Question and Answer
Thank Offering After Communion
I am confused as to the OPC position on taking two collections on Communion Sunday. This is just being implemented at our church. We have a need to repair our building and this "Communion Thank Offering" may be for this need (it has not been made clear, at least in the title) It is my understanding that this offering is supposed to be for the poor or a sacred purpose. I assume that building repairs are being considered a sacred need. It has been said that upon taking Communion, believers should be moved respond in a tangible way. This second offering is supposed to account for the believer's (obligatory?) outpouring of extra funds. What is the OPC's official position on the belief this statement:
God speaks and blesses His people; then we respond in gratitude and with thankful hearts. The Lord's Supper is one of those elements in worship in which the Lord bestows His grace on the believing recipient. The believer really receives a gift from God, and then it is right that he should respond to that gift in some tangible way.... It is right for God's people to respond to the means of grace by giving a tangible offering of thanksgiving.
On its face, we fear that this is a "money for grace" exchange. Insight is most welcome.
It is traditional in Presbyterian churches to take a thank offering following the Lord's Supper. In the section on the Lord's Supper in the Directory of Worship in the OPC Book of Church Order, for example, it says this:
After a prayer of thanksgiving, an offering may be taken for the relief of the poor or for some other sacred purpose.
Thus the taking of an offering related to thanksgiving is not an innovation of your congregation but a historic Presbyterian practice. Such a thank offering is over and above the tithe and is completely voluntary, in the spirit of 2 Cor. 9:7:
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
The Old Testament provided for worshipers to bring an offering in response to God's goodness. Check a Bible concordance or computer Bible such as Biblegateway under the keyword "vow" to see the richness of the biblical teaching on what has come to be called the thank offering. Here's just one text:
But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten" (Lev. 7:16).
Note: the thank offering was sacrificial and voluntary, but when a person vowed to give it, God expected him to follow through on that vow. Ecclesiastes 5:4 states this:
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
The vow was totally voluntary, but once vowed, following through became obligatory on the part of the worshiper.
Obviously "money for grace" is a concept utterly foreign to the spirit of the Scriptures. The believer receives grace (unmerited favor from God); good works (including cheerful giving) follow afterward, as the evidence of a true and lively faith.
The OPC as a denomination has no position other than that stated in its Confession of Faith and Catechisms, but it seems to me as an individual OPC minister that "God speaks and blesses his people; then we respond in gratitude and with thankful hearts" is quite biblical. And yes, "It is right for God's people to respond to the means of grace by giving a tangible offering of thanksgiving."
Most church sessions will announce the purpose of the thank offering in advance, such as the local diaconal fund or a specific mission work. You mention, "We have a need to repair our building." If "building repairs" should prove to be the purpose of the thank offering, it could be argued that providing a place where people may worship God in safety serves not a secular purpose but a sacred one. The session would surely welcome your inquiry concerning the purpose of the thank offering; I encourage you to ask.
God bless you as you seek to be obedient to his word.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.