Should Offerings Be Taken at Evangelistic Meetings?

SEVERAL, years ago a layman approached me just prior to the beginning of one of our evangelistic campaigns and stated, "If you will not take any offerings during this campaign, at its conclusion I will write you a check to cover the entire cost of this campaign." I turned to him and said, "My brother, I will not let you rob these people of the blessing that comes from freely giving an offering to God. Nor will I let you, because of your generosity, make invalids out of these new converts. . ."

-President, Wisconsin Conference, at the time this article was written

SEVERAL, years ago a layman approached me just prior to the beginning of one of our evangelistic campaigns and stated, "If you will not take any offerings during this campaign, at its conclusion I will write you a check to cover the entire cost of this campaign." I turned to him and said, "My brother, I will not let you rob these people of the blessing that comes from freely giving an offering to God. Nor will I let you, because of your generosity, make invalids out of these new converts."

But, you say, is it proper to invite folks to our church to attend a special lecture series and then turn around and ask them to give a donation? Doesn't this seem a bit unethical?

Methods to Be Avoided in Receiving Offerings

In most instances urgent calls for means have left a wrong impression upon some minds. Some have thought that money was the burden of our message. . . . There are better methods of raising means, by freewill offerings, than by urgent calls at our large gatherings. ... The raising of money has been carried to extremes. It has left a bad impression on many minds. Making urgent calls is not the best plan of raising means. --Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 510, 511.

Seventh-day Adventist ministers should not resort to eloquent, lengthy appeals.

God designs that the exercise of benevolence shall be purely voluntary, not having recourse even to eloquent appeals to excite sympathy. "God loveth a cheerful giver." He is not pleased to have His treasury replenished with forced supplies. The loyal hearts of His people, rejoicing in the saving truth for this time, will, through love and gratitude to Him for this precious light, be earnest and anxious to aid with their means in sending the truth to others. The very best manner in which to give expression to our love for our Redeemer is to make offerings to bring souls to the knowledge of the truth. The plan of redemption was entirely voluntary on the part of our Redeemer, and it is the purpose of Christ that all our benevolence should be freewill offerings. -Ibid., p. 413.

God forbids that we resort to wrong principles in order to raise funds.

Professed Christians reject the Lord's plan of raising means for His work; and to what do they resort to supply the lack? God sees the wickedness of the methods they adopt. Places of worship are defiled by all manner of idolatrous dissipation, that a little money may be won from selfish pleasure lovers to pay church debts or to sustain the work of the church.... The most corrupt principles are strengthened by this un-Scriptural way of raising means. And this is as Satan would have it. ... They are using common in stead of sacred fire in the service of God. The Lord accepts no such offerings. --Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 204, 205.

The Spirit of Prophecy instructs us that converts should be taught to give.

Every convert to the truth should be instructed in regard to the Lord's requirement for tithes and offerings. As churches are raised up, this work must be taken hold of decidedly and carried forward in the spirit of Christ. All that men enjoy, they receive from the Lord's great firm, and He is pleased to have His heritage enjoy His goods; but all who stand under the bloodstained banner of Prince Immanuel are to acknowledge their dependence upon God and their accountability to Him by returning to the treasury a certain portion as His own. This is to be invested in missionary work in fulfillment of the commission given to His disciples by the Son of God. --Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 447.

It gives the audience a tangible way of expressing its love to God. It keeps us conscious that we are indebted to God.

He accepts these offerings as an act of humble obedience on our part and a grateful acknowledgement of our indebtedness to Him for all the blessings we en joy. --Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 267, 268.

They are an evidence that people have the grace of Christ.

While our gifts cannot recommend us to God or earn His favor, they are an evidence that we have received the grace of Christ. They are a test of the sincerity of our profession of love. --The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Heb, 10:1-4, p. 1059.

As people attend our evangelistic meetings and begin to learn the knowledge of the true God and of His wonderful plan of salvation, they consider it a privilege to give. Just as the Macedonian believers did in the time of Paul.

The willingness to sacrifice on the part of the Macedonian believers came as a result of wholehearted consecration. Moved by the Spirit of God, they "first gave their own selves to the Lord" (2 Cor. 8:5); then they were willing to give freely of their means for the support of the gospel. It was not necessary to urge them to give; rather, they rejoiced in the privilege of denying themselves even of necessary things in order to supply the needs of others. ... In their simplicity and integrity, and in their love for the brethren, they gladly denied self, and thus abounded in the fruit of benevolence. --Counsels on Stewardship, p. 172. Is it possible to take an offering without offending even the casual interest?

A Suggested Method

I suggest the following method. You will find it not only dignified but very rewarding in the amount of offering you will receive. In the years that we have been receiving our evangelistic offerings in this way, I have never known any to be offended.

Keep your audience informed. The opening night of an evangelistic campaign I ask the audience if they would like to be informed nightly of everything that will be happening during the series. After their response, which is always in the affirmative, I inform them what it costs to begin the series and run it for the first ten nights. We figure out all the advertising costs, the stamps for mailing, auditorium rent, and all the miscellaneous expenses for the first ten nights and simply project it on the screen. The next night we show again the same expense figure. Below it we place the offering received from the night before and the difference. Then all I do is thank them for their liberal offering of the night before, assuring them that every cent that is received in offerings throughout the en tire campaign will go only toward defraying expenses.

I explain that we are paid through an other means. We do not receive a "love offering" for personal use, but everything that is received goes directly to offset expenses.

The next night we show the same expenses, the total offerings received, the difference, and then again thank them for their liberal offerings.

In this way the congregation is kept informed. You are never begging for money. You are just thanking them for the amount they have so willingly and graciously given.

Offerings Will Increase

After the first ten nights, as they begin to earn their Bibles or books, you add the cost of these, plus the rent and all other expenses that come nightly to the figure. The total offerings will be put beneath it. It is interesting to see how they will increase their giving when they receive the Bibles, books, and know the exact expense of the series. All you do is continue to thank them and keep them informed each night.

We receive our offerings at the close of the meeting for two reasons. First, all the latecomers will be present. Second, after they have been spiritually fed and get a better glimpse of Christ they have an opportunity to respond liberally. This method of taking offerings need not only apply to evangelism. I find where our district pas tors inform their people of the church's needs through a pastoral letter, that our people gladly respond and the Sabbath is truly a worship service rather than a money-raising service.

How is it with you in your church? Do your folks receive a spiritual blessing when they give? Do they give because they know the need and love the Lord, and respond to that need? Or do we do a little arm twisting?

Recently I attended a church where a professional man called for the main morning offering. His appeal was, "Not often do we have the chance of cheating Uncle Sam out of taxes, but there is one way that we can cheat him out of some tax because the offerings we give are deductible from our income tax. So won't you give a liberal offering?" I wonder what government officials would have thought if they had been present that morning. I wonder how much blessing was received by those who gave because they thought they were cheating Uncle Sam?

Let us take an inventory of our entire approach in calling for offerings in our churches, whether it be Sabbath morning or at the evangelistic service. Let us turn away from frivolous stories and undignified methods and give our congregation the opportunity of a real blessing in recognizing what Jesus has given for them by re turning a portion to Him, thereby showing His ownership in all things.

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-President, Wisconsin Conference, at the time this article was written

June 1972

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