Looking at Giving Records

January 19th, 2014 Post by

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Recently I came across John Kieschnick’s article found in LCEF encouraging the pastor to familiarize himself with the giving amounts of his parishioners. Since a person’s attendance in the Divine Service and Bible Study is public to all he goes on to reason; why not the tithe as well? To the pastor who is reticent about garnering such information Kieschnick candidly writes:

 While I would never encourage a pastor to violate his conscience in this regard, I would ask that pastors seriously consider the consequences of their attitudes. Members are influenced by the attitude and actions of their pastors, both negatively and positively. To the pastor who adamantly refuses to even consider looking at giving records, I say, “Why not?” If as pastor you are interested in the worship attendance of your members because you believe it is an indication of their spiritual health, surely you should be interested in how they are stewarding their financial resources. If you are interested in how they are cultivating their prayer life, why wouldn’t you be interested in how they are growing in the grace of giving? If you knew that a member absolutely refuses to open the Bible, wouldn’t you be a bit concerned about their lack of love for the Word?[1]

While I suppose there might be different views on this practice as evidenced by John Kieschnick’s article, I for one would not, and have not “investigated” what parishioners financially give. Why not? I know the sin that lurks in my heart. I am tempted enough seeing the cars people drive, their wardrobe, and how often they play my favorite pastime: golf. I would be deceiving myself thinking I would not be influenced by such knowledge and begin catering to the high givers. The epistle of James was written primarily to pastors[2] and so pastors do well to hearken to what St. James wrote,

 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (Jam 2:1-4).

The temptation to show partiality is minimized when the pastor does not have certain information. The Holy Spirit led St. James to write this that I, as a pastor, be cautioned as to the sinful impulses in my heart. I do not think that I as a pastor or as a Christian am alone in this condition. Certainly Jesus praises the widow’s mite (Lk 21:1-4) having given all she had. But it is only Jesus who knows what is in the heart of people (Jn 2:25). Church attendance can be objectively measured by the simplest of standards but how does one “measure” or investigate people’s attention span in the Divine Service or their devotional prayer life at home? That to me seems a slight overreach.

The Holy Spirit reminds us not once, but twice, that all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial (1 Cor 6:12a, 10:23). For those who would follow John Kieschnick’s suggestion I would ask whether the tithe sufficiently shows one’s spirituality. Would it not be better to measure the tithe based on the person’s gross income? This would give a truer picture as to their spiritual health.

Then we will arrive at more accurate understanding. “Oh! John is leading in congregational giving, but,… but the amount is only 2% of his gross income. Oh no, not healthy!” Every parish has individuals who give out of their poverty (2 Cor 8:2) and then there is the example of the widow’s mite (Lk 21:1-4). Now, there is a healthy individual!

Do you see where this is going? It leads to judging where we have no business judging for it requires looking at a person’s heart—a place we dare not go (Jam 2:4)! Yes, I am aware St. Paul says, “… I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Cor 8:8). The apostles’ had many prerogatives and spiritual abilities (2 Cor 12:12) due to their unique office. But an apostle I am not. I try to take to heart the warning: “… if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal 6:3). I too am a sinner saved by grace who the Holy Spirit has called into the Office of the Holy Ministry to serve Jesus’ lambs.

In Christ,

- Pastor Weber

 



[1] John Kieschnick, “Should Pastors Know What Each Member/Family Gives?,” Leader to Leader: The Business of Ministry Lutheran Church Extension Fund: Our Mission is Your Ministry, http://blog.lcef.org/2014/01/16/should-pastors-know-what-each-memberfamily-gives/

[2] David Scaer, James the Apostle of Faith (St. Louis: Concordia, 1983), 32.


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  1. Big Boy
    January 22nd, 2014 at 17:23 | #1

    I think this post was dead on and a nice read.

    What distressed me was the squabbling and OT talk of tithing.

    Let’s look at what John says, John 3:27 NKJV
    [27] John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.

    It’s all God’s money. He wants us to use all of it towards spreading His will.

    In acts we are told Acts 2:44-45 NKJV
    [44] Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, [45] and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

    Giving happens it many places not just in the pew. It does not happen from our own ability, rather it comes from the Holy Spirit. And our “good” works will never get us into heaven.

    But let’s consider all of the ways we can use our given gifts inside and outside the church.

  2. Rev. McCall
    January 22nd, 2014 at 18:05 | #2

    @Bob Pase #50
    Exactly. I think JB may be putting a poor construction on things. If someone is not giving I am not speaking with them in order to get them to give money to the church, I am speaking with them because I believe there is an underlying spiritual or physical need/problem. That’s what I want to address.
    Think of it in this way. If your wife were not speaking with you why would you seek to talk to her about it? Just so that she would talk to you again OR would you want to actually resolve the deeper issue of whatever it was that was CAUSING her to not speak to you? I (and your wife I would imagine) would hope you picked the latter. If someone is ticked off at me or something or someone in the church and that hurt is manifesting itself in a way that includes them not wanting to tithe, then I want to address what is causing that hurt, not because I want their money but because I am concerned about their spiritual well being. If someone can’t give any offering on Sunday because they need every cent they have for grocery’s, then that is a need that the church should be aware of and helping them out with. Not giving an offering is merely a symptom of something deeper going on.

  3. Jais H. Tinglund
    January 22nd, 2014 at 18:07 | #3

    Bob Pase :
    One final note: I guess Jesus watching the offerings at the Temple was pharisaical too.

    Actually, from the Gospel according to Saint Luke it does seem like He just looked up more or less casually and happened to see people bringing their gifts – rather than that He was deliberately monitoring and inspecting, let alone going through the Temple records in search for information as to exactly who was contributing exactly how much …

  4. R.D.
    January 23rd, 2014 at 00:15 | #4

    @Rev. McCall #2
    Why not routine visitation instead of analyzing data?

  5. JB
    January 23rd, 2014 at 09:06 | #5

    @Bob Pase #50

    It’s easy to say “Lutherans don’t take one verse without looking at the whole content of Scripture” and then not provide content or counter-argument as to why I am wrong. Just doing a brief perusal of discussion of giving, there doesn’t seem to be a single shred of theological support for the shepherding you discuss. If you can’t tell that you need to help out a needy congregation member without monitoring their financial transactions, I have no idea what to tell you. There are countless other ways to be involved in the needs of your congregation members that do not necessitate such an invasive action, ways that actually involve getting to know them and build relationships with them, instead of checking the ledger to make sure that they are up to date. It invites judgement on your part as to whether they are giving “enough”.

    As Jais said regarding Jesus watching the offerings at the temple, that is a different context than what you are discussing, and a different context regarding giving anonymously.

  6. JB
    January 23rd, 2014 at 09:07 | #6

    @Rev. McCall #2

    No, I’m not putting a poor construction on things. Whatever reasons you may have to justify it, this is a poor practice.

  7. Bob Pase
    January 23rd, 2014 at 09:34 | #7

    @JB #5
    My last post here. Frustrating how words are put in others mouths on so many blogs. I never said I check to see anything about giving enough. I have relationships with them. It is not a case of “instead.” I’ve been in this parish 14 yrs and as I clearly stated earlier, my congregation knows I look and knows WHY I look. I look to see if giving is done. Period! End of discussion! Pax!

  8. R.D.
    January 23rd, 2014 at 09:54 | #8

    @Bob Pase #7
    I think it is a poor practice. But if a pastor is going to do it, can we at least say Pr. Pase does it the right way?

    I would much rather have a pastor like Pr. Pase and his congregation doing what he’s doing as opposed to

    -Making a law about and binding consciences to tithing
    -Pledging, even in capital programs (David numbered Israel)
    -Enhanced giving statistics as in, here’s the distribution of giving units by amount range (bronze, gold, platinum levels)

    Even so, I can only say the first of the three is actually sin, the other two are possible to do but I’ve never seen it done in an edifying way

  9. JB
    January 23rd, 2014 at 10:02 | #9

    @R.D. #8

    I can say that his motivation may be good, but that does not make the action good. It’s a poor practice because the possible downfalls spiritually and abuses corporally far outweigh any benefit that could not be discovered elsewhere through other means.

  10. helen
    January 23rd, 2014 at 11:03 | #10

    @Rev. James Kusko #39
    I asked people not to take their poinsettias as I was going to purchase more to move people closer to the front. There were no poinsettias left when the doors closed!

    I told this one at Mid week last night (where we really are scattered about). They enjoyed it! :)

  11. helen
    January 23rd, 2014 at 11:11 | #11

    @JB #45
    I would leave your church, and any of the rest of you who check giving records.

    I had one “minister” long ago who was more interested in the members’ money than their souls. People did leave because of him and I thought it a shame!

    But the Pastor can check on me if he is interested. If I’m getting Word and Sacrament ministry, I’m not going to quibble over that. And once in awhile, when I can, I do consider the IRS angle. You can spread the tax savings to one more charity or RSO if you plan a little.

  12. Kathy L.M.
    January 23rd, 2014 at 11:17 | #12

    On a positive note…this discussion has given me lots to think about. Thanks.

  13. Brad
    January 24th, 2014 at 09:43 | #13

    I am inclined to wonder, if we would be better off, if we just stopped counting all together…

    Stop counting the tithes, the membership, the attendance, the programs, the “ministries,” the projects…

    Imagine all the left over energy and resources we would have for Word and Sacrament, and working our faith out in love of neighbor, without all the administration and record keeping.

    And all the open closets and rooms, now dedicated to storing all these records, for the last 50, 60, 100 years or more.

    The record book that matters, is the Book Christ keeps, anyway.

  14. Randy
    January 24th, 2014 at 10:11 | #14

    @Brad #13

    Brad, you make a good point in my opinion. I’ll offer an example. The LCMS website has a “View Statistics” button for each church. Trend lines are indicated for many categories, including Membership, Giving, & Outreach. I myself have looked at these figures in the past and must admit I’ve fallen prey to the sinful nature of judging a church by the data. Doing such a thing is a huge mistake. As you said, what matters is Word and Sacrament ministry. In fact, the trend lines are the biggest travesty. I have no proof, but believe that downward trend lines may actually turn many away from a particular congregation. Conversely, upward trend lines probably attract people. Therefore, the policy of publically depicting the data creates a self-fulfilling prophesy scenario.

    If the Synod and Districts want to track data why don’t they simply provide a list that indicates churches that adhere to the Liturgy & Confessions and churches who don’t?

  15. Carol Broome
    January 24th, 2014 at 11:13 | #15

    @Brad #13
    I think that this is part of the point of the ‘visitor’ roles in our church structure.
    It encourages a focus on truly churchly things, not just numbers.

  16. helen
    January 24th, 2014 at 11:32 | #16

    @Randy #14
    If the Synod and Districts want to track data why don’t they simply provide a list that indicates churches that adhere to the Liturgy & Confessions and churches who don’t?

    The districts, which keep such data, are, in some cases, only interested to the extent that they know which congregations aren’t “transformed” yet. :(

    [If yours isn't one of them, save yourself a post by noting the qualifying clause.]

  17. Randy
    January 24th, 2014 at 11:48 | #17

    helen :The districts, which keep such data, are, in some cases, only interested to the extent that they know which congregations aren’t “transformed” yet.
    [If yours isn't one of them, save yourself a post by noting the qualifying clause.]

    That’s so true Helen. In fact, our Call process that we’re going through now at my church seems to be bogged down in District Mandated data, charts, graphs, demographics, etc….. We want to offer a call to a Confessional/Liturgical pastor, but if we follow the district’s guidelines we’ll be spinning our wheels for months. Yet, earlier this month in this same district an SMP was ordained who tout’s his C. Peter Wagner Leadership Institute credentials, recommends books by Hybels and Bevere as positive Christian examples of literature, maintains fellowship with a “Tongue Speaking” church (giving sermons at this “other” church while wearing his LCMS Church T-Shirt), and during his ordination had a friend or family member join the circuit pastors on stage (yes stage – not at the altar) and placed his hand on this SMPs head while reading scripture. Oh, and he had one of C. Peter Wagner’s named apostles offer a brief message of encouragement via video. I’m not making this stuff up. Maybe that’s normal, but I’ve never seen that before. Things are just not right, but we fight on……….

  18. helen
    January 24th, 2014 at 15:44 | #18

    @Randy #17
    but if we follow the district’s guidelines we’ll be spinning our wheels for months.

    If you are all together and hold out for ‘confessional-liturgical’ it could be longer.

    Or you could contact men you know to be confessional and Lutheran to get their recommendations. (You only have to “get advice” from district; you don’t have to take their choices.)

    Yet, earlier this month in this same district an SMP was ordained who tout’s his C. Peter Wagner Leadership Institute credentials, recommends books by Hybels and Bevere as positive Christian examples of literature, maintains fellowship with a “Tongue Speaking” church (giving sermons at this “other” church while wearing his LCMS Church T-Shirt), and during his ordination had a friend or family member join the circuit pastors on stage (yes stage – not at the altar) and placed his hand on this SMPs head while reading scripture.

    The SMP’s who post here may not be “like that” but they should at least consider that the pewsitter has reason to be wary!

  19. LadyM
    January 24th, 2014 at 16:53 | #19

    Maybe congregations should all rebel and send no data into the district. Is it really any of their business anyway? Isn’t this similar to the pastor watching members’ contributions? If the district was really in touch with their churches, they would not have to make spreadsheets of lists they have decided are important. And if the pastors truly know their sheep, they should not have to look at their giving records.

  20. Randy
    January 24th, 2014 at 22:23 | #20

    The Mid-South District is a train wreck. Some congregations are wonderful, but many are as far away from being Lutheran as possible. The DP seems confessional, yet allows heterodox practices throughout. Therefore, he can’t lead IMO. I reported all these issues and he refused to answer my emails and calls. It’s a tough district if you actually seek a Confessional Lutheran church.

  21. helen
    January 25th, 2014 at 18:25 | #21

    @Randy #20
    The Mid-South District is a train wreck.

    Randy, unless there is a handy river to divert,
    a stable gets cleaned one shovelful at a time.

    I hope you all can hang in there,
    and provide one more confessional Pastor, willing to follow.

  22. Randy
    January 25th, 2014 at 20:11 | #22


    helen :
    Randy, unless there is a handy river to divert,
    a stable gets cleaned one shovelful at a time.

    Helen, Now that’s an appropriate analogy! I couldn’t help but chuckle. Thanks for the words of encouragement. We will continue to fight this stuff. I believe it’s our duty to do so. However, I think I’m going to head down to the hardware store tomorrow and buy a bigger shovel – economy of force :-)

  23. helen
    January 26th, 2014 at 09:09 | #23

    @Randy #22

    If your Mid-South DP is as described to me by a friend, he has a shovel.
    But he just got it last summer and the job is almost as big as Texas’. :(
    I think he needs all the help he can get. God bless the work!

  24. Randy
    January 26th, 2014 at 14:47 | #24

    @helen #23

    Helen, I hope your friend is right. It sure is a tough district with quite a few CGM pastors/congregations. However, I’m a firm believer in leadership by example. It’s hard to believe a pastor/DP is truly confessional and working to make corrections when he travels to various CGM/CoWo churches and gives sermons “on stage” in business attire during the contemporary service. The message being transmitted is one of support for such things. To me it’s sort of “Chameleon Christianity” when one can easily alter their principles based on their surroundings.

  25. helen
    January 26th, 2014 at 15:19 | #25

    :(

  26. JB
    January 27th, 2014 at 09:36 | #26

    So, with all of these concerns from laity, can the clergy understand why so many of us do not approve of you looking at the giving records?

    You may feel you do it for all the right reasons, and you would never abuse such information, but so many of us have come from churchs where information like that has been abused, and let’s face it, you like us, are a sinful human being who can be tempted.

  27. Jais H. Tinglund
    January 27th, 2014 at 10:20 | #27

    JB :
    So, with all of these concerns from laity, can the clergy understand why so many of us do not approve of you looking at the giving records?

    Absolutely; and let us not forget that the original posting came from a Pastor stating that he had no intention of doing so.

    Somehow it seems right to me that a Pastor would assume that the Christians in his congregation are doing the right thing, unless they give him very good reason to suspect the opposite.

    And in continuation of this thought, it seems to me that the call to responsible stewardship would most appropriately take place in general preaching and teaching rather than in confronting individuals with their supposed shortcomings in this regard. To do so would have a great potential for creating situations of which the best possible outcome is that they reluctantly and resentfully improve in their service as contributors, with long term consequences much similar to what would be the outcome in most worst case scenarios.

    I must admit that I easily come to feel somewhat uncomfortable about encouraging stewardship in specific terms of giving money to the church, even in general preaching and teaching. Am I the only Pastor to get this feeling that I am negotiating my own salary, or at least, that I might very easily be perceived as doing that? Nonetheless, some things must be said, whether the Pastor is comfortable with it or not …

    Rev. McCall has an absolutely valid point in that a church goer giving absolutely nothing is and must be a genuine spiritual and Pastoral concern in at least one way, or another.

    I am not sure, though, that there is a way to identify or address a such situation, at least not directly, that would not put both Pastor and Parishioner in a situation that is not only awkward, put also inappropriate.

    This would be my two cents going on the record – which record anybody should feel free to go through at any time.

  28. Joe Strieter
    January 27th, 2014 at 10:48 | #28

    A trip down memory lane, just to add another perspective: Here’s an excerpt from my great-great grandfather’s autobiography. This particular account comes from his experience while a pastor in Proviso, Illinois (now Hillside) in late 1800’s.

    “The regulation for paying dues was: each member of a family was to contribute 50 cents weekly into the church treasury. The school treasury was extra, $5.00 yearly for each child and $1.00 for coal and wood. The building treasury was regulated according to the size of the farm; 40 acres, so much; 80 acres, so much, etc. But, lo, every year there was a deficit of $50.00, $100.00, $150.00. Pastor and teacher always received their salary but the treasurer paid it out of his own pocket. I wished to alter this and so proposed to the congregation to change this and collect the money, not by compulsion, but by free will donations. But they believed they couldn’t change this rule. One even said if they did I would starve. I told him, before that happened, I would come to him and ask for a piece of bread, and whether he would give it to me? He said, “O, Yes!” “Good and well, then there is no danger of starving.”

    Then I asked them to try it for one year. They agreed to it. I delivered asermon about contributions towards the church treasury and lo, when the year had passed, we had a surplus in the treasury. Now, the new rule, to raise the money by free donations, was made permanent, and as long as I was in Proviso they closed each year with a surplus in their treasury.”

  29. Rev. McCall
    January 28th, 2014 at 10:16 | #29

    @JB #26
    J.B., I think you and some others are misunderstanding what I am saying and what my practice is.
    First, I do not look at giving records. I don’t analyze data. I want to make this clear. I do not look at the giving records.
    Second, the only time I want to be alerted is if someone is consistently contributing nothing. At that I still do not want to see any records. Just a quick word from the Treasurer or whomever to let me know.
    Third, why do I want to know? Because it is likely that something is going on spiritually that I don’t know about. Or there is a real physical need. I don’t want to know so that I can go beat the bushes and bulk up the church coffers. I want to know because I am concerned something serious either spiritually or physically is going on in that persons life.

    Has this ever happened? No! I know my people well enough to know when someone loses a job and needs help. I know when people are ticked off at me or someone else. So I’ve never had the Treasurer or anyone else tell me about someone not contributing. But is there still a chance someone may be too proud to ask the church for help someday? Is there still a chance someone could get mad at me or someone else and let it fester without me knowing? YES! And not giving an offering may be an indicator that one of those things is going on and I need to address it. And here is the other part that everyone seems to be wrongly assuming, the conversation I would have with that person would have nothing to do with tithing, or offerings or money period! Just a chat over coffee or lunch or a home visit to ask how they are doing. I’m guessing the real issue would come out in conversation without ever needing to talk about money.

  30. Jais H. Tinglund
    January 28th, 2014 at 11:23 | #30

    Rev. McCall :
    @JB #26
    Second, the only time I want to be alerted is if someone is consistently contributing nothing. At that I still do not want to see any records. Just a quick word from the Treasurer or whomever to let me know.
    Third, why do I want to know? Because it is likely that something is going on spiritually that I don’t know about. Or there is a real physical need.

    Again, I think you have a very valid point there. Well, perhaps not again, as I am not sure that I made that clear. But it was pretty much what I meant to acknowledge as a healthy principle.

    Rev. McCall :
    And here is the other part that everyone seems to be wrongly assuming, the conversation I would have with that person would have nothing to do with tithing, or offerings or money period!

    For the record, that was pretty much what I assumed the conversation would be – or not be – or whatever – the sentence structure kind of seems to breaks down a bit for you there – but at any rate: I more or less assumed that you were not talking about initiating conversations by confronting congregants with their contributory negligence.

    (I am aware that the term “contributory negligence” usually refers to something different – but it fit so well into the sentence I just could not help myself) ….

  31. Rev. McCall
    January 28th, 2014 at 13:01 | #31

    @Jais H. Tinglund #30
    Thank you. I did not think you in particular had misunderstood what I was saying but it did seem others had. My sentence structure was poor for that last point as you pointed out. You are correct, my intention was to say that my conversation with someone would NOT be about contributory negligence (nice phrase that did fit well there).

  32. JB
    January 28th, 2014 at 15:20 | #32

    @Rev. McCall #31

    Rev. McCall,

    Thank you for your explanations, but I have not misunderstood you, nor have I put words in Rev. Pase’s mouth as I was accused of.

    I disagree with you.

    I do not believe this practice is good in anyway, and do not believe it should be used.

  33. Rev. McCall
    January 29th, 2014 at 08:18 | #33

    @JB #32
    JB, your comments throughout this thread clearly indicated that you did not understand what I was saying. Why else would you say all this?

    “So, with all of these concerns from laity, can the clergy understand why so many of us do not approve of you looking at the giving records?”

    “It invites judgement on your part as to whether they are giving “enough”.”

    “I would leave your church, and any of the rest of you who check giving records.
    I give anonymously, in cash, and if you ever approached me about why I wasn’t giving, to “shepherd” me, I would resign my membership pretty much immediately. Explain to me exactly what “shepherding” you think you’re doing, because it sounds pretty darn Pharasaic.”

    I know the internet makes it hard to determine tone, so let me say that I mean the following in the kindest way possible for the sake of understanding your objections.
    Your argument is all against straw men. To refute again all your posts on this thread: I have clearly said that I do not look at giving records.
    I also have said that I am not interested in how much people are giving or whether they are giving enough. I am concerned only about their spiritual and physical well being and not giving anything is an indicator that something spiritually or physically is going on.
    I have also said that I would not approach someone to ask them “Hey why aren’t you giving any money?” I gave an example of how I would speak to someone and why in post #29.

    Since you have raised no valid objections to my and Bob’s practice, do you have any legitimate concerns about why it should not be used? Preferably ones that are based on what I actually said.

  34. R.D.
    January 29th, 2014 at 12:20 | #34

    @Rev. McCall #33
    The thought of looking at the records is offensive to many laity, even if it is only to see that people give. Your approach, Pr. McCall is better in that you do not see the records, you’re only informed if one is not giving.

    JB is wrong to state, ” if you ever approached me about why I wasn’t giving, to “shepherd” me, I would resign my membership pretty much immediately,” as Pr. McCall’s and Pase’s practice as they have described is a matter of adiaphora. Further, Pr. McCall and Pase’s congregations apparently know about and are good with the practice. It is not for JB to judge.

    However, I agree with JB in that, among many other potential issues, “It invites judgement on your part as to whether they are giving “enough.”

    A question: Is giving to the church mandated or is it adiaphora? If it is mandated, what do you do with a parishioner who does not give to the church but they are otherwise faithful in attendance, receiving the sacrament, going to bible class, etc?

  35. JB
    January 29th, 2014 at 13:38 | #35

    @Rev. McCall #33

    I do understand what you’re saying, and I disagree. Whether you are looking at the records, or you have someone else telling you when someone is not giving, I feel that this is a poor practice.

    Please note, that I am not condemning you, or judging you, I am saying that it is a poor practice. You may do it for all the right reasons, and you may have noble intentions, but allowing a minister that information, especially as encouraged in the article above, invites abuse. Maybe not by you, but by others.

    The issue is not that I have been attacking strawmen, but that you have assumed that I believe your specific instance and practices are somehow different than the one outlined in the article, or described by myself and other members of the laity in the responses. I do not believe they are. I believe that any access is a poor practice, able to be abused by the wrong person. You may be noble enough and having a trusting congregation sure of the safeguards in place, but what about the next minister who comes in your stead? If there is no best practice, then he is free to make any changes he likes. It has happened before, will happen again, and is probably happening in many congregations throughout the LCMS and the WELS.

  36. Rev. McCall
    January 29th, 2014 at 14:28 | #36

    @R.D. #34
    Thank you for your response. To clarify, I still do not see how what I do would invite a pastor to judge on whether someone is giving “enough”. It is a yes or no question/approach. If someone is giving, I don’t care how much it is or what percentage it is of their income or any of that. You can throw ten grand in the plate or ten cents. You can give 10% or 1%. I don’t care about percentages or “enough”. All I am concerned about is are you giving period. Because I believe I am right in saying that a person who gives nothing either has a spiritual problem or a physical need that needs addressed (not contributing is just a symptom).
    Pastors do this in many other aspects and no one sees a problem with it so maybe folks are just too sensitive when it comes to money talk. But take these other examples. As a pastor I notice that you are not sitting with your spouse in church or speaking with her for over a month. I take that as a symptom of something deeper going on and I rightly seek to address it. Not coming to church for a month? I take that as a symptom of something deeper, either a spiritual or physical problem. A faithful Bible class attender suddenly stops coming for a month? I take that as a symptom of a problem. Ceasing to give an offering of any kind for a month? I take it the same way, as a symptom of a problem.

    @JB #35
    I’m still confused. What information am I having access to? If you believe my practice is no different than the one in the article please illustrate how. To be fair I don’t think you have done so. I have taken great pains to lay out how my practice IS different. There is always a risk someone after me may do things differently, but that doesn’t make what I do wrong or poor practice.
    I look at the question as this: Is not contributing an indicator of a spiritual or physical problem? I believe the answer is YES. (If you think not, please tell me why) If yes, then it is poor practice to ignore this all together. So how can you not ignore it while still being sensitive about not knowing dollar amounts or percentages and such? I think my approach does that while still properly showing pastoral concern and care for peoples spiritual and physical wellbeing.

  37. LadyM
    January 29th, 2014 at 16:14 | #37

    @Rev. McCall #33 I am not so sure that you and “Bob” practice this in like manner. Perhaps I have misunderstood his posts, but he seems to admit looking at his parishioners giving records. That is not the same as asking to be alerted whenever someone changes their giving practices and withdraws from giving. Two different animals entirely. However, I must admit that I side with JB on this one. I can find no Scriptural evidence to support this practice, and I see many ways it could be abused. I think it is just another slippery slope, and we have too many of those as it is.

  38. Rev. McCall
    January 29th, 2014 at 18:30 | #38

    @LadyM #37
    Acts 5. Not only did those contributing to the church apparently do so publicly in front of at least the pastor, Peter, they had to declare what they had sold their property for and declare to the Apostles what their intended contribution would be ahead of time. Ananias and Sapphira not only declared their contribution ahead of time but were then struck dead when they lied to to Peter and actually contributed less than promised.
    Makes what I’m suggesting pretty tame huh? Maybe we should go back to that pattern of giving. Tell the pastor ahead of time each week or month what you intend to give and if you lie and contribute less, well…

    Lot’s of things have a hypothetical chance of being abused. It doesn’t make them wrong. If we never did anything that had the chance of being done wrong we would never do anything at all.

  39. LadyM
    January 30th, 2014 at 06:17 | #39

    @Rev. McCall #38 I hope you are trying to be humorous. Sorry, but you are not an Apostle. This is a ridiculous example to use for justifying a wrong practice. Do you advocate meeting in houses and caves as well? How about ordaining simple, uneducated fishermen?

  40. Kathy L.M.
    January 30th, 2014 at 07:07 | #40

    @Rev McCall#38 As I said in a previous comment on this article, this discussion has given me a lot to think about. I appreciate your perspective, honestly, and caring. You and I have “dialoged” before; your flock is a lucky group of people, no matter what these comments may suggest. I think that sharing these perspectives, in love, is characteristic of the people of God. God bless.

  41. Rev. McCall
    January 30th, 2014 at 09:21 | #41

    @LadyM #39
    In part humurous, but in part serious. Why do I need to be an Apostle? Did Christ give the Apostles special giving instructions? Is an Apostle sinless that he would not be tempted in any way with this form of giving? Please explain why this is so ridiculous. The church rejoiced that they were able to give and support their brothers and sisters in Christ. They had no problem revealing to their pastor or one another how much they gave. It was not for Pharisitical reasons, but simply out of love and joy. These Christians had no problem letting their sinful pastor (Peter) and their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ know that they were giving and even how much. So what is different or what has changed that this type of practice would now be so bad?
    As to meeting in caves or homes, this was in part because early on in the Roman Empire Christians were not allowed to own property to build churches. When the property laws changed Christians ceased meeting in these places. Even so, there is still nothing wrong with meeting wherever one is able. My church met in a hotel room for two years prior to being able to afford a place to rent and eventually build.
    There are no simple, uneducated fishermen ordained in the Bible. There are fishermen who are called to be Jesus disciples, but they have three years of study and learning under Christ before they are sent out on their own. I’d say three years of learning under Christ is a pretty darn good education. Likewise Paul and Peter and others train and teach the pastors they leave in a place. So nothing has changed there. We still teach and train pastors before ordaining them.
    So again, what has changed that now makes the giving mentioned in Acts 5 a poor or wrong practice?

    @Kathy L.M. #40
    Thank you for such kind comments. God bless you as well.

  42. helen
    January 30th, 2014 at 14:20 | #42

    @Rev. McCall #36
    Ceasing to give an offering of any kind for a month? I take it the same way, as a symptom of a problem.

    Make it several months, perhaps. In a farming community, money tends to come in ‘lumps’ e.g., “when the hogs are sold” or “when the beans are sold” and giving may be done in ‘lumps’, also.

    Several town dwellers I know, are paid by the month and pay their bills the same way… the church envelope being on top of the pile. Some others may be more infrequent and still have the church figured into their ‘expenses’. So your method isn’t foolproof.

  43. Rev. McCall
    January 30th, 2014 at 17:47 | #43

    @helen #42
    Is any method for anything ever truly foolproof? :-)
    I was not making a hard and fast rule of “one month”, it was merely an example. I would hope a good pastor would know his members and adjust accordingly to accommodate things like that.

  44. R.D.
    January 31st, 2014 at 00:26 | #44

    What do you do with someone who never gives a dime?

  45. LadyM
    January 31st, 2014 at 04:51 | #45

    @Rev. McCall #41 Might I suggest you go back to the original article and reread it, especially the last paragraph? That was my reference point. I believe this is not a beneficial, and even a bad practice. Looks like we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

  46. helen
    January 31st, 2014 at 15:58 | #46

    @LadyM #39
    How about ordaining simple, uneducated fishermen?

    You are in error, I think. They may have been that when they were called, but they spent 3 years, 24/7, with the One who knew everything and was teaching His Truth.

    [No seminary could touch that. But since Christ directed that disciples be taught "all things that He had commanded", it behooves present day ministers of the Gospel to take time to learn before they want to be called "Pastor".]

  47. LadyM
    January 31st, 2014 at 17:01 | #47

    @helen #46 I was attempting to exaggerate and be a bit sarcastic, but it backfired. I stand corrected. They absolutely were taught by the Lord Himself and you are correct – no seminary could touch that!

  48. backinthefold
    February 1st, 2014 at 17:33 | #48

    @Joe Strieter #28
    Mr. Strieter, your great-grandfather was likely the Pastor of my family at that time in Hillside. He likely baptized, married, and buried some of my family from that generation. The family has scattered, but at least some of us remain true to a faith and practice that he would recognize. I thank God for your grandfather’s work.

    I am sure that he is now in the Communion of Saints and that we will see him soon. God bless you for sharing some of his thoughts from so long ago.

  49. Rev. McCall
    February 3rd, 2014 at 10:27 | #49

    @LadyM #45
    I disagree with the original articles final paragraph. The author makes a blanket statement when he implies that looking (of any kind) at giving records leads to judging others hearts. I say it does not necessarily do that. I gave you Acts 5 as an example of the church using it in a positive way without judgment. So the premise is false. Looking does not always lead to judging.
    But it is true that looking COULD lead to judging anothers heart (but certainly not always). If that is the standard then, that an activity MIGHT lead to sin or judgment, then pastors should cease just about every single other activity that could lead us to judge anothers heart such as private confession and absolution, noticing what type of car members drive, etc. Since we are sinful human beings everything has this potential. Yet that should not mean we throw out the baby with the bath water. I would try to put the best construction on pastors that look in any way shape or form and not assume they are doing so to judge others.

  50. John Rixe
    February 3rd, 2014 at 12:59 | #50

    If an adult Christian contributes absolutely nothing over an extended period it probably indicates an alarming spiritual health problem.   It is a blessing that the pastor be informed.

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