Today's post is inspired by a writing by Max Dubinsky, which I received in my email this morning. Entitled "What I Learned About the Church While Seeking God Outside of It (Part I)" it hits on some of the major things that have always caused some controversy in the church. One of the most mentioned things in the church today is the argument about tithing. Some say, if you're not giving 10%, you're robbing God of what is rightfully His. But I've always preferred the argument that you should give what you can give, when you can give it -- it's as simple as that. God is no mob boss that will hunt you down and whack you if you can't come up with your 10%.
The best quote related to tithing that I found embedded in here was from a pastor of a church outside Los Angeles. When asked why he never requested an offering from people, he answered "Well, I used to. The buckets are still at the doors on the way out, but I don't ask. People will give if their heart is right with Christ. Your personal relationship with Jesus makes you generous. Not any message I'm ever going to preach about generosity. I'd rather people not give at all instead of giving out of guilt."
Well, that struck a chord. Every Sunday when I'm sitting in church and the collection basket is coming around, I definitely feel guilty about passing it on to the next person without it getting any heavier. Is it that I'm greedy? Or that I just feel that I can't afford it at the time? Even if I just put in a dollar each time it came around, that would probably appease my guilt. But I would like to know where that money is actually going. Much like nonprofit organizations, giving the church doesn't really allow you to sleep at night knowing that your money definitely went to a good cause. It's possible they used it to buy new vestments, or even just buy cleaning products. Unless there is a second collection for a specific cause, you won't really know exactly where that money went.
Reading further through the article, I realized that I am one of those people that goes to church out of habit. Yes, I do get things out of it, and yes I like the prayers and such. But who would you say is the better person here -- me, going to church every Sunday and falling asleep during the homily sometimes, or the guy who hasn't been to a single mass in his life, yet spends his free time with a backpack full of sandwiches, walking around and handing them out to the homeless. Being a part of an organization allows you to sit back and simply follow. The congregation in a church is simply a large group of followers of the pastor, and by the transitive, supposedly Christ. But if your pastor doesn't lead you where you want to go to make a difference, maybe it's time to find a new place. Or no place at all.
It troubles me to think that I have been going to the same church all the time and that maybe I'm not entirely happy with what I'm hearing there. People are always searching for a church that they like. And I would guess that most times, they settle. Why do we let ourselves settle? If you don't like it and wholeheartedly agree with what goes on there, you don't have to belong to a church. Be your own church.
Later it is mentioned that Christ built a group of followers to take out into the world and to spread the word. Pastors these days create of people to bring inside, to their church. Something doesn't sound right about that. Churches make it too easy to just give your money away instead of actively helping. And so I need to think about this heavily, my going to church. If I don't have a good reason why, I don't think I'm going to go until I do. I can still read the Bible on my own, pray, sing etc. I can even volunteer. And while that scant hour on Sundays is when my church time is scheduled, perhaps there should be more variety and balance in it all.
I'll leave you all with this final quote from the article:
"Christ calls us to be the salt of the earth. But what happens to salt when you keep it in a container? It starts to stick together and becomes a useless clump. This is what happens in too many of our churches. We clump together as Christians, only serving each other and our building, instead of spreading ourselves out as we were meant. We are the salt of the earth. Not the salt of this particular block."