Question and Answer

Thank Offering After Communion

Question:

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.

Answer:

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.


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