Thursday, January 12, 2017

Credit Card Giving

Because fewer people are carrying cash or writing checks, Green Acres Baptist Church of Tyler, Texas (and an innumerable host of other churches) are devising new and unique ways to obtain their contributions. At Green Acres, in addition to “offering receptacles…situated at most entrances,” ways to give include Apps for iOS and Android, text, online, and mail. Further, “Giving Centers are located in the Worship Center and CrossWalk foyers. These electronic kiosks accept credit and debit card contributions.”

For one reason or another, this can be shocking to us “old-timers,” while many youngsters may be wondering, “What took you so long?” On the other hand it brings about a sincere question from both young and old, “Should a church offer its attendees the option of using a credit card instead of just ‘passing the plate’?” What is the answer?

First, “giving via plastic” is not inherently wrong – no more so writing a check or giving a “Federal Reserve Note” drawn on the United States of America. So if it is not wrong, not sinful, shouldn’t we move full steam ahead? Or should we?

While this offers a convenience for those who are giving anyway, I think this should be a “road less travelled.” Two reasons I recommend we leave this alone are:
  • Credit card giving encourages debt giving. Perhaps not deliberately so – many churches’ online giving pages warn against going in debt – but practically so, by holding out the ease of access and temptation to give what one does not have (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:11-12). When a person falls to the temptation, isn’t the church “bidding God-speed” – playing a part in another person’s financial irresponsibility?
  • Credit card giving enforces the perception that churches are “all about money.” Online giving instructions mentioned on a church’s web page may be unobtrusive enough, but giving centers placed all around a church’s facilities reminds visitors of the not-so-subtle push to fund the ministries of the church.
The primary argument for “credit card giving” is convenience. One church’s deacon said, “I rarely have more than a few bucks in my wallet. I don’t use checks. It is an easy way not to forget to give.” Another asked, “Why not make it easy for people to give?” The church sells it on convenience and the congregation buys it. They want and like the convenience. For the church it is a practical way to be sure funds are collected. Yet that convenience and practicality are poor motives to hinder both those who cannot manage their money well and those who think the church cares more for their money than their souls. Like Paul we should not use this power (freedom, liberty), lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12).

Some few of us regard the New Testament teaching on stewardship much differently than most modern American churches. The modern American church business model moves in human procedures, forward budgeting and pledge collection. The modern American church theological model is driven by “tithes and offerings” – tithes being the 10% one must give and offerings being all one should give about that. In this model the church is the conscience, collector, depository and distributor of those “tithes and offerings.” Under the stewardship model of the New Testament, individual Christians are stewards of all that God gave them, determining – under the teaching of the Scriptures and the leadership of the Holy Spirit – how much to give to the church, how much to give elsewhere, how much to keep and how to use what is kept.

If your “credit card giving” is a matter of expedience rather than theological conviction, why not consider the leaving it alone?

No comments: