Really? The “Sunday Morning Stick-Up”?
Nothing says, “Good morning!” like an article with the disturbing title, “How Passing the Plate Becomes the ‘Sunday Morning Stick-Up’.” Astute reader, Mark Bateman, forwarded me the link on Monday – I’m sure just to get my week off to a bang-up start. Now that I’m depressed, thanks, Mark!
Once I started looking, I found that there’s a book with a similar title. Yep. “Sunday Morning Stick-Up” makes for a neck-turning, “What?” for us churchy-types in mainline congregations. But for the majority of people who have never stepped inside a church, it reinforces all the negative stereotypes they have about the church and money.
Yes, you know all the usual suspects. The preacher who declared that God was telling him that his congregation needed to buy him a $65 million private jet (really). The pastor who harangues that people are not giving enough – usually parishioners who already have limited incomes. The minister who has people march up front to deliver their tithes and then sends the offering plate around again, not once but twice, just for good measure.
It’s more than a little shameful because it plays to what we hate most about money and the church. And it’s hard to respond to these articles in any way. “Wait! Wait! What are you talking about? My church is totally respectful of our people and what they can give. I swear that we don’t ever ask people to put jewelry in the offering plate. I have never threatened that ‘God will take me home’ (thanks, Oral Roberts!) if people don’t give to the capital campaign. We don’t list the amount people give in the bulletin.”
It goes to show that we are still handcuffed by money. That’s why a conversation about the almighty dollar is critical to have in church. What role should money play in the spiritual life of a believer? Jesus talked about it – all the time. Money is a spiritual issue. We can control it or we can give God control of it. “God is the owner, I am the ower.” Do we really believe that? When we say “yes” to Jesus do we really say, “You can have my life Jesus but let me keep my wallet”?
Articles and books like this give us something to ponder – and remind us that there are a lot of unethical and unscrupulous church leaders out there. But you knew that already, didn't you? So let’s not let them have the final word…let’s really study what Jesus had to say about the material things we hold so dear and be brave in the preaching and teaching of God’s word.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She would be happy for you to put a lovely diamond solitaire in the offering plate she carries around for such occasions. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.