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Several years ago I heard a story about this family who was invited by a neighbor to attend church for the very first time.
This man and his wife had two young sons, and never having been in church, they did not know church customs and how things were done.
One of the regular practices this church always did, at some point during the service, was pass the offering plate.
After the service one of the boys said to the other, “I got five dollars, how much did you get?”
They did not know that those who attended the service were supposed to put money into the plate, and not take money out.
However, taking money out of the plate seemed like a good idea to one innovative pastor of a large church in our state.
A recent article in our statewide newspaper told the story of a pastor whose church gave away $5,000 to needy worshipers. While this has happened many times in America over the years, and even in other lands, this was the first time I had ever heard of any church doing this.
This is not a new concept, however, and was practiced often by first-century Christians. What this pastor actually did was tap into the giving spirit of most Americans, especially Christians, as members of this church actually increased their giving even more as a result of this appeal.
Here is the actual account. This church has three services and an average weekly attendance of 1,100 to 1,200 people and takes in about $32,000 a week.
The decision was made by the pastor, along with church leaders, to have baskets with small bills laid out in front of the sanctuary in all three of their worship services. At the end of each service, worshipers were encouraged to come forward and take what they needed to pay medical bills, electric bills, hospital bills, car insurance payments, buy children’s school clothes, replace a broken washing machine, even a window replacement needed by an elderly lady.
In the beginning, it took a good deal of prodding to have people come forward to receive the money, but the pastor said, “I don’t want to have one penny of this money left over.”
And so, after a great deal of encouragement they came.
There was only $3 left at the end of the day and there were many tears shed.
There is no doubt about it, with our economy in a tailspin and unemployment close to 10 percent, there are lots of people hurting. Obviously this money will help a few of them, and the example of a “reverse offering” may be something that other churches may want to consider doing as well.
Folks who hoped for an immediate encore were disappointed, however.
The pastor said some came to his office later “with tears in their eyes and said, ‘Yes, I do have a need and I don’t know if there is a way you can help me anymore’.”
The following Sunday the pastor told his congregation, “Look, we cannot take care of every single need that ever arises, but we can be a church that looks out for others.”
There were several thoughts that came to mind as I read this article.
Only God can judge the thoughts, intents and motives of the heart and I am not here to judge. However, I do believe there is a better way to disperse money to needy people than having them go down to the front of the church, with over a thousand people looking on, to take a few dollars from a basket.
God tells us that what we do in secret will be rewarded openly.
Why not do a survey of the needs of church members and help, as everyone has need.
Surely the word will spread that this is a giving church and God will bless it.
However, a “reverse offering” is better than doing nothing at all, for hurting people in a church family.
(Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034.)