Modern Methods of Giving

Texting

[Note: The following article was included in the updated edition of my study, Now Concerning the Collection: A Study of Giving. I am posting it here for the benefit of others who may be considering different methods of giving that have been made available by our modern technology.]

I wrote the original study, Now Concerning the Collection, in 2006 after preaching a lesson (by request) on the topic of giving. At that time, the standard practice for churches to take up the collection – at least the congregations where I had attended – was to pass a basket down each pew into which those in attendance would place their contribution, either in the form of cash or check. This was the way we took up the collection.

Over the fourteen years since then, we have seen many changes that have taken place in our world – including changes in how we use money and make transactions. Many churches now offer online giving that allows someone to give using a credit or debit card online. Other churches offer the option of text giving (via text message) or a mobile giving app.

The popularity of digital giving has increased greatly over the last few years. A 2013 Facts & Trends article mentioned a Lifeway Research study which found that, at that time, 14 percent of Protestant churches offered online giving. By 2015, 42 percent of U.S. churches offered online giving; in 2017 the number jumped to 74 percent.

These statistics are not surprising when we look at the money habits of ourselves and others. Generally speaking, we rarely carry much cash; we almost never write checks except for certain bills (and that number is decreasing); we pay in-store with credit or debit cards; we regularly purchase items online; we receive our paycheck via direct deposit; and so on. This is the standard way of life for the majority of us at the present time. So it should be expected that many would prefer to give digitally to the local church. However, before we start planning how to offer digital giving options for our congregations, we need to determine whether such modern methods of giving are authorized.

Many brethren are reluctant to adopt new technologies and ways of doing things. More progressively-minded brethren often get frustrated by this; but hesitance and skepticism of anything new is healthy, provided we do not allow ourselves to become traditionalists (holding on to the familiar while condemning unfamiliar, yet authorized, expedients). Having an initial hesitance gives us time to examine any new practice in light of the Scriptures to see if it is authorized or not.

Therefore, we should not be quick to implement various modern methods of giving,* nor should we be quick to condemn them. Instead, we need to see if they could be authorized expedients or if they are unauthorized innovations.

Before looking at the Scriptures, we need to understand a basic point. Whether we are talking about cash, checks, credit/debit cards, or some digital means (such as an app) for sending/receiving money, all of these facilitate the exchange of currency from one entity to another. We may each have preferences as to which means we might like to use in certain situations, but that does not change the fact that all of them fundamentally do the same thing – transfer currency from the giver to the receiver.

For example, I could give you a twenty dollar bill, write you a check for twenty dollars, or send you twenty dollars via PayPal. No matter which one of these I choose to do, you end up with twenty dollars. The same is true when it comes to giving to the church. I can give cash, write a check, or use some form of digital giving (online or text) and that money then becomes part of the church treasury that can be used by the church to carry out its work.

Therefore, the end result is the same. The next step is not to see whether this is helpful or convenient, but whether it is authorized. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Corinthians 10:23, KJV). We must first determine if something is lawful before considering whether it is expedient. Is there something about the digital aspect of giving that would violate some principle or precept?

Let us be reminded of what the New Testament teaches about the act of giving:

  • Money is to be given to the church (Acts 4:36-37; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
  • The collection is to take place on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2).
  • By implication, we understand that the collection is taken up in the assembly – it was done on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2), the day when the local church assembled to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26); church leaders did not go house to house gathering the contribution from members.

If we give digitally, are we still giving to the church? Yes. Are we still giving on the first day of the week? Due to the nature of online giving, it can be done anytime. However, we can make it a point to limit ourselves to giving on the first day of the week. Are we still giving in the assembly? By using online giving, text giving, or a mobile giving app, as long as people have their smartphones with them (and, generally speaking, they do), then this can be done in the assembly at the same time we pass around the baskets (if we decide that is still expedient). If the recipient is the same (the local church), the day is the same (the first day of the week), the place is the same (in the assembly), and there is nothing in the New Testament that would limit us to one certain form of monetary transaction, then we ought to conclude that such modern giving methods, if carried out correctly, are authorized.

After determining whether something is authorized (lawful), we need to determine whether or not it is expedient (helpful or profitable). That is going to depend upon the conditions that exist in each situation. Provided that implementing this would not cause strife within the congregation, would actually be used by the members to give, and would not be poor stewardship of the church’s treasury (consider the fees charged by the particular digital giving service being considered), then a congregation might consider this.

As we move more and more toward a cashless society, churches are eventually going to need to be able to take up a collection potentially without any paper money or checks. So it may or may not be helpful to a particular congregation right now; but barring a complete economic and technological crash, it will eventually be a necessity. Therefore, it is important that we understand that this is authorized and can be implemented if/when it is expedient.

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* Of course, there was a point in history in which writing checks would have been a “modern” method of giving. Even though it seems “old fashioned” now, there was a time when it was the “new” way of exchanging currency.


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