This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
It is really not surprising that the basket collections at the regular service on the Sabbath should amount, as they generally do, to comparatively nothing at all. "Alexander the Coppersmith" has done the collection much evil too, and yet again and again we hear this essential part of worship stigmatized, and belittled, and profaned, and made despicable by calling it the "Penny Collection." That name alone is enough to kill it. A man who speaks of the gathering of the offerings of the people as the "taking of a penny collection" is guilty of sacrilege. It is speaking irreverently of that which is as sacred as any other part of the worship of the sanctuary. Under the Jewish system no worship was complete without a gift, and the act of giving was itself an act of worship. When David and the princes of Israel assembled to make an offering for the building of the temple, their prayers and offerings ascended to heaven together, and when Solomon dedicated that temple his great prayer and great offering, of twenty and two thousand oxen and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep, came up in gratitude together before God. Now, however, this essential part of worship is not only slighted, or treated with disrespect, but some have even ejected the offertory from the house of God Nor are they content with their sacrilege, but proclaim their shame in the public print by concluding their "religious notices" with the announcement of "no collection." Oh, what a relief to the worshipers to be permitted worship an entire hour, consoled by the sublime thought that at the close they are not to be annoyed by a collection or have their devotions disturbed by the jingling of money on the plates. Any minister who ejects the offertory from the sanctuary is guilty of sacrilege, and if he proclaims it, is guilty of heresy, and if he were expelled from the sacred office of the ministry would only receive what his conduct so justly merits.
This course is the result of a desire to gratify the
Luther's three conversions. 247 wishes of a sordid, stingy, covetous few, who know nothing of the grace of giving. Martin Luther said that a man had to be converted three times; first his head, then his heart, and then his pocketbook. To say the least, these people need the third conversion, and might be much improved by a little more of the other two. When professing Christians find themselves getting so near heaven during the sermon that they cannot get back in time for the collection, they may safely regard themselves as deluded - the difficult up-hill work attests the direction with great suggestiveness.
Another reason why the collection is not a success is the manner in which the offerings are gathered. The collectors catch the general infection, and, as if they were ashamed of their business, go hurrying from pew to pew, presenting the basket in an irreverent manner, and as if to say, "this is no part of the service; it is only a penny collection, and nothing is expected from most of you."
In speaking of the offertory, and presenting its use as a lost act of worship, Rev. Hugh Miller Thompson, 1). D., says:
"It is another of the cases where our theories shame our practice, where our professions put our actions to the blush, that the offertory has become, in our worship, almost an impertinence. Our people do not understand its meaning. Our clergy too often do not dare, if they know it themselves, to make the people know it.
"Men are to be taught that giving to the Lord is an essential part of public worship, quite as essential as singing or praying. They are to be instructed in the plain truth that words must go out in deeds. They must recognize the alms-basin as an essential part of church furniture, the putting of money into it as a devotional act. Their special attention must be called to the name by which their contributions, given in church, are called in the plain English of the Prayer Book 'the devotions of the people.'
"The whole duty of giving has grown dim, the sense of responsibility for wealth dead, in the minds of men. The Lord's treasury is like a beggar's dish. The clergy have grown cowardly about this part of Christian duty. When they urge it, it is with half arguments and cowardly compromises. They have a feeling that it almost degrades them to "dun for paltry money," for even a good cause. So highly 'spiritual' have we all become, that our religion must not even name filthy lucre.
"Meanwhile, there stands that solemn service of the offertory, clear, bold, uncompromising, making giving a solemn act of religion; calling the offered thing by its old name, a 'devotion;' bringing forward this act of piety in the forefront of the most solemn religious service of the church of God; asking its performance as repentance and faith are asked - for a preparation for the worthy reception of Christ's body and blood.
"In these days we know no doctrine of primitive Christianity which needs reviving more than this doctrine of the offertory; no teaching which is more needed by the men of the time than the emphatic teaching of that most ancient and primitive institution.
"Men need to be taught that they bring their whole lives to church with them, that they do not drop at the door the stains of the market and the 'Change. They require to have it pressed home that the gains which cannot be consecrated to the Lord are gains which are 'the price of blood,' the blood of their own souls. They want the truth that God holds them responsible for every bargain and speculation, and that all the singing and praying in the world will not make an unjust profit other than a curse. They are to know that every day is a God's service or a devil's service, and that two hours a Sunday given to God will not pay for a Monday devoted to the devil Mammon wore than to the devil Belial.
"Therefore, their lives are to be brought into the church. That is just what the church is for, that men should bring their lives into it, and measure them by the cubit of the sanctuary. They are there to be reminded of the market, and the shop, and the ledger, and if the reminding stings them and pains them, so much the more do they need it. They are there to have their doings over the counter, on 'Change, in the street, in the forum, brought to the test of God's eternal law, that they may be saved from ruin. And the offertory is there to do this. That is the special use and need of that religious service in all times.
"The result, of course, if ever Christian men shall even begin to do their duty of giving on Christian principles, will be the world's conversion in about an ordinary lifetime. Meanwhile, let us begin to put this business of giving on its true ground. Let us deliver it from meanness and beggary, and teach what it is, a profound and solemn act of reverent worship and awe, before God's altar; an act wherein all mysteries meet in this, the deepest mystery of devotion that mortal man can give to the Eternal Lord and have the gift accepted."
To correct this spirit of disrespect now shown this legitimate and indispensable portion of worship, it will be necessary first to speak with becoming reverence of the offertory. Second, make the gathering of the offerings a part of the service, and let the people feel that it is a part of the worship. In accomplishing this let the pastor receive the offerings at the hands of the collectors, and then before turning from the congregation offer a brief consecrating prayer, asking God to accept the offerings and bless the givers. This brief prayer will do much to redeem the offertory and greatly stimulate and sweeten this act of worship and service.
The gathering of the offerings may also be solemnized and restored to its proper sacredness in the following manner: At the appropriate time let the minister arise and say, "the offerings of the people for benevolent purposes will now be gathered." While the collection is being taken, let the pastor slowly but distinctly pronounce the following or other appropriate passages of Scripture:
I. For Benevolent Purposes.
Trust in the Lord, and do good: so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over: for with the same measure that ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth - but rather seek ye the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.