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Collection for the Saints

Ministering to the needy requires raising money, and collecting money in church is a sensitive issue that stirs numerous opinions, which can be controversial. The Church has its spiritual message – which is witnessing for Jesus Christ before the whole world and preparing its children for the Kingdom of God. When the Church cares about collecting money, there is skepticism about the basic mission of the Church; this matter is not new in the life of the Church. When the first church cared to serve tables for the Grecian and Hebrew widows, murmuring arose between the Grecians and the Hebrews, and the twelve apostles felt that they were in jeopardy of being absorbed by this ministry that would divert them from preaching the word of God. So, the Church had the option of canceling serving tables – as a safe way to protect the church from complaints and preoccupation from its essential message – or to resolve the matter by finding a solution, and God led the Church to the latter – which we find in the sixth chapter of Acts.

Nowadays, our church in immigrant lands generally, and particularly in America, is careful to minister to the needy in our Mother Church in Egypt, and recently, we started to care for the needy sons of the Church in America; thus, collecting money represents an essential segment in this ministry. Hence, it is not unusual that the ministry for the needy can trigger different and controversial opinions – that can escalate to the level of attack; some view the church as not satisfactorily meeting the needs of our poor brethren in the Mother Church – which the Church here is preoccupied with million-dollar projects such as building churches and youth centers. They see that this money should be channeled to help our brethren in Egypt. Others see that some churches and many organizations raise money for the needy in Egypt, and this concern calls for organization so that expenses and efforts may be saved. Still others want to know the details about the poor people’s needs and how contributions are distributed; they even wish to have correspondence and visits (if possible) with the “Brethren of the Lord” in Egypt. Contrary to that, some see that there is no need to mention these details – which may depict an unpleasant picture about the existence of poor and needy people in Egypt; moreover, contributors should give without being known so as to maintain the dignity of the sons of the Church.

The list of news on this issue is long and requires extensive essays. What makes the situation more complicated is the significance of fund raising has its methods and various means and ways to extent that there are specialists in this area. Many a time, the means and ways of fund raising can be unacceptable tot the Christian and church principles which has associated a negative connotation to fund raising among those who care for the spiritual mission of the church.

Encountering a situation, where opinions vary and differ, is not a new or strong matter in the life of the church, especially in immigrant lands where the church is in a new society that has its own culture, traditions, and customs. Our church in immigrant lands generally, and in America particularly, is going through a transitional stage; it is labor time, that we hope will give birth to a strong fruitful church with deep roots in a new society. Not only will it be a church for immigrants, but it will be an effective church where American citizens can find a vital church that portray a true picture of Jesus’ Church. Consequently, they would feel that is their church-even if they are not of an Egyptian origin.

Still, there is the question of the means to raise money for the needy in a way that is compatible with our Christian and church principles; how do we avoid secular methods from invading the church in this matter? In an attempt to answer this question, I have chosen a model from the First Church of our Fathers, the apostles. Through its study, we can perceive the spirit of the First Church in collecting money. The model, chosen by me, is the Apostle Paul’s project for collecting contributions from the churches which he founded in Achaia and Macedonia (Churches of Corinth, Thessalonia, and Philippi) for the poor and needy in the church of Jerusalem. St. Paul has called the project “Collection for the Saints.” 1Cor.16: 1.

The church of Jerusalem encountered a stringent financial problem as a result of the constant persecution by the Jews and the dearth that took place during the reign of Claudius Caesar, Acts 11:28. The church of Antioch relieved the needy in the church of Jerusalem and sent a gift by the hands of Barnabas and Paul. (Acts 11:29-30).

St. Paul, the apostle, cared for the Church of Jerusalem as he ministered among the Gentiles, and he constantly urged the Gentile Churches to help the poor in the Church of Jerusalem. In his visit to Jerusalem, he went to visit the pillars and apostles, James, Peter, and John, (Gal. 2) St. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to care for the poor-a matter that St. Paul had fostered since the beginning. (Gal. 2:10). During his last visit to Jerusalem, St. Paul states he went to Jerusalem to bring offerings and alms to his nation. “Now after many years, I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. ” Acts 24:17.

St. Paul presents to us – through his Epistle to Romans (Rom. 15:25-27) and his first and second epistles to the Corinthians (1Cor. 16:1-4 & 2Cor. 8&9) a comprehensive thought about the true meaning of collection, how to do it, and the regulations for its success.

We ask the honorable reader to read what St. Paul has mentioned in his Epistle to the Romans, and his two Epistles to the Corinthians, according to the mentioned references, and together, we will have a follow-up so as to be introduced to St. Paul’s thoughts in “The Collection for the Saints.”

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 9, 2009