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.
When any one complained because the work was not hurried forward, it was suggested that money would do the work, and as fast as it was at hand it would be applied. All were allowed time to pay their subscriptions, and many a second subscription. The result was, that when the church was complete, it was paid for. It is a fine brick church, having a seating capacity of about 350, with a Sunday-school room, class rooms, etc., at the rear, furnished, and all completed at a cost of a fraction less than $10,000, and that at a time when the cost of material and labor was at its height after the war.
A few years later the same congregation built a brick parsonage, with stone trimming, presenting an attractive appearance, being of good size, and having all the conveniences of the most comfortable dwellings in the village. Mr. S. also superintended this building, and completed it at a cost of $1,900.
The Lutheran Church at Shrewsberry, Pa., is a monument of neatness, beauty and cheapness. Built of brick, and having all the improvements and comforts of larger churches, and with a seating capacity of 400, it was completed at a cost of about $12,000, when the cost of material and labor was much higher than at the present time.
The Lutheran Church at Louisville, Ky., is another example, and others might be mentioned, but these suffice to show the result of continual personal supervision.
IX. If one source of church debt is more disheartening than another, it is doubtless that which arises from the disinterestedness of an entire community, or the stinginess of the individual members of a congregation.
Taking the reports of the various denominations of Christians, noting the amounts contributed for the various benevolences, we discover at once a great diversity existing between different sections of the country. The difference is as marked as the character of the soil, nor are those who inherit the annual laga-cies of the richer soil always the more liberal. This diversity is found not alone in the states, as compared with each other, but in various states there are places where sordid penuriousness and stinginess are provincial, affecting all denominations alike. But occa-sionally the ravages of this dreadful distemper are confined to one or more congregations.
It is not necessary, however, to enter into any protracted or minute description of a feature so well known and readily recognized everywhere. We cannot name the difficulty and leave the subject without making a few practical suggestions.
This disease is chronic and obstinate in its character, and immediate relief can scarce be expected. Sordid, stingy people will cling to their stinginess as their rarest treasure.
a. The first remedy we would suggest is, to place a church paper in every family, whether members of the church or not. It should be a paper setting forth the interests of the denomination with which the family worships. While a religious paper of some other denomination may be good, it will not render half the service that the organ of one's own church would. Rev. B. B. Collins, missionary of the Lutheran church in India, while collecting funds in this country for missionary purposes, informed us that he found it almost universally true that those families which read the church papers were better informed, and contributed more liberally, while those who did not read the church papers usually gave little or nothing for mission purposes. And every pastor will have observed the same thing in his own congregation.
A church paper will liberalize the minds of its readers in many ways; helping them to know what other congregations are doing, and how they do it; what is expected of church members, and a host of things which the minister could not mention without giving offense.
A good church paper is a great power, and any minister who fails to use it among his people is neglecting one of the great instruments for good. A church paper is the greatest auxiliary and helper which a minister can Lave in his work.
b. Never preach a "begging sermon." Do not let the people think that God is a beggar, supplicating aid. He is the bountiful giver of all good, and not a beggar. Let giving be set before the people as a means of grace, a Christian duty, a privilege. Rather demand it, than beg for it. But better still, do neither of these. Keep continually before the minds of the people the various wants of the church. Never be scared out of your duty in this, or any other respect. Show the people how God regards the covetous when he classes them with the unrighteous, saying: "Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idol-ators, nor adulterers, effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Covetousness is a mean, filthy crime in the sight of God.
c. You cannot hope to accomplish any great results with the generation already having fixed habits. But our source of great power in remedying this whole matter will be found in beginning with the young. Teach them to contribute in the Sunday-school. Not to come with "the niggardly cent," but with dimes, and quarter dollars, and larger amounts. Teach them to contribute regularly, continually, systematically, religiously. The parents in their stinginess may find fault, and talk loudly about a free salvation, and all that sort of thing, but never listen to their complaints. Do your duty with the rising generation, building right habits upon right principles, and the result shall abide, whether you shall remain to see it, or another shall come to reap the results of your sowing and toil.
X. Some congregations may attribute their growing church debt and diminishing congregations to their own injudicious management, and frequent change of pastors.
What we have to say on this point has already been ably expressed by Mr. Spurgeon, in an address delivered in the Music Hall in Edinburg, in which he gives a very good piece of advice to those who mourn over empty pews and a declining congregation. It is Worth trying:
"Sometimes, as the president of a college, I have letters sent to me asking for ministers in something like these terms: 'Dear Sir: Our chapel is very empty; our last minister was a very excellent man, but an unpopular preacher (I may say, by way of parenthesis, that I suppose he was one of those men that would make good martyrs - so dry that they would burn well), and our congregation is very small. Can you kindly send us a minister who will fill the chapel V On one occasion I replied that I had not a minister large enough to fill a chapel. Of course there came an explanation that they did not expect him to corporeally fill it, but to fill it by bringing others to listen to him, and retaining them as seat-holders. Then I wrote, and to gain this opportunity my first joke was perpetrated, reminding the friends that it was quite enough for a pastor to fill the pulpit well, and that the filling of the pews depended upon the zeal, the earnestness, and the diligence of those with whom he commenced his ministry; if they would support him by their earnest co-operation, the meetinghouse would soon be full. I remember when I first came to London, preaching to eighty or ninety in a large chapel, but my little congregation thought well of me, and induced others to come and fill the place. I always impute my early success to my warmhearted people, for they were so earnest and enthusiastic in their loving appreciation of 'the young man from the country' that they were never tired of sounding his praises. If you, any of you, are mourning over empty pews in your place of worship, I would advise you to praise up your minister. There can be no difliculty in discovering some points in which your pastor excels; dwell upon these excellencies, and not upon his failures; talk of the benefit which you derive from his sermons, and thus you will induce the people to come and listen to him, and at the same time you will do him good, for the full house will warm him up and make him a better preacher, and you yourself will enjoy him the more because you have thought and spoken kindly of him. Believe, then, that the filling up of the church is not alone the pastor's work. Remember the word 'universality,' and let no one try to find a loophole to escape his duty. All Christians ought to be doing something for Jesus, and to be always doing something."