Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Controversy!


The following is a piece that was sent to me from someone in our community....
Read it and tell me what you think!
Over the past 20 centuries, the church has made many changes in terms of what is acceptable practice and what is not. This is not new. Imagine families living in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. It is Saturday morning, the Sabbath, and they are getting ready to go to the Synagogue. They choose the closest Synagogue – any further than ½ km, and the walk would violate the law of how far they can walk on the Sabbath. They arrive and the men sit in the front, while the women and children sit in the back, behind a veil. This is the “law” you see. When they arrive home, they will have the cold lunch that was prepared the day before. They are not allowed to work on the Sabbath so cooking is out of the question. In fact, they are not even allowed to clean up the lunch dishes – they will have to wait until tomorrow. .

Jesus stepped into such a time and basically said to the teachers of the law “you people are so stupid”. “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man (Luke 2:27).” God had given a simple command so that the people would enjoy the gift of the Sabbath and use it to focus their hearts on him. The leaders decided to “clarify” God’s commandment, because of course, they could say it much clearer than God, and so added several dozen regulations for the Sabbath. These regulations turned the Sabbath into a burden rather than a gift.

By the time Jesus was crucified, he had broken almost every “taboo” imposed by the religious establishment. He spoke to women, he ate with sinners, he worked on the Sabbath.

Imagine two of these families, two years later. The Jones’ are now gathering with a group of new believers called Christians. They have just had a baby boy and pass the Smiths who are on their way home from Synagogue. They invite the Smiths to the dedication. When Mrs. Smith gets home, this is what she says to her husband.

“Can you believe it? She is in the market, shopping on the Sabbath!! I can’t believe they have the gall to think they can just up and change the Sabbath day. The Torah clearly states that the seventh day is to be holy, not the first! They are in conflict with the word of God. Not only that, they are not circumcising their boy – they claim it is no longer necessary! AND, they have invited Gentiles into their home for the ceremony and to top it all off – she’s serving ham!! I don’t know what has gotten into that family, but they are not obeying the scriptures.”

Throughout time, change has come hard for the church. Learning to let go of legalism and yet remain holy is not a simple task. There are always those who will find a verse or two of scripture to bolster their list of do’s and don’ts. Jesus, however, summed it all up in two simple phrases: love God and love people.

Two generations ago, had you walked into a typical Mennonite church, there would have been no instruments during worship. They felt that the music would draw the listeners’ attention away from the lyrics and from worshipping God. When the organ first made its debut, many people were adamant that this was the downfall of the church. With each generation of musical change, we have gone through this transition all over again.

Only one generation ago, the church taught from the pulpit that pool halls, bowling alleys and movie houses were sinful. Today, we have youth events in the pool hall, Bingo Bowls for the adults, and we bring clips of the movies into our Sunday morning gatherings as a tool to reach the people. What is happening? Is the church really getting farther and farther away from God? Or are we untying the bonds of legalism and getting to the heart of the matter? Paul states “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1Cor 9:22)

There are those in the church today who believe that to hold a raffle is a sin because it’s gambling. Interestingly, the word “gamble” never appears in Scripture. While some are quick to quote Matthew or Mark where Jesus drives out the money changers in the temple at the Passover, this passage has nothing to do with gambling. Jesus is judging people’s hearts and motives far more than their actions. The people were supposed to bring the unblemished firstborns from their own herds, not purchase whatever happened to be available at the market. The people selling in the temple were just as guilty as the buyers – in essence, they were selling and buying a lie, and bringing their second best to God.

Why is gambling a problem? True gambling is about far more than a simple raffle. Gambling is a mindset, and a way of life. You don’t need to buy a ticket to gamble – you can bet on the football game, on the date the neighbor’s baby will be born, or on what the weather will be like tomorrow. You could even wager money on how many people this blog will offend. The real problem is when gambling places your hope and reliance on chance instead of on God. It is taking the money you need to pay your bills and feed your family and throwing it away for no purpose whatsoever, except for the slight chance to win it back with interest. It says “if I could just win the lottery, all my problems would be solved”, or “if I stay in the game just a bit longer, I might win back all I’ve lost”. It is a similar scenario to alcohol. A drink with dinner is not a sin, but if alcohol takes over your life and you rely on it instead of God, you are indeed sinning.

A simple raffle ticket asks people to give from their excess, it does not ask them to give large sums of money with the hope that they will get a large windfall to solve their problems. When selling a raffle ticket, the first question asked by over 90% of individuals is “Who are you raising money for?” People would not buy a ticket if I said I was raising money to go to Hawaii for Christmas. When the cause is good, people donate the money, and are not concerned whether or not they actually win the prize. Why not just simply ask for the money then? Unfortunately, while selling a ticket is acceptable to the public, when the church asks for money outright, it perpetuates a very negative stereotype. Our raffle highlighted Soul Sanctuary to many in the community who did not know we existed. I expect to see growth from these contacts.

Galatians 5:1-15 talks about the freedom we have in Christ. There may be those of you who can understand in your minds that opposing a raffle is legalistic, but in your heart, you still feel checked by the Holy Spirit. I can respect that. If the Spirit says to your conscience that drinking is wrong, then for you, it is wrong. Perhaps God knows that you have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and He has a very good reason why he doesn’t want you to drink. If the Holy Spirit checks you about buying a raffle ticket, then you shouldn’t purchase one – He has His reasons; however, if others can purchase the same ticket with a clear conscience and an attitude of giving freely, then they should also be allowed to do so without being condemned.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Church fund raising... my guess is that this is in regards to raising funds for a new church facility.

"Why not just simply ask for the money then? Unfortunately, while selling a ticket is acceptable to the public, when the church asks for money outright, it perpetuates a very negative stereotype."

Why would we ask the public to pay for our meeting facilities anyway? (I assume "public" means all non-christians because the other christians not coming to our church have there own churches to support) :) If a congregation wants a meeting place, shouldn't they be the ones to come up with the cash?

I am not saying that fund raising is wrong but the bottom line is if you need to raise money for an important project it will require a certain amount of sacrifice from the people going to the church. You need people to believe in what you are doing and they need to be involved. Test the waters. Start small but encourage ongoing commitment from many. Do you know how many people would be willing to give up a Starbuck's coffee each week as a "sacrifice" to get things going? If 250 people made a year long commitment and had their chequing account debited each week for $5, that would be $1250 a week / $65,000 annually to put towards a building. Missing a coffee may be worth it to people when they know they are contributing to a common goal together with others.

I was just thinking out loud. That was one idea.

Anonymous said...

Soul has been asked on several occasions to give sacrificially, above and beyond regular tithing but few have responded. The need has been made very clear. As for raising $65,000 per year – it’s a great start, but it would take 10 years before the down payment for a building was reached.

Anonymous said...

I would venture to say that if people have not made tithing a regular practice in their lives, it is going to be fairly difficult for them to give sacrificially. But that is another topic.

"As for raising $65,000 per year – it’s a great start, but it would take 10 years before the down payment for a building was reached."

Maybe we could use a great start. A START is exactly what it is meant to be. One idea of many.

(sideline) If the only objective is to get enough money to get the building/land/meeting place, I think you are missing the boat and also a great opportunity.

Anonymous said...

inch by inch, penny saved, penny earned. Ten years can pass very quickly and if $65,000 richer all the better.

Look at the demographics of Soul, very young because that is what it was designed for. They are still paying off car and student loans and trying to save up for that diamond ring.


As for ticket selling, if it didn't work it's because people vote with their feet (participation) and perhaps they don't see themselves as slimy salespeople.

Perhaps making them pay for their Sunday coffee or offering them items they would use like a bag of coffee or case of Kraft dinner with a profit, would see them give up some funds because it would be convenient for them since they might not have had time to shop. But then again, that would mean selling on a Sunday which is back to the issue.

One church I was in had campaigns where rich bodied coffees were offered for a loonie before church and orders were taken for take- home bags of it. Each week a different coffee was features. The money was going to missions. This worked because the regular coffee was so bad people wanted the better stuff and would pay the looney. Soul people are already spoiled with Tim Horton's coffee.

When my husband and I got married our church was full of young adults. The pastor & wife put on a money wedding shower hoping they would collect enough money to get us a small patio set as a gift. At the end of the party they handed us $100 as that is all the 30 people donated and the pastor & his wife were out of pocket for the pizza they served. It's very hard to squeeze money out of that population.

Pray that outside sources who have more income will hear about and have a heart for the mission of Soul.

SoulPastor said...

PLEASE NOTE:

Many people are realizing that all comments are being moderated. Unfortunately there is a reason why I have to do this...(don't ask)

Here are some guidelines to having your comment being posted.

First, try to post something of meaning and substance according to the topic.

Secondly, No profanity. Many people including those who are younger have access to this blog.

Thirdly, I will post anonymous posts providing that they are in keeping with the topic. You do not have to agree, but please make sense, to some degree!

Finally, no personal attacks will be tolerated either towards myself, my spiritual community or other people who comment.

Sorry for having to do moderate this blog, but you can equate this to one bad grape...and how it affects the entire vine!

Scott said...

WOW, the beauty of blogging and the Internet, Anonymous is the new trend.

Fund raising can be a tricky proposition to most people, especially in the church. Besides a few churches I know, most places of worship have a hard time asking the congregation for money. For whatever reason people don't give, it happens. While some may think it is realistic to think people will give, I disagree with this. While it is realistic to think people will obey the Bible, it is also realistic to take into account many reasons why people just can't give, or just don't want to give.

Regardless of reason, it generally doesn't work out ideally, thus churches must resort to other methods of getting sufficient funds for a plethora of areas.

In the case of Soul we need more space, I see it, everyone who goes there sees it. The funds though, are hard to come by, and while we may fill 500 seats a week, I think we are hard pressed to even get 50% of those people to give their 10%.

Fund raising then comes into play. We need another way to source some income. And this in lays the controversy.

I believe that people are generally stubborn and selfish when it comes to fund raising and such. Whether they think its wrong, or the concepts and ideas that are brought up in it are wrong, they are missing the point. The only reason we are fund raising is because the people who attend aren't pulling their own weight. There I said it.

It has to be true let’s do the math here. Lets say everyone who attends a church gave 10% of their money. Ok, now lets say now that everyone makes on average, $800 a paycheck. So 10% of that is 80 bucks. Now lets say that we have 500 attending on a given Sunday. Now lets say we have 40 dollars a week, based on a bi-weekly check of 800 dollars. So that is 40 * 500 which equals 20,000 dollars. That’s 20000 A WEEK!!!!!!! 80000 a month and 960,000 a year. That's ridiculous. My bet is that the church only sees 10% of that a year.

The point I'm trying to make here is if people would pull up their socks and give 10%, and stop just walking into church to consume and leave, we would have no problem buying a church. Paying it off completely within 4-5 years would be easily attainable. It don't think this is harsh either, its fact. It's fact that most don't give, deal with it.

So my question is, why do the people who don't give, whine about certain types of fund raising. Like you people have any say. Fund raising is made possible because people don't give. Fund raising methods should not be question then because they are a last resort for a non-profit organization. If you have a problem with fund raising give more, or shut up. If you cannot give more, then do something to help out, find a suitable fund raising idea and bring it up to the board. Volunteer to help out with something in the church. DO SOMETHING!

I don’t really know how to end this nicely, so I won’t say much, but if you complain about fund raising techniques, offer a solution. If you want to stop fund raising, give more. If you don’t like a particular fund raising concept, either offer a better solution or shut up. Selfishness has no place in fund raising. I think there is even an aspect of embarrassment in fund raising. If you want to help out then do so. If not, then don’t talk. The church needs your help, and if you attend, I believe you are obliged to give it.

Anonymous said...

Scott a couple of things - some of those seats are children, students with no income, or at home moms, so your numbers have to reflect no pay cheque for those.

Secondly, this has to be in addition to general giving as there is a budget to meet there too.

How about a forum for creative fundraising ideas that isn't about selling something on Sunday and bringing antagonism? Something to create excitement and momentum.

And...of course someone won't like it.

Here's an idea. A variety of appeal props. ie. change it every few.

This should be expressed as money not taken away from the general fund but in addition to.

Idea is even those youngins might put together a couple of sheckels to give to the building fund if they are enticed.

1st idea - like the baloons that got popped when a volunteer position was filled, have a baloon board like at the carnival that get popped everytime the building fund reaches another - (idunno $100 or $1000 mark?) with Scott's description of income, maybe go with the $100.

2nd idea on a different week - see if you can rent one of those loony things like some amusement places have where you watch the looney circle around and around before it drops in. Even kids would give to that.

Scott said...

Hold on here, so what your saying is that we should find more appealing ways to get into peoples pockets, but make it not look like we are getting into them? If this is so, why not just be frank with people, I think people want to be straight shooters with others, they just know few people who are.

On your comment about giving and additions. My point is we would not need additional giving if everyone pulled their own weight. Lets say that even half of those people gave then we could safely assume we eliminate children and and students, we would still have more then enough to cover budget and new building.

Why do we try to defend the people who don't give but occupy a seat on Sunday. And why are students dismissed from giving. They make money as well, and can give their share too, can they not? I was a student only last year. Don't think I have experienced this.

Let's face it though, fund raising is a burden on many people. It's hard to motivate, its hard to get volunteers, it's hard to be successful. While a forum may help, it won't solve the problem. If you have an idea, draw it up, make an outline and hand it over to someone on the steering committee and ask them to bring it up. Or do one more and ask Gerry if you can, yourself, bring it up in the meetings.

I don't agree with the idea of enticing little kids to give money though, and I wouldn't say its on the little kids to give money. And one further, that money is most likely their parents to begin with.

We should just lay it to people and be frank about it. We need money for a new building, you come here and enjoy the benefits this church offers, so help us out. Its blunt, its too the point, and with most people I believe it would be successful. It's time to cut the crap, let people know what is what and lay it out for them. We don't need guilt trips or flashy things to give. We need people to understand there is a need, and it is on them to fill that need and help Soul out.

novice said...

With fundraising / giving / tithing question, I am curious about something...

Is it generally believed or expected that your 10% should go fully to whatever church community you are part of at the time?

Scott said...

I would say so, if you consume you should be able to support it. Besides you are getting something out of being there. Why not support that so you can get that same thing in the future? I think everyone who regularly attends a place of worship should tithe.

Anonymous said...

I think that the general expectation is that your tithe (10%) should go to the church community you are involved in. Any other giving is open to go anywhere you are led to support (ie Salome Mission, Youth for Christ, Compassion Canada etc.)

There are no written rules that say you must do it this way (at least I'm not aware of any) in fact tithing is not even commanded in the New Testament. BUT it was still a part of the Christians lifestyle.

"How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income,* but you ignore the important things of the law--justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things." Matthew 23:23 NLT

One of God's purposes in the Old Testament for tithing was to teach his people to honor and respect him.

"Bring this tithe to the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored, and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to fear the LORD your God." Deut 14:23

It was also used to support others.

"Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. You must give these tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows so that they will have enough to eat in your towns." Deut 26:12 NLT


To which church you give your money to is probably not really of big concern to God. Rather that you DO give; and with a cheerful attitude out of gratitude is the more important thing.

novice said...

I wasn't questioning whether we should tithe - nor whether Christians should be giving above that as God leads. For our purposes, let's just take those as givens.

What I'm asking is basically - what is so special about the group of people I spend Sunday morning with that the 10% earmarked for God should go exclusively to them? Certainly, Scripture, conscience and common sense dictate that I support my community with money, time, or abilities according to what God has given me... but what basis would they have to claim that the 10% tithe be designated to them alone?

I am not asking to be confrontational - nor do I feel like that pressure has been put on me. I am just curious, because it's a point of view I have encountered and never had explained to me.

Scott said...

I don't suppose you need to give you 10% to the place you attend worship, per say. BUT...

Why wouldn't you? Again if you attend a church on Sunday morning you use their building to be in, which costs money to rent or upkeep. You use their electricity why Hydro charges the church to use, you use their A/C or heat, depending on the season which costs money. You also can choose a plethora of programs for either yourself, or your kids, or your friends that are run by volunteers who need supplies to keep these things going, which, yup you guessed it, cost money.

So here's my view on this: You go to church on a Sunday, use everything or some of the things it has to offer, you consume for free and you leave. Why can you simply not give what God has called to give to that institution for all that they offer for you?

I know you aren't trying to be confrontational here, and either am I, but if you go to a church, or anywhere and just consume all day and don't give anything back, think about all the people and things and money that goes into making that possible for you. If that doesn't strike some sort of chord, then I don't know what will. Either selfishness is coming into play, or you were like me and didn't give a rip until I head a moment of realization. Either way, however, its important to help those that help you, in this case its finances, and it's important because in turn you help others that are new that will experience these programs that are made possible by the tithing of its members. In this breath you start to help others that haven't helped you and selfishness is eliminated.

My thoughts...

Anonymous said...

The thing is that giving has to be Holy Spirit motivated not touted like a country club membership fee. For the man who makes a good income and 10% is $500-$700 a month, that is a pretty hevty country club membership. Most wouldn't pay it if they were just covering incidentals of their use at a club. No one would feel they used that much hydro, paper products or cleaning fees.

So it takes a special perspective to be willing to give that much.

novice said...

Hi Scott, thanks for your response.

I think, though, that you have perhaps missed my point. I believe my previous two posts fully address your concerns about giving back to the community. "Should I give?" or "Why should I give?" don't enter into it.

I'm just interested in the expectation (if there is one) that your 10% goes to a church and anything to other ministries or communities be separate from that. What those other needs might be or how close they are is not particularly relevant to my question - I want to know if there is some sort of "unwritten law" there.

Do churches expect/feel entitled to the full 10% amount from tithing Christians, to the exclusion of anyone else? If so, why? In today's world where a believer may be part of many communities and ministries, locally or globally, what makes any specific gathering of believers more entitled to that particular amount than anyone else?

I've looked around a bit on the net (admittedly, not the best place to look for sound theological arguments) and the best I could find were questionable interpretations of Malachi 3:10, '"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the Lord Almighty, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!"' (NLT). These explanations would be held together by the leap in logic that storehouse = local church, therefore give it all to the local church. The storehouse in Malachi was, as I understand it, a literal storehouse, and the instructions in this passage very specific for a particular time and group of people. So, no help for me there.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians, "You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully." It's clear we can't just sit back and say "I tithe and that's enough", because that's not enough. But, for that 10% basic amount that we are expected to give back to God, can anyone rightfully lay claim to it exclusively?

Sorry for the essay - I'm just looking for clarity.

Scott said...

Yeah, I'm not sure if I can give you a good enough explanation. I think that you need to make the decision yourself. Clarity lies in your own thinking and prayer. Clarity lies in whether or not you see it benefiting your experience and the experience of others at church.

I agree with Paul, give what you want. If you dont want to give, dont, your money is a burden then. I felt that way for a long time. But then help out in other areas, volunteer.

Clarity lies in your head though, only you can make the decision. For me know, I think its worth it to give, especially becuase I can see why we need a new building. That came from volunteering. Once you notice it though, you learn to see why money is needed. Why Giving is needed.

novice said...

Thanks for the comments, Scott. Again, I think you misunderstand me and I apologize. I'm not trying to make a decision, I feel quite confident about where I'm at with giving. I'm pretty clear on what I believe and what God has called me to. Still, your comments are encouraging and you are clearly very passionate about giving - it's good to see.

I'm interested in what other people believe about tithing because I've been encountering some "rules" that I hadn't previously. If anyone does have anything to add to my above questions I'd welcome your opinions.

Sorry if I've taken this a little off-topic. Umm... raffles good. Fundraising hard. Original blog entry piece hits the nail on the head and I find myself in full agreement with whoever wrote it. Except maybe the bit about the organ, I'm a bit of a Zwinglian that way. Other instruments are fine.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the real question is "Why do you feel there is an unwritten law about giving your full 10% tithe to your church?" What does it really matter? I don't know if any explanation will satisfy you. It is not a matter of which church deserves your tithe in full or in part or even that your church community expects it. The tithe belongs to God. Your part is to give it; what happens to the money once you have done that is somewhat irrelevant. If we all belong to the ONE body of Christ we can believe that God will accomplish his purposes regardless of which church group or Christian organization receives it.

Scott said...

No no, i understand you aren't looking for a reason, I'm just giving you mine. It seemed you were looking for some sort of clarification.

One comment about the original post:

If it's a choice, then why not have certain fundraising ideas that would be a choice? ie. a Casino Night. If people don't like it, don't come, if your opposed to it, stop thinking about yourself. If we are looking for a two pronged attack, and by this I mean raising money and reaching out to the community, this works very very well. Why not show that there is people in church who do play Poker or other games and still have a relationship with God?

I think there is two types of reaching out to the community. One is the impersonal side, handing out cards with our name on it asking them to think about coming, while asking them for money for a church they don't attend. The other is similar, but different in one area. This time you get these people into the doors, and we get people of the church into their lives. They are still giving money, but for a purpose, and they get something in return, ie. Prizes. And the church gets something in return, we reach out to the community, we do what God has called us to do, and if we get 1 member coming who hasn't gone to church in years, it was all worth it.

I'm wondering when will I attend a church were the people of it are exhibiting a selfless attitude as a whole. It's not just having a Casino Night, No, it's about reaching out to the community with methods that may even be foreign for us. But thats the beauty of life, thats the challenge. That's why God tries to take us out of our comfort zones. I'm just wondering why some many people are afraid of this?

Why are we afraid of God turning things upside down?