The fourth commandment requires us to maintain the ministry of the gospel. It also requires us to attend diligently the church of God to do several things, one of which is to give Christian offerings for the poor. Please see Lord's Day 38 for more on this.
Every service we hold two collections: one for the maintenance of the gospel ministry, and another for the support of the needy. The second collection is either for the local diaconal work or for some other work. E.g., last week we collected for our sister churches in Quebec.
Most Canadian Reformed Churches have only one collection per service, for the needy. They have a box somewhere in the building, usually in the foyer, where the members can deposit their cheques for the ministry of the gospel. The “ministry of the gospel” covers everything included in the budget. Recently we received the church budget for 2010. Everything on it from the minister’s stipend and allowances to rent and insurance has to do with maintaining the gospel ministry. Because we do not own our own building where we could permanently affix a box or drawer of some sort, we have a collection “for the church.”
There is something good about holding a collection “for the church” during the worship service. It is during the services that we receive, in real terms, the benefits which Christ gives us through the church–from sermon to a beautiful place to worship. As the first bag comes by, you have an opportunity to make your regular voluntary contribution for the support of the church’s ministries. It also teaches our children to give for the maintenance of the church. Let us not forget that it also provides a convenient way for visitors to give to the Lord as an expression of thanksgiving for how He blessed them on the Lord's day even though they were away from their own congregations.
The Lord teaches us that we must care for the needy. The second collection is held for the diaconal work either in the congregation or in other places. Every year our deacon comes with a well researched proposal to the consistory as to which outside organizations for which we should hold collections, such as ERQ, Anchor, Campfire!, etc.
As I wrote before, I am very willing to entertain specific questions. One of you asked whether it would be good for the minister also to participate in the collection. I do not know why he does not. This is just a guess, and I may be completely wrong, but I wonder whether it has to do with the style of pulpit in the European churches of old. From pictures you can see that often the pulpit was suspended on the wall or a pillar quite high above the congregation. In a very large building, and before electronic public address systems, this would have aided voice projection. Often the minister had to climb a rather long and narrow circular stairway to enter the pulpit. This would have made it very inconvenient for the deacon to receive a contribution from the minister. But, as I said, I’m guessing here.
In my last congregation the suggestion was made that the minister also contribute. To be entirely honest, I pleaded “No,” not because I do not like to contribute to the ministry of the church and other worthy causes. My reason was very practical: I seldom carry money and I was afraid that I would likely often forget to take money along to church, which would have been embarrassing for both the deacon and me. It is not a very worthy consideration, but that was it. However, times change and I am certainly willing to consider making the change. The consistory asked me to write this series, and to see where we end up once it is over. This, too, is something that we can think about.