Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Faith Offerings

(Communications are still down so I’m posting in the school classroom again!)
One of the trends which seem to be catching on quite a lot nowadays is what is known as Faith Offerings. This is usually done in a church where people have started developing a vision for mission. But because the normal budget seldom allows for much to be given towards missions, church members are encouraged to partake in the system of Faith Offerings. On a certain Sunday, after having been informed about the system and sometimes after a period where the church focussed on missions, church members are invited to pledge a certain amount of money to the Lord which will then be used exclusively for missions. This amount is also pledged, not as part of the normal tithing, but as something extra which the Lord is being trusted for.
I have heard wonderful testimonies where churches have started with this system and where they collect huge amounts of money every year. I have also heard wonderful testimonies where people who had pledged a certain amount as a faith offering had received it in a miraculous way.
In principle I think that this could be a wonderful time of growth and greater commitment from a church and it members towards God’s mission on earth. But, and this may come as a bit of a surprise, I have a slight uncomfortable feeling about faith offerings.
In many places the money is pledged during a public service where someone would speak about missions who is able to connect to people on a very emotional level. By the time they come to the point of making the pledge, some of those responding are just not thinking rationally anymore. The question I have is whether people are then giving because God had convinced them to do so, or because a good speaker had worked on their emotions. I have never been present in such a service, but if I had been the one leading the service, I would hand out the pledge forms and then send all the people home with the request that they first of all pray about this to hear how much God wants them to pledge but furthermore that the family (and mainly the husbands and their wives) come to an agreement on how much they should pledge. To make an emotional promise which may eventually lead to disagreement between the spouses will be to nobody’s advantage and definitely not to the glory of God.
I see faith offerings as an emergency measure to “kick-start” mission involvement and I don’t think that this is a long-term solution. God wants each and every church to give a substantial amount to missions. John Rowell mentions in his book To give or not to give? that in the USA on average less than 3% of the money received by churches is spent outside that church. I don’t have statistics for other countries, but my guess is that in most Western countries things will be the same. Even though it sounds totally unrealistic, I believe that churches could never be satisfied about their financial involvement in missions before the amounts spent inside and outside are in balance with each other – in other words, at least 50/50. Faith offerings are a way in which churches start fulfilling their Godly obligation towards missions and working towards this goal, but eventually it should become part of the church budget where substantial amounts on the budget should be used outside the church in order to fulfill God’s commission.
Something else which worries me about the faith offerings is that church members are encouraged to “trust God” for the amount which is being pledged for missions. But why only the members? What about a church “trusting God” for the amount which He wants them to spend on missions. How strong would the testimony be if a church pledges (in its budget and obviously in total dependence upon the Lord) a certain amount towards missions, saying that other necessary expenditures, such as the painting of the church or the replacement of a carpet will only be undertaken once the amount which had been pledged had been collected? What could happen within the kingdom of God if a church should pledge 10% of ALL income received towards God’s mission? The 50% can come with time! A church doing that would convince me that they are truly serious about missions. And this could become the church’s Faith Offering towards God’s work outside the congregation and the members can then become part of a much greater project undertaken in obedience and in faith.

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Monday, October 1, 2007 - Posted by | Church, Comfort Zone, Faith Offerings, Giving, Mission, Partnership, Poverty, Rowell, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology

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