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Ministry & Money: Fleecing the Sheep

I hate taking the offering at church. Of all of my pastoral responsibilities, it’s one of my absolute least favorites. Why is that? Because many people assume that preachers and the Church want more and more money and that the offering liturgy is nothing more than a salesman’s pitch.

The truth is that the Church does need money to function, but it doesn’t need to ask for it. If the Church is doing the work of God, the faithful who obey the the voice of God will listen to God’s clear instruction to give in support of His Kingdom work. Local churches take an offering as a general reminder for the faithful to give. The unfaithful, the disobedient, wouldn’t give anyway, reminder or not. The reminder serves to give people a moment, a deadline, to prepare for, something like what Paul discussed in 2 Corinthians 9.

Now, why am I discussing all of this? Because two weeks ago I unsubscribed from the newsletter of a very successful, well-funded ministry headed by a very successful, well-known pastor, who is also probably well-funded. I was added to their newsletter because I purchased a book from their ministry for my church and had to supply an e-mail. I didn’t particularly want to be on this newsletter, but it was one of those things that I just didn’t get around to dealing with.

So, I finally unsubscribed from the newsletter, which resulted in the ubiquitous “You have been unsubscribed” e-mail. But this e-mail was different than most. The sender’s name wasn’t the standard name that I had seen. The sender name for this final e-mail was “Donor Nurturing Program.”

You can take that name a lot of different ways, so let me just briefly explain how I took it.

I purchased a book from their ministry and was added to their donor newsletter. Now, to me, needing to contact your donors is an issue in itself. First of all, this ministry is based out of a church. If it is a ministry of the church, the church should support it. Needing donors in addition to that, asking for money beyond that, seems to me that this ministry is asking for more than what God is presently giving them. Now, I understand that needs—big, honky, unforeseeable needs—arise, but again, this ministry is based out of a church, a church that should support them.

But let’s ignore the donor issue, for now. Let’s talk about the “donor nurturing program.” Nurturing could mean that this ministry is trying to spiritually nurture those who have provided for them financially. And if so, that’s fine. However, it struck me initially as “nurturing” the flow of money, feeding the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Maybe I way too sensitive on this issue, but I do think that many churches and ministries are asking for money, looking for donations that God would provide if they needed it to do His work. If the money is truly needed for their ministry and the faithful people that God has given them aren’t giving enough to support their ministry, then maybe their “ministry” isn’t what God wants them to be doing.

And I’ll spare you the paragraph or two or twenty that I had planned on writing about those ministers who promise you blessings untold if you’ll give them a donation. “Seed money,” they call it. Sowing seeds to reap a miracle.

Yeah, you’re lucky I’m stopping here.

[Image via nakedpastor]

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