The Church as a Gift Culture

Church of Ste. Anne de Beaupré (LOC)photo © 1890 The Library of Congress | more info (via: Wylio)

 

I know I’m supposed to be doing a study through the book of Job, but I keep having these other ideas so I’m going to go with them. I wrote last time about the church as a gift culture. I’m going to start with that paragraph today:

The church is used to living in a gift culture. We do not charge to come to church. We give to the ministry of the church. We are used to giving away worship music for little or nothing. We feel the incongruity when a church goes astray with these things. This is because grace and gratitude and the whole gift culture are the warp and woof of the Christian life, even for graceless churches that refuse to understand this.

On reflection, it is clearly the mission of the church to invite people in order to GIVE them something. There may be churches which act as fraud centers who pull people in in order to fleece them, but we are throwing those places out in our ruminations here. The reason we can do this is that we are thinking through the right principles and everyone including God would condemn a place that so acted.

So, the mission of the church, and the guiding principle of every normal active average sort of church, is to invite people in in order to bless them. We invite them in to offer them the chance to receive salvation, receive teaching, receive counsel, to build community and friendships, to offer material help as possible when needed, to offer a way for people to fit into a larger community in a fulfilling way. There are greeters at the door to make people feel welcome. There is music to fit the taste and reverence of the congregation. The church is the direct opposite of a business, where the object is to elicit a sale from the person. A church wants a person to come inside in order to give them something, not to get something from them.

What about tithes and offerings? Once again, this is part of the gift culture of the church. Even in the most crass and greedy churches, there is no notion that the ministry of the church is being purchased. Worship music is not a concert you buy tickets for. People are asked to give to the church blindly with nothing received in return, because it is a gift culture. As we give to the church, we enter into the gift culture; we give expecting nothing in return, and we receive freely whether we give or not.

None of this is unusual or difficult to understand, and this is why it is most profound. The world is only recently coming to grips with the idea of the gift culture. Digital society is coming around to the gift culture as the only way that ANY culture can exist. Content on the internet cannot be securely owned and distributed on the condition of a money exchange. Now many services (for example, kickstarter.com) are arising in which content producers can give their content away and be supported through gifts. The whole open source movement is a fantastic example of a gift culture.

My point is that the church has been thriving as a gift culture for 2000 years, and obviously it has really worked. We need as the church to embrace this, instead of trying to think of ways we can run little side businesses to help prosper our ministries. The more we give away, the more we focus on the needs of people without thought of recompense, the more we simply let our needs be known, the more people in the congregation can step up and participate in the gift culture as they are able. As this happens, we have the blessing of living in a community which reflects the grace and mercy and favor of God, who gives without measure and without a thought or need for payment. We enter in a practical way into the universe of grace.

“”I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”” Acts 20:35, NKJV.

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