Is Your Minister Interested in You or Your Money?
IF YOU belong to a church of Christendom, does that question start you thinking? You may respond: “Of course my minister is not interested in just my money!” Yet, you at least may know of some people who have stopped attending church because they did not like the constant and varied pleas for money.
Ask yourself, ‘Why do I associate with my church? Is it not to gain spiritual upbuilding, a stronger faith, Christian counsel to help me to deal with life’s many problems? Yet when was it that my minister last called at my home, or sat down with me elsewhere to discuss with me and my family some of our problems and give us helpful counsel from God’s Word? Was it this past month? Was it during the past year? The past five years? Has he ever done it?’
On the other hand, has your minister ever taken time to write to you or call on you personally about the matter of making contributions to the church or some church project? How often has this happened? In what is your minister really interested?
CHURCH INTEREST IN RAISING MONEY
True, some funds are necessary, but many clergymen are overtaxing their ingenuity in figuring out ways of collecting more money. Time magazine had this to say on the subject: “Where once they had only to pass a plate among Sunday attenders, churches nowadays raise money in ways that range from bingo to bonds. Fund raising brings up questions of taste, discretion, prudence and donor psychology that stir heated debates across the land.” Some churches hire high-pressure fund raisers, motivation psychologists who work out many different ways of pressuring money out of church members. What do you think of such methods?
The vicar of All Saints Church in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, gave out £1 notes to members of his congregation, requesting that they put this money to work betting on horses or playing bingo, and then give the winnings to the church. The Catholic Church in Tunbridge Wells in Sussex, England, operated a football gambling pool that made a profit of more than £50,000 in six years. A pamphlet put out by the Parish Service Company tells churches how to double or triple Lenten offerings with Lenten self-denial folders. “The coin slots in our Lenten Folders are ‘Dated’ too! No haphazard giving on the part of your members.” Do you think these methods reflect Bible Christianity?
Many are the churches that raise money by means of church suppers and bazaars. The book Money and the Church tells of one minister who calls bazaars “an honorable kind of thievery.” Is it any wonder that even America’s leading Protestant magazine, The Christian Century (July 29, 1959, p. 867), said this:
“One need not travel far in American Protestantism to find money-raising schemes that approximate the Roman Catholic Church’s exploitation of games of chance, which we deplore and protest. Thousands of Protestant Church bazaars, carnivals and ‘summer fairs’ are slightly more respectable than Las Vegas. The practice of wringing ‘advertising’ dollars from merchants, particularly from those who are not members of the churches in question, to finance church bulletins and magazines and dedication folders is also ripe for reform. Let’s call it what it is: Extortion.”
How do you feel in church when the collection plate is passed? How do you feel when a minister visits you to persuade you to contribute more? This is one of the things an editor of a South African magazine wanted to find out. He devoted a year to a painstaking inquiry on the subject “The Church, the People and the Gulf Between.” Summing up his findings the editor wrote:
“The Church seems to have developed a compulsive habit of appealing for funds-without-end-amen, whether they be for building churches or halls, for repairs, organs, bells, salaries, pensions, Lent, Easter, Christmas, etc. etc. . . . Now the Church seems to take pledges and appeals for granted, and sometimes as many as three are running at the same time. . . . This preoccupation with money has also made some people take a second look at the Church, and ask themselves whether they really want to participate after all.”—Femina, May 18, 1967, pp. 58, 61.
Is it not understandable why some are taking a second look at the churches? The Bible makes it clear that giving should not be done “under compulsion” but from a ‘readiness of mind according to what one has.’ (2 Cor. 9:7; 8:12) So while it is not wrong for a minister to inform his congregation of reasonable church needs, the methods used ought to be in harmony with Christian principles outlined in the Bible.
But more important, you associate with a church because you want spiritual guidance, is that not so? A church should provide spiritual upbuilding all the time. It should not be like fire insurance, which covers loss only in case of a fire, but like a provision for counsel on fire prevention. Are you getting the needed and continual counsel personally from your minister? Or do you feel you get personal attention only when additional funds are needed?
THE EARLY CHRISTIANS SET RIGHT PATTERN
When Jesus Christ sent out his apostles to preach about the kingdom of God he said: “You received free, give free.” (Matt. 10:7, 8) There was no counsel on a fund-raising campaign. The Bible account states that the Christian overseers in the early congregations were to ‘shepherd the flock of God willingly, not for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly.’ (1 Pet. 5:1-4) They were to keep watch over souls. (Heb. 13:17) They strengthened the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to remain in the faith. (Acts 14:21, 22; 11:22-24) The apostle Paul taught publicly and from house to house, telling all the counsel of God; he did not covet anyone’s silver or gold or take up collections for supporting himself. (Acts 20:18-25) When the congregation came together it was to build up faith, not funds; right works and not riches.—Heb. 10:23-25, 35-39.
As for the expenses of presiding ministers in the early congregation, the book Early Church History says: “In her days of pristine simplicity, the ministers of the church supported themselves by their own labour.” To cover other expenses voluntary contributions were given. Writes historian John F. Hurst in History of the Christian Church: “In every place of worship, however small, there was a box, where all worshippers deposited their offerings.” Tertullian, who became a convert to Christianity about 190 C.E., wrote: “Even if there is a chest of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in entrance-fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest coin—or whenever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering.”
The Bible tells of the time when the first-century Christians in Antioch learned of a famine that was about to bring hardship on their Christian brothers in Judea. Of their own will they sent financial help, each one according to what he could afford, without persuasion. (Acts 11:27-30) Later when further hardship was experienced in Jerusalem, other congregations in Macedonia begged for the privilege of making a contribution to help, and those in Corinth had great readiness of mind. There was no need for any motivation strategy. The apostle Paul stressed the principle for them: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7; 8:1-24) In this we have a proper example for true worship today.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY LIKE THAT OF EARLY CHRISTIANS
Some may argue that it costs more money today to carry out the functions of a church, and if voluntary contributions do not cover expenses, then some means must be used to raise the money. But think a moment. Bible principles do not change, do they? If God enriched the first Christians and moved their hearts to generosity, will he not also do that today among true Christians, and that without high-pressure persuasion? (2 Cor. 9:8-14) But is there a body of Christians today who follow Bible principles when it comes to money, and who work zealously to aid others spiritually?
Today there are more than 25,000 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses functioning in more than 200 countries throughout the world, and for nearly 100 years these Christian witnesses have never taken up a collection, operated a bazaar, bingo or lottery. Nor have their presiding ministers visited those associated to solicit for money. Yet the congregations provide facilities for regular meetings, Jehovah’s witnesses distribute millions of Bibles and Bible-study-aid books world wide at prices even the poorest can afford, and they provide for the sending of missionaries out to all parts of the world, all to help people gain knowledge of God and how to serve him. All that, and yet no collections are ever taken.
More than ninety years ago the very second issue of this magazine stated: “‘Zion’s Watch Tower’ has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.” How is it possible for the Witnesses these many years to operate without ‘begging or petitioning men for support’?
The presiding ministers and ministerial assistants in the congregations provide for their own financial needs as was done in the first century. Congregations are kept relatively small in size, from fifteen persons up to perhaps 160 to 180. Smaller congregations can easily meet in private homes, and the larger can meet in modest halls rented or built by Jehovah’s witnesses to provide seating for 40 to 200. Halls of this size can be financed with unsolicited contributions of those associated without undue burden. When a Kingdom Hall is built, much of the building work is often contributed by craftsmen and others in the congregation. All expenses are met from voluntary contributions and there is no pressure applied. In each meeting place, as with the first Christians, there is a contribution box available where those who wish may privately put in their contributions as they are able. No “money envelopes” are used, and no names are connected with the contributions. What a person gives is his own private matter.
More important, because of the modest size of the congregations, it is possible for the presiding ministers and other mature Christian ministers assisting him to give personal, individual attention to the spiritual needs of all persons associated with the congregations. In addition, Jehovah’s witnesses make personal visits on all homes in the area of their congregation, encouraging also these people individually with spiritual discussion.
During the past year as many as 1,336,112 Witnesses spent more than 239 million hours in calling on other people to encourage Bible discussion. They made more than 106 million return visits on persons not Jehovah’s witnesses to render spiritual encouragement. And they conducted more than one million Bible studies with individuals or family groups. Such Bible studies are usually held once each week. All this attention to the spiritual needs of others has been given by Jehovah’s witnesses free of charge.
That Jehovah’s witnesses follow the pattern of the early Christians in their ministry is acknowledged by others, as can be seen in the following statement by Elton Trueblood in Presbyterian Life of January 20, 1951:
“If we care about the Christian enterprise we must deal realistically with the fact that, in this particular comparison, the Christian organization enjoying the least social standing, having the shortest history, occupying the least fashionable district, and guided by the least trained ministry is going ahead of the others, not only in numbers, but also in zeal, in commitment, and in proportionate giving. . . . Small but vigorous bands of Jehovah’s witnesses meet in their modest quarters called Kingdom Halls. . . . There can be no doubt that these vigorous and unrespectable sects which now flourish so mightily in our land are, in many respects, far closer to original Christianity than are those of us who represent the conventional movements of Christendom. We call ours the older tradition, but in this we may be inaccurate. Perhaps they represent what is truly old in the Christian witness . . . . We are already in decay.”
WHO SHOWS INTEREST IN YOUR SPIRITUAL WELFARE?
In the beginning of this article we asked readers the question, How long has it been since you were visited by your minister for the purpose of helping you spiritually? Now we would like to ask, How long has it been since you were visited by one of Jehovah’s witnesses? How often has this happened? Did the Witness ask you for money to put up a religious building or support a missionary fund? Or did he or she try to discuss the Bible with you, perhaps offering a free home Bible study? Now, who do you think has shown real interest in your spiritual welfare?
Do you think your spiritual needs are being met by your minister? The Bible shows that the Christian must be built up spiritually so as to be able to stand firm for the faith and to put up a hard fight for the faith. (Phil. 2:15; Jude 3; 1 Cor. 16:13) Are you being built up in this way? Christians are to make public declaration of their faith. (Rom. 10:9, 10) Do you feel able to do this? Do you feel able to defend your faith in God and your belief in vital Bible teaching against the constant attacks made against the Bible? (1 Pet. 3:15) If not, you may feel that your spiritual upbuilding has been neglected.
For your own sake and that of your family, we urge you to look into the activities of Jehovah’s witnesses. You will see that there is genuine personal interest in helping others to serve God. Why not get in touch with one of Jehovah’s witnesses and ask to have a free Bible study in your home, say, for six months? It will be provided without any cost to you. See for yourself if you do not grow in Bible knowledge and spiritual strength with each weekly study. Go to the meetings in the nearest Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and see for yourself if it is not true that congregation activity is based entirely on the Bible and designed to help individuals grow spiritually.
No collections will ever be taken. But you will find that the presiding minister of the congregation and all those assisting him, yes, all of Jehovah’s witnesses will be genuinely interested in you and your family. They desire to help you to gain that great happiness and contentment that come to those who practice true worship now with the hope of everlasting life in God’s new system of things. Truly, Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in you, not your money.
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Do these fund-raising methods reflect Bible Christianity? Are they used by your minister?