The COVID-19 virus is in full effect in our country, and in our churches. While there has been much hand wringing there has also been much hand raising and praising. We are discovering a lot about the nature of the church and what it means to be a called people, rather than an institution.
One of the practical realities of this crisis is worrying over a decline in giving. Here, too, we are learning a vital lesson. What does it mean to tie the giving to the gathering? Our assumption has been that when the people gather, they give. Since Sunday gathering is our biggest gather, we pass the plate on that day. There are good theological reasons for making an offering part of our praise to God. There are also good practical reasons. Since we have folks together, it is the most simple and efficient time to do it.
Many churches have made forays into electronic giving, some with more success than others. Certainly, we have been behind the eight ball in this endeavor and are now realizing this is an important option. E-giving, however, is a tool, not an end.
Let us reaffirm that the more we tie the giving to the gathering; the more people will give. However, it is the nature of the gathering that we need to reassess. Gathering around the institution, the building, and the organization has been in decline for years. The coronavirus is revealing to us what we should have known already.
Leaders need to remind people—yes, inspire people—to gather around our mission, our purpose, and the transformation happening where God touches human life. Tell folks the stories of gospel good news that is unveiling itself in your faith family. Connect (gather) them with Jesus’ purpose for us as persons individually and collectively. Let us rally together (gathered) around the people whose lives are transformed by our mission and the communities that are more Godlike because of our effort.
One would think, of all people, we United Methodists would have a clear sense of this. As a connectional (gathered) church we have realized, at least theologically, that even a global community can gather around the work and mission of Christ.
The old hymn refrain says, “Yes, we’ll gather at the river; the beautiful, the beautiful river; gather with the saints at the river, that flows by the throne of God.” The saints are gathering AT the river, BECAUSE it flows by the THRONE OF GOD. Gather at the throne and keep asking people to order their lives and gifts around what we see there.