CHRISTIANS DON’T APPROVE of the way the apostle Paul took an offering. Some Christians, anyhow.
If he pastored their church, they might not get mad enough to leave. But they’d write a blog article about it, if they could.
I’ve certainly written articles and book features about some of the manipulative fundraising I’ve seen in churches over the years.
In doing so, I know I’ve irritated preachers and district church leaders. I’ve been told so.
But I speak up anyhow because I believe there are more honest, biblically sound ways of raising money for God’s work.
That said, Paul takes an offering like you wouldn’t believe.
He’s honest, I’ll give him that.
And he’s biblically sound, as far as I can tell, since he doesn’t invoke the Jewish practice of tithing: “Set aside some money, as you’re able. Save it for me so that when I come I won’t have to collect an offering” (1 Corinthians 16:2 Casual English Bible).
However, Paul was hardcore into manipulation, arm-twisting, and ear-pulling.
Well, maybe not ear-pulling. But it’s certainly uncomfortable to read.
This week, I’m hoping to post 1, 2 Corinthians to the Casual English Bible. For a sneak peek, I’m giving you a snippet of the fundraising letter Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth: 2 Corinthians 9:1-5. He was collecting an offering for poor Christians in Jerusalem. He had already bragged about how much he collected in the Roman province of Macedonia, a comparatively poor area in what is now northern Greece.
Paul’s fundraising letter—big push
Paul: “Don’t embarrass me and yourselves”
“I know I don’t need to bother writing you about this mission work of helping our fellow believers.
I know you’re ready to help. I’ve been bragging about it to churches in Macedonia. I’ve told them that the believers in Achaia [home region of wealthy Corinth and Athens] have been ready for this since last year. Your enthusiasm is contagious; they caught it.
It’s time now for me to send these brothers to you. That will give you a chance to show everyone the bragging we’ve done about you isn’t just hot air. I know you’ll be ready, just as I said you would be.
If you’re not ready, and some Macedonians happen to join us when we visit you, we’ll be pretty doggone embarrassed. So will you.”
Give like you want to do it
“That’s why I’m sending these dear colleagues ahead of me. It’s just a precaution, but I think it’s necessary. I want them to help you collect the generous contribution you promised to make. This way, your generous gift will be ready and waiting for me when I get there—and it won’t be something you’ll grudgingly collect afterward.”
That’s just part of what ends up as a heavy-duty fundraising letter. Paul will threaten sticks and he’ll offer carrots.
The fact that this approach is in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean God approves of it. God doesn’t approve of all the history reported in the Bible; some of this history is bad news, not Good News.
But the fact that the story is in the Bible does mean that as far as many Christians are concerned, it accurately reports the innovative methods Paul used.