I’m finishing my fourth year as an itinerant preacher and have been the beneficiary of some great (i.e., generous, encouraging) love offerings and the victim of no poor offerings. (That was a good place to have said I’ve been victimized by some unscrupulous pastors or lay leaders, but thankfully, I haven’t. Every check given to me has been more than I deserved and well appreciated.)
On the other hand, I’ve seen the other side of it. I regret to say that a time or two, when I was pastoring, my church was struggling financially and we gave the guest preacher far, far less than he deserved.
Every minister understands this. If a church does all it can, that’s all anyone can ask. On the other hand, some have some funny ways of doing the Lord’s business.
Once, many years ago, I drove 150 miles roundtrip each evening to preach in a church, arriving around 4 p.m., in time to make some visits with the pastor, then to have supper with some church member and then get to church in time for the evening service. I’d get home around 10:30 each night. It was a demanding week.
On Friday night, following the service, I joined the pastor and staff at the home of a leader who clearly was calling the shots. At one point, he called me off to the side and peeled off five $50 bills and handed them to me. I honestly thought he was paying for my mileage. But no, that was the offering.
A couple years later, after the pastor had moved on to another church, I asked him about that. I said, “I distinctly recall one afternoon during our visiting your telling me a certain member had put $500 in the offering the night before.” He said, “Joe, that deacon had his thumb on our church. He called the shots. And he said that amount was plenty for the guest preacher.”
I said, “What happened to the rest of the offering that did not go to the guests?” He answered, “It went back into the church bank account.”
This is dishonest.
Churches are duty-bound to do with money given to them what they said they would do. If they do not, they must either return it or get the permission of the donors to redirect it. (Forget pleasing the IRS; how about pleasing God!)
As the guest preacher, I love it when the host pastor tells his people, “Each night this week, we will be bringing our offerings to the Lord, with which we will show appreciation for His servants and invest in their ministries. Give as generously as you can.”
What I do not especially appreciate is when the pastor says, “Now, each night we’ll be taking up an offering for the expenses of this revival.”
If I’m close friends with the pastor, at some point when we’re alone, I’ll say, “May I say something to you about the revival offering?”
I tell him:
- Please don’t call me an expense.
- You don’t owe me a thing.
- Whatever the people give, they bring to the Lord and give as an act of worship.
- You give me whatever you decide honors the Lord.
- Whatever you give, I receive it from the Lord. Even though I will thank you, mostly I thank Him.
- Bear in mind that full-time evangelists live from these offerings, and they cannot do this 52 weeks of the year. I’ve known churches that figured out what a yearly salary for a preacher ought to be, then divided that by 52 and settled on that figure as appropriate. It isn’t. In fact, a full-time evangelist generally does well to log 36 or 40 revivals a year. And that is a heavy load.
- The church that honors the guest minister—particularly one whose entire livelihood comes from what you give him—honors the Lord.
The bottom line on this, as for everything else we Christ-people do, is Colossians 3:23-24:
“Whatever you do ... do as unto the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
One more thing, pastor. If you happen to have a clone of that heavy-thumbed church boss in your congregation, the one who insists on miniaturizing the offerings you give to the guest preacher, take it upon yourself to educate him. If he truly does have the good of the church at heart, then he is not beyond help.
What should you do to help him change? Easy. Invite him to lunch with you and the guest preacher. Tell the guest what you’re up to, and somewhere in the hour, ask him, “Brother Jones, there’s something I’m curious about. When we hand you a check at the end of the meeting, what do you do with it?”
Then, get out of his way. If the guest preacher depends on these gifts for his livelihood, he can make a great case for your church being generous. He will speak of his family’s needs, a mortgage on the house, upkeep on his car, the dry-cleaning bill for his clothing, insurance, retirement, his tithe to his own church, and on and on. Then—he’s not nearly through now–he will tell you and the church leader how he goes to some churches and even overseas doing mission work where the offerings are slim to none. So, he depends on the churches that are “able” to give generously to enable him to go wherever the Lord sends him.
Even then, he isn’t through. At some point, he will tell the two of you a discovery he has made: “When a church blesses the traveling preacher, it blesses the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, ‘Whoever receives you, receives me.’ That’s in Matthew 10. And it’s so true.”
But when he does finish, he will say, “All of that said, I want you to know I look to the Lord for my needs. And He has never failed me yet. Does that answer your question, Pastor?”
You will know Friday night at the conclusion of the meeting, guest preacher.
But thanks for coming; every blessing to your ministry. Having you has been a privilege, and our church will never be the same.
Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel, and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
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