Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crystal Cathedral - Some Reflections

Churches come and go - they always have, they always will.The "latest," sooner or later, becomes old hat.
The American church is particularly susceptible to hitching its wagon to the newest star. Yeah, I've done it, too. But the latest word is never the last word - that, and that alone, belongs to something much better, or shall I say, to someone much better - God!
American Christianity prides itself on inventiveness, as if faith were a consumer product to be "improved" by the latest and biggest and glitteryest developer, and to that developer, everyone flocks. But the sun always sets, and there's always someone who turns out the lights for the last time.
Maybe one of these years, American Christianity will grow up, and quit chasing after the pot o' gold at the end of some imaginary rainbow, using nickels and noses as "proof" of some inside information that not even Moses could wiggle out of God (Exodus 33) - in fact, there is no inside information. But we keep believing there is, and we chase after it like mice in some kind of mad experiment, running until we drop. But fear not, we'll soon catch our breath, and someone or something else will come along to revive our spirits with new promises, new techniques, seminars, webinars and DVDs. Though, I wonder - the world turns, and maybe, just maybe, American Christianity is growing up a little bit - less infatuated with proving itself against itself, and all the one-upsmanship of too many pulpits. Maybe so ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Electronic Giving to Your Church???

From a good friend and fine writer, The Rev. Bob Orr (ret.) ... on "electronic giving."

Why I won't ever do electronic payments to First Pres for my pledge

Yesterday in the 9:30 am worship there was an effective stewardship minute  delivered by a father who pays his pledge electronically.  While I see the convenience of this for him and for the church, I cannot go down this path. 

Now before you judge me antiquated, let me tell you that I'm a member of a credit union where I pay my bills automatically with monthly deductions from my checking account.  In addition I order things occasionally  on line and pay with my Visa card.  

So why don't I just take the easy step and contribute to the church electrically?   

Here's why - in the order of worship each Sunday there's an offering of tithes and gifts, an offertory, a doxology and a  prayer of dedication.  All of these elements of worship focus on the monetary offering whether it be in cash, coin or check placed in the offering plate as it's passed around the pews, up into the balcony and then carried by the ushers back down the center aisle and placed on the communion table.  For me this is a significant moment of worship.  

When I pledge in the fall I'm given the option of requesting envelopes and can choose the  weekly or monthly option.  It's a conscious choice for me to make my offering every week so that I have a physical act to do at this moment in worship.  It's a  gesture of returning to God that just wouldn't be the same with the press of a computer button.  

Sure paper could be saved and  trees left standing.  Sure the church would get my gift quickly and efficiently.   I could think of my church pledge as a "bill" and pay it along with my gas and electric bill, my car insurance, my groceries but I don't want to think of my pledge that way.  It's not a bill,  It's a gesture I want to make each week, writing that check on Friday or Saturday,  getting it in my shirt pocket each Sunday before heading out to the car and reaching for it at the appropriate time in worship.  

The man giving the stewardship message commented that his young daughter looked at him when the offering plate went by and said "shouldn't we put something in?" which prompted him to tell her that he gave electronically.  I want to put something in the offering each Sunday, not so someone will see me do so, but because I want to see me return some of my means of living to my Lord, to his church and to his people for local and international mission.   Somehow it's more real if I do it this way,  week in and week out.  It's part of my worship.  That's why I won't be giving electronically.