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When we take the offering in our church, almost nobody puts anything in the collection plate. The deacons say that most people are paying electronically. I’ve even heard of churches that allow people to swipe a credit card in the service. Isn’t this undermining the worshipful nature of the offering?

I have noticed this trend too and admit to contributing to it. Years ago, I set up automatic monthly contributions to the church. Checks are delivered automatically the first week of each month. It’s certainly convenient. I have no guilty feelings from missed contributions, and the deacons are grateful for consistent giving. I still contribute in the collection plate for benevolence or special offerings.

You are right that all this convenience and predictability comes at a cost. My computer has a greater connection to regular giving than I do. Maybe I set up the automatic payments, but once set up they simply keeps going out until I change the instructions. God loves a cheerful giver, says 2 Corinthians 9, but there is nothing cheery about computers automatically transferring funds from my account to the church’s.

Two things for further thought. First, the Bible does not mandate any particular way of giving. In the Old Testament, sacrifices of produce or animals were brought to the altar. In the Gospels, alms were placed in the temple treasury box. Neither of these matches what many of us grew up with: placing cash or budget envelopes in a collection basket to be brought to the front of the sanctuary. Let’s not romanticize the past.

Second, we can be creative in devising moments in worship where we do bring things forward and physically offer them. Special offerings are one such occasion, so celebrate in the worship service these gifts to God. 

Or what about this?  A church I attended collected a “firstfruits” offering. Toward the end of July, when people’s gardens were just coming in, people brought firstfruits from their garden to offer. These were placed on the communion table. The produce was then brought on Monday to a local food bank for distribution. What a lovely, tangible offering!

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