Monday, 28 December 2009

Is the Offering an Act of Worship?

Really, for a minister to state and suggest that the taking up of the offering and tithes of worshippers was an act of worship, is ridiculous! This is how we get money from attendees to run the church and its programmes! Yet, Sunday by Sunday, congregations are bombarded with the words, or similar, "Let us worship God with our tithes and offerings. Your offering will now be received."

Now, when the minister calls the congregation to worship God, I take it that that is what he expects the congregation to do. When the living God is being worshipped, one would expect that their hearts and minds would be focused on that activity, and on nothing else! When they are called to pray, their souls are to be engaged in speaking to Almighty God. When they are called to sing praise to the Lord, again, the expectation is that hearts and minds are zoomed in on worshipping God. This is all they are supposed to be doing at that particular time!

But when they are equally sincerely called to worship as they make their offering for His work, the situation is totally changed. Indeed, it is not just changed, it is the very opposite of what the minister called the people to do!

Why do I say that? Because in my experience, when the minister calls for an act of worship when the offering is being made, this call is re-interpreted as permission to enter into a trivial chat with your nearest neighbour. Its an interlude, the short period after the commercial break, or announcements. Its a chance to catch up on the latest evangelical gossip. Its time for a break from concentrating on God.

And even when some worshippers want to use that time to worship the Lord and to reflect on Him and His gospel, a pew-sharer prefers to enter into an irrelevant conversation about something of interest to them. Such unspiritual behaviour is unacceptable.

When a duly ordained minister calls the congregation to worship God as it makes its offering, it is that precise thing that he expects the worshippers to do. In this act of worship, the worshippers are to give their hearts and lives to God as an offering, just as they give their money to support the work of the gospel. Their offering is a token of what is really in their hearts towards God. It is them giving themselves freely and willingly to the Lord. They are saying to the Lord, 'Use me in your service just as you would use my money.' And just as the money has no say in how it is to be used, so the submissive Christian has no say as to how God will choose to use him/her in His holy service. It is a giving of ourselves to the gracious Lord for His use, a handing over of our lives to Him.

What puzzles me is how Christian worshippers can do all this when they are engaging in meaningless chit-chat with their neighbour, while disobeying the call to worship God! Why do ministers not teach their congregations about the nature of worship, or indeed, the true nature of the God Who is to be worshipped? Or, if the 'offering' is not an integral element of the service of holy worship of the living God, then let us be honest enough to say just that! But let's stop the pretense, and say it as it is practised in today's diluted church!