Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Know they are Trying to Help, but...

The subject line stood out in the church email inbox:

Winter Weather Threatening Weekly Contributions?

Now, admittedly, I live in Texas.  Winter weather does not often pose a problem for weekly services.  I've never had to cancel church because of an ice storm or being snowed in.  I understand this is problematic for other parts of the country in which I live.  Yet, I am all too aware of how weather does affect church attendance.

Late last year, we had copious amounts of rainfall one Sunday morning, and we only had 55 people show up for worship on that Sunday.  Given that there were flash flood warnings in abundance, it's understandable.  Yet, inclement weather isn't the only hindrance for church attendance.  Beautiful weather often is as well.  I mean, who wants to spend a Sunday morning cooped up indoors when the sun is shining, the breeze is slightly blowing, the temps are in the 70's, and there are numerous ponds stocked with fish beckoning--or, it is only a short drive from the coast?

The reality is: people have choices.  They have choices as to whether or not the come to church.  They have choices in how they choose to contribute.  Never mind that; however, there is a solution to the problem:

Bad weather often means low turnouts and reduced offerings. If weekly contributions are attendance dependent, break free in 2014 with electronic giving solutions from ... Services.

Consistent donations—no matter what the weather

Recurring contributions don't stay home when bad weather strikes. When your members start giving electronically, their contributions will continue exactly as scheduled.
For all your donation needs, there's a...solution.

I know this company is trying to help.  I understand that very well.  I understand their desire to make sure non-profit organizations--churches--have a steady stream of cash flow.  I understand there are churches who live paycheck to paycheck--or offering to offering to provide the correct terminology.

But I am still uncomfortable with the marketing behind this.

You see, I like to think that I trust the folks who are members of my congregation.

I like to think that I trust them to take care of the financial obligations of this church.

I like to think that I trust them to give to the Lord's work because they are cheerful givers.

I like to think that I trust them to make up their giving if they miss a Sunday or two or three because of absence.

My dad had an uncanny way of teaching me about the role of church; the role of clergy; dealing with offerings and all that sort of jazz.  First off, he made no bones about clergy being ordinary people.  "They put their pants on the same way we do," Dad would say.  But then, he'd go further, "Pastors should just preach the Gospel and then shut up."

Preach the Gospel and then shut up.

I thought I understood dad's comment then, but I think I was wrong because I hadn't begun to grasp the reality of the Gospel.  I think I understand it better now.

Preach the Gospel!  Preach what God has done through Jesus Christ.  Choose to focus on Christ crucified!  Proclaim the goodness of God and His grace!  Let the Gospel fall on the ears of people.  Let the Holy Spirit change their hearts and minds.  Don't focus on the Law and telling people what to do.  Let the love of God penetrate their hearts and bring them to the fullness of faith.  You are just the messenger.  God does the real work.

I think I get that.  It's awful hard to put that into practice.  I mean, if you see worship attendance slipping and offerings going down and people getting anxious; it's really easy to slip into platitudes.  It's really easy to slip into searching for solutions.  It's really easy to email companies and say, "Yes!!  Help me ensure this church's revenues don't slip!"  It's easy to check out the giving statements of individuals and families within the church and make a few phone calls to people who aren't giving what you think they should give.  It's really easy to focus on the instructions the Bible gives to tithe; to pass the plate; to give to everyone who begs.

It's a lot more difficult to preach the Gospel, shut up, and then allow God to go to work on people.  It's a lot harder to trust them to do the right thing when you are looking at fewer people in pews and less offering in the plate.

But if this faith is about our relationship with God and then our relationships with others...

Then trust is very, very important.

I know they are trying to help, but I'm going to go with trusting my congregation.  I'm confident they will do the right thing.

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