Feature: Why We Stopped Passing the Offering Plate
May 19, 2004
by Dennis Sawyer, pastor, Philadelphia Church, Chicago
"You forgot to take the morning offering again, Pastor," said head usher Dick Ford in a rather bewildered tone. (He was also a deacon and a trustee.) It was true. Nearly a year into my first pastorate, I was still, on occasion, forgetting to pause for the collection of tithes and offerings.
Now and then I was spared embarrassment when an anxious usher would frantically wave his money from behind the last pew or hand me a note just before I started the morning message. The problem was mine. I had grown up hearing non-Christians say, "All the church wants is your money." When I opened my mailbox or turned on a Christian broadcast, I had to agree that money seemed paramount in the kingdom of God.
Besides, the offering just didn't seem to fit anywhere. We were seeing a spiritual awakening in that small coastal Oregon town of 500. The Sunday morning attendance had grown from 200 to 300 during the year, with a special sense of God's presence in each service. To pause and take an offering seemed tangential. We tried taking it at the beginning of the service, and people thought we seemed too anxious to get their money. In the middle of the service, it interrupted the flow, and at the end it interfered with the altar call or concluding challenge of the message.
At the peak of frustration, while preparing a sermon on tithing from Malachi 3:10, I was pierced by the words "Prove me now, saith the Lord of Hosts." A series of questions deluged my mind:
Could God provide for our financial needs without our passing the plate?
Does the worship of giving have to occur at ajwed moment betwen 11:00 and 12:15 Sunday mornings?
If we freed ourselves from passing the plate, could we better use that ...