In several posts across my various social media feeds this week, I have noticed a common charge against churches as to why they are fighting so hard to remain open in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many people want to claim that the only motive churches have to get people in the pews is because they are losing money and want to “buy a new jet because the other one is dirty” as someone put it.
The greed accusation is nothing new. When people become believers, one of the first things their non-believing friends will say to them is something along the lines of “they’re after your money”. And to that I say this:
Do churches need my money? Yes, yes they do. And here’s why. The money that I give as an offering at my church goes towards several things. First, things cost money. This is just common sense. Churches have mortgages and salaries and phone bills and electric bills and postage fees – just like everyone else. This is how life works.
In a recent video, “Mr. B” – aka Tim Barnett – outlines a lot of services that churches either donate money to – or provide themselves; things like counseling, substance abuse programs, food banks, summer camps for kids, marriage counseling and seminars, community services (cleaning up streets, cleaning up schools, etc), crisis pregnancy services, overseas projects, and spiritual mentoring. All of these services are provided to the recipient FOR FREE. How are they provided for free? Because the people who go to the church pay for them so they can be free to those in need. Churches don’t want peoples’ money because they want to get rich; they want it so they can serve people.
Thirdly, people give money towards things they value. I value the phone that I have and the cars that we own, so I chose to give money for them. Christians value helping others, so that’s why they give money to their churches to make that happen.
Giving an offering is not required, either. It’s strongly encouraged but it isn’t a requirement to sit in the pews and listen to the message.
This last point is not exclusive to churches by the way. Take, for example, the college I attended. As an alumni, my college routinely asks me for money even though I am not using any of the school’s services, nor will I get anything of equal value in return. Why do I donate money to my prior college? ‘Cause college kids are BROKE and they need help from people like me to fund things like scholarships and special programs. In other words, they need my charity. It’s not a loan. I don’t expect financial repayment. I hope they can receive something that improves their life.
If you’ve spent some time consuming content from YouTube, you will inevitably run into someone who asks you to donate to their Patreon page or something similar. Even some atheist YouTube channels have Patreon pages. Why? Because they know if they want to reach more people, that requires support from other people like their followers.
All of the churches I have ever been a part of have been small. A hundred or less during worship services. I used to be very critical of the mega-churches; wondering why they used so much money on their facilities instead of giving it to community services. But, then I realized that the reason they need big churches and big parking structures is that there is a demand for their services! The pastor didn’t start from day one with a 3,000 seat sanctuary. That church started out under a tent or in a small building. And there was so much demand for what that church was doing, it needed to build bigger buildings and add more resources. If you think about it, that’s a good thing! And as for the other “non-church-y” structures like recreation centers, the churches often make these available to the community for events. The church wants to be at the center of the community, so it has facilities to make that happen.
Are there some bad apples that DO appear to be in it for the money? Sure. Guys like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar preach what is known as the Prosperity Gospel or “Name It and Claim It”. This message is false, it’s completely unbiblical and it’s easy to spot. It usually looks like this; “you give me YOUR money and God will bless YOU with (insert material good here)”.
While these people DO exist, they are the vast, vast, VAST minority of churches. The vast majority of churches aren’t in it for the money. They are in it to serve the community. And this requires financial resources.
So, the next time someone tells you that churches are reopening to make their wallets fatter, ask them to consider these points before painting all churches (even all “mega-churches”) with such a broad brush of generalization.
Dave Gilmore is the founder and editor-in-chief of Legati Christi. Over the past few years he has developed a passion for Christian Apologetics and theology, and enjoys talking to others about the Christian world view
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