Questions from an Assembly Observer: The Collection

A couple is looking for a new Church. They enter the room where the Breaking of Bread is just starting. In many places, they have been handed an envelope with their hymnal. But this is different. They are curious about the offering collected. They stay for the Bible Reading and notice there is no offering taken. They are very curious!

Why is the collection taken only on Sunday morning? Why is there no opportunity for us to give funds to the church?

People who are new at attending assembly meetings frequently ask these questions. In a world where Christian denominations take collections at every service and where TV evangelists preach while their 1-800 telephone numbers scroll across the bottom of the screen, the assembly meetings stand unique.

Those already in the assembly might ask: Why is the collection of funds held during the Breaking of Bread? After all, the Lord Jesus did not take a collection in the upper room when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Paul makes no mention of it when recounting the instructions he received from the Lord in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding the Lord’s Supper. Is this practice Scriptural? Is it right to link the collection with the Lord’s Supper?

A review of New Testament Scriptures will show us that the practice of taking collections as part of the Lord’s Supper is in fact a biblically–based practice. It is consistent with the Character of giving, it follows the Pattern of the early churches, and it complies with the Principles of Scripture.

Associating the collection of funds with the Lord’s Supper is consistent with an understanding of the character of financial giving. Financial giving is not a service we provide, but worship that we offer. The N. T. calls upon each believer to give voluntary free-will offerings proportionate in measure to how the Lord has blessed us (2 Cor 8 & 9). The offerings are to be given to the Lord out of a heart that is first devoted to Him. Paul wrote to the Philippians regarding “the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18 ESV). Hebrews states, “with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:16). So giving is not a duty nor is it the responsibility of just a few special believers. Every Christian shares in the privilege of giving as a way of worshiping God.

So then, at which meeting of the assembly would it be most appropriate to take the collection? While worship should be part of all assembly meetings, the Lord’s Supper is the one meeting of the assembly that is fully devoted to the worship of God and the Lord Jesus. Therefore, it is most fitting that the collection of the gifts from devoted hearts should be taken at the Lord’s Supper.

Secondly, taking the collection as part of the Lord’s Supper follows the pattern of the early churches and the apostle’s teaching. The New Testament makes it clear that assemblies have certain financial responsibilities. In addition to the costs of maintaining its facilities, an assembly is also responsible for the care of widows (Acts 6:1; 1 Tim 5:9), and for meeting the needs of other needy Christians (1 Cor 16; 2 Cor 8). An assembly can also share in the costs of the spread of the gospel by supporting evangelists (Phil 4:15; 2 Cor 11:8). In order to have the funds available to support these activities, an assembly should have a specified time of collection.

Paul taught the Gentile churches to make weekly collections which they did on the first day of the week. Writing to the Corinthian assembly concerning an offering for the oppressed believers in Judea he said: “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Cor 16:1-2 ESV).

The Corinthians individually were to lay aside some portion for the suffering Jewish believers by giving it to the assembly on a weekly basis so that no special offering would need to be taken upon Paul’s arrival. This pattern of giving weekly was not unique to the Corinthians, but was taught in all the churches of Galatia.

The collection was to be taken on the first day of the week. The Lord’s Supper is the only assembly meeting that is always and exclusively associated with the first day of the week. So we may conclude that the practice of taking a weekly collection at the Lord’s Supper is fully consistent with the pattern practiced by the early churches and the teaching of the apostles.

Thirdly, holding the collection as part of the Lord’s Supper complies with the principles by which the Apostle Paul and others operated in the early Church age. From the writings of Paul and John we can see that the apostles went to great lengths to ensure that the gospel was offered free of charge. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge” (2 Cor 11:7 ESV).

Speaking of early evangelists, John wrote, “For they have gone out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles” (3 John 7). To hold collections at gospel meetings would violate these principles and blur the reality that the gospel is available free of charge. To take collections during ministry meetings and Bible study meetings where unbelievers may be present would not follow the direction of the apostles and early evangelists who were careful not to take money from those whom they were trying to reach with the gospel. Taking the collection on Sunday morning is the only solution that allows us to operate in harmony with the principles by which the disciples operated.

The collection of funds at the Lord’s Supper is Scripturally based. It recognizes the worshipful character of giving, it follows the pattern of the early churches, and it is consistent with the principles by which the early disciples operated.