry in the series: "Why We Don't Shake Hands (Romans 16:16)"

Smile

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Don Johnson's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

Since we're discarding established traditions in the interests of becoming "more biblical," I'm looking forward to reading the next entry in the series: "Why We Don't Shake Hands (Romans 16:16)"

Smile

 

I am currently finishing up Romans 11 so I have a few years to think about that verse... what will I say? I'm pretty sure I won't advocate interrupting the service for a lot of confusion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

christian cerna's picture

I think Wayne made some good points. One of them being how the non-believer or new visitor feels when the plate is passed by him.  The non-believer feels uncomfortable because he thinks he is being asked to pay money for being there. A new visitor might not want to give money because he doesn't know anything about the church yet, and is not sure if he wants to support the church financially.

Andrew K.'s picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

Since we're discarding established traditions in the interests of becoming "more biblical," I'm looking forward to reading the next entry in the series: "Why We Don't Shake Hands (Romans 16:16)"

Smile

Seriously! Let's slow the spread of disease. I'm all for appropriating the traditional East Asian bow. I'm only half joking.

Of course, if we wanted to get really Biblical, we'd have to go with the "holy kiss" thing. Yeah, I guess I'm not culturally ready to be fully Biblical in some ways. Wink

神是爱

christian cerna's picture

In many Spanish speaking churches, greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek is the norm. In fact, I think it's purely an American thing not to practice this. Probably because churches are so big, most people never get to know each other well enough.

TylerR's picture

Editor

When I was stationed in Italy, I routinely saw Italian men kissing one another as part of a greeting. It's normal. To take this even further, they also say "Ciao, bello" when they say goodbye. This literally translates to "Goodbye, beautiful."

There is nothing homosexual in the greeting or the farewell, but it is a cultural thing. When you think about, what does a handshake even mean, anyway!?

 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Greg Linscott's picture

christian cerna wrote:

In many Spanish speaking churches, greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek is the norm. In fact, I think it's purely an American thing not to practice this. 

 

Not seen it with Asian congregations! There could be some, but I don't think it is purely American.

BTW- I am not advocating that this be adopted. Just observing that if one really wants to be "more Biblical," there are much clearer places to start than offering collection methods. I'd be interested, for example, to see if communion is being done with a whole loaf and community cup passed...

 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Joel Tetreau's picture

So - two quick thoughts: 1) I know of at least one American congregation that practices the holy kiss and the careful hug - that is the one I pastor. 2) I'm thinking the best way to do the offering is not passing the offering plate or the little box in the back but the way they do it all over Africa. Each member in the congregation dances down the isle - the congregation sings and rejoices and claps. Each member puts in the offering what he or she can do - and they love it! My guess is Heaven loves it too! The African approach get's my vote......but no I'll not do that....I'll either pass the plate or will use the box in the back. Much more ....... conservative (boring).

Straight Ahead guys!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

dgszweda's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

Since we're discarding established traditions in the interests of becoming "more biblical," I'm looking forward to reading the next entry in the series: "Why We Don't Shake Hands (Romans 16:16)"

Smile

 

Greg,

 

I think Tim Hawkins covers how this is handled at most churches Smile

 

http://youtu.be/Wzxlv5vdN9I

Kirk Mellen's picture

"We consider congregational singing a Biblical aspect of public worship, so we sing during the church service.  Likewise with prayer and preaching.  We also consider giving an aspect of public worship, so we include it in the items we "do" in the worship service."

We also consider the offering time of our service to be a part of our corporate worship.  We pass the plate and after the offering is collected we stand and sing the Doxology as the ushers bring the offering to the front of the auditorium and leave it at the front.

Often I will make the remark that there is no expectation upon visitors to participate in the offering.  I stress that this is a part of our church's worship. 

Any form can be abused.  As with Jesus' teaching on giving, the heart of the giver and the motivation of the giver are always going to be key.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Greg Linscott wrote:

I'd be interested, for example, to see if communion is being done with a whole loaf and community cup passed...

Greg,

Been there and done that at my wife's home church in Germany a few years ago.  They also used real wine, which I suspect helps keeps down the germs, though I noticed that each person was given a cloth napkin with which to wipe off the rim of the cup before drinking.  The church was also small, and the participants at the Lord's supper that morning were maybe 15 or so.

I don't think they do this any more as they have grown in size, but it did seem to make the whole ordinance more ... personal.  Still, for other reasons (like hygiene), I'm glad my church here doesn't do this.

Dave Barnhart

dgszweda's picture

Or we could skip all of this silly discussion and just offer online offering through paypal.

Dave Gilbert's picture

It's refreshing that a visible, " institutional" church would actually ditch some of the traditions of men and follow the Bible in practice ( big grin )...;)

Now if someone here would only recognize that a building, in and of itself, with all the "creature comforts", pews set up with a "pulpit" in front similar to a theater or lecture hall ( instead of in a circle or round table that would best facilitate a discussion and other activities among equals...we're all prophets, priests and kings according to the Bible, so why the setup? ) and all the other window dressing is an unnecessary drain on the pockets of believers, I would breathe a sigh of relief. Smile

 

I've often wondered why it is that nearly every visible church ( you know, the ones "on the corner" with a sign ) seeks to emulate the Catholic Church in form and function...odd, to say the least, but that's another subject.

 

As for some of the comments I've read here, I've a few questions:

 

1) What in the world are obvious unbelievers doing in churches? Did they come to hear the Gospel ( sin, death and Hell )? If they've been invited to come in and worship, what separation is being maintained? Why are goats in amongst the sheep? I confess to not understanding this concept.

2) When giving, our right hand is not to know what our left hand is doing...what needs to be "studied out"? Matthew 6:1-3 regarding giving to be seen of others.

3) A holy kiss is to be practiced between brothers; I wouldn't know, as my living up to now hasn't been all that holy, so I don't feel qualified to give a holy kiss. Wink Perhaps someday.

4) "What is an unbiblical tradition?" Nearly all of them in churches today, from my standpoint. 2000+ years of them, and still growing...similar to burying a diamond in a hole 6 feet down and adding a shovelful of dirt every year for 2000 years. It's the traditions of men, taught as doctrine, that stifle and kill genuine relationship with our Creator. This is one of the primary reasons Jesus was angry with the Pharisees. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against tradition in and of itself...but when they take over or rise in prominence, they start to occupy a place reserved for the Lord Himself. For instance, I know of at least one group ( I grew up among them ) who teaches that "church membership" = required for believers. "Tithing" = required for believers. Attending every service unless ill or otherwise detained = required. "Serving" in some capacity = required. "Soul winning" = required. The list goes on. Are any of these necessary to being a member of the Body of Christ? I don't see them in the Bible. I'm reminded of a quote I saw somewhere..." The Church; It's not a corporation, it's a family".

 

@ Johnathan Charles: I like your post sir ( except for the "irking" part ), but I also hold the viewpoint above...too much tradition can quench the Holy Spirit. In many cases, I believe setting tradition against the Bible to be a wise comparison, especially in light of this verse: Matthew 15:9

@ Donn: What's with the hammer? You seemed to jump on the author pretty hard right out of the gate, and I really detected no reproof. Care to bridge my disconnect in understanding for the benefit of a relative newcomer? Thanks in advance.

 

Besides: Jeremy said at the end of the article, " Yeah, I know, this is not how traditional churches collect an offering. But our goal is not to align ourselves with tradition. Nor is it to align ourselves against tradition. Our desire is to be as biblical as possible, and at times that means doing things a little differently." ( Bold added by me ). This says enough for me. I don't detect anything that say's, "I'm holier than thou", only that he wishes to follow the Bible as his authority. If some of you read that into the article, perhaps it's not the Spirit that's being offended.

 

Dave.

 

Matthew J's picture

"So what do we see about giving in the Bible?

1-  Giving is an act of private worship before it is an act of public worship.

2-  We are not to give to be seen of others.

3-  When giving, our right hand is not to know what our left hand is doing.

4-  We are not to give under compulsion or because of manipulation or peer-pressure.

5-  In the context of the temple giving was done through a giving box."

Why we pass an offering plate.
We are trying not to align ourselves only with tradition or against tradition, since passing the plate is a relatively new way of doing things, is it not less traditional than a box in the back? I am not for or against a box in the back, but what has more tradition, something done for a thousand years or something done for a hundred or so years.

But on the issues of giving

1-Since giving is an act of private worship before it is an act of public worship, we expect the people of God to have participated in private worship at home as they wrote the check, put the cash in the envelope and then publicly bring it to church to put it in the offering plate. Not sure how a box in the back is more private than an offering plate since everyone will see you put money in the box, but few (only your row of chairs) will see you put money in the plate.

2. -We are not to give to be seen of others. -This is true, and that is why we pass the offering plate, less likely chance for some religious people to stand around the treasury so that they could show off how much they are giving and observe one another. Giving in the offering plate is more discreet, slip in the check as it is passed and no one really notices (unless you "tithe" in quarters). 

3. -When giving our right hand is not to know what our left hand is doing-Have no idea what the article author means by this. Does he mean literally? Doubtful, but if not, then it is the same point as number 2, IMO

4. - We are not to give under compulsion or manipulation or fear. The only people who I know who might do that because of passing the plate would be visitors, but then, having a box in the back could do the same thing. They see people putting something in the box as they leave, they might feel pressure to slip a buck or two in themselves so as not to be "rude." But on the other hand, worship is not for the unbeliever, so we don't consider that too highly. Passing the plate actually may allow someone to quietly pass it on to the next without any feelings of compulsion since it is a relatively quick and painless process and our ushers do not "stare down people."

5.-In the context of the temple, giving was done in a box. A lot of things are done differently than the temple days, they also taxed the people. And it seems from the Biblical account, this led to abuse by the Pharisees. So it is possible that we ought to avoid that kind of method for giving. We are not seeking to imitate the temple.

My point in all of this FWIW, is actually not that I am opposed to giving in a box. We have thought of doing that ourselves. Possibly, it could be read in the article (even though this may not be the point of the author) that those who simply pass the plate are not intentional. But maybe they are. Maybe they have thought through the different methods and have come to the conclusion that it is the most doctrinally consistent way of providing for the work of the ministry by God's people. I absolutely respect and admire those who are seeking to be Biblically intentional in the approach to the practicalities of church, and can completely fellowship and worship in an assembly that does things in a variety of ways, so long as they are thinking through the why and how seriously and theologically (as much as possible). It seems that Mr. Wallace has thought through why they do what they do and applaud him. So have we and this is why we do it the way we do it. 

christian cerna's picture

Passing a an offering plate has its downsides. Especially for those who choose to give in other ways. 

What if someone chooses to make an offering online? He will be seen to never drop any money into the offering plate.

What about those who would rather give one big check once a month, than smaller offerings every service? Again he will be seen as someone who doesn't give much.

Unless everyone puts their money in an envelope before putting it into the plate, it can create uncomfortable situations, when a poor man sees that the person next to him dropped in $20's, but he was only able to put in 50 cents.

What of the man who has been unemployed for several months, and doesn't have any cash most of the time? 

An offering box in the back of the church is preferred. Some will say that people can still try to show off about how much they give. But it is more difficult to do if you ask people to put the money in an envelope first before dropping it in. Also, because people sit at their pews and face the front of the church, they are less likely to be looking at the back where the offering box is. 

christian cerna's picture

Preferred method.. 

Leave the church sanctuary open 24/7 so that people come in to pray whenever they wish. That also allows people to come in when no one else is around and make anonymous contributions.

G. N. Barkman's picture

A little more research will indicate that most churches used a velvet bag on the end of a pole before offering plates came into vogue.  That practice goes back at least two or three hundred more years.  Ushers guided the bags to stop at each person long enough to deposit their offering.  I  think we all agree that offering plates is an improvement over that venerable practice.

 

G. N. Barkman

Jim's picture

And because it is 10 years away I may look like a genius today :) 

-----

Prediction: in 10 years few churches will pass an offering plate - or for that matter have a box

Churches will advertise multiple ways to give:

  • Mail a check
  • ACH
  • Paypal
  • Or other forms of on-line giving

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