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Church Meeting in Tertullian – Part 2

Posted by on Jul 15, 2008 in church history, scripture | 6 comments

This blog posts continues my short series on a passage in Tertullian’s Apology that deals with church meetings around 200 AD. The first entry in this series was called “Church Meeting in Tertullian – Part 1“. The following passage from chapter 39 follows from the passage in the previous post:

Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are, as it were, piety’s deposit fund. For they are not taken thence and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession.

This passage obviously deals with money. The church that Tertullian met took up an offering. But, notice what this offering was used for: caring for the poor, orphans, older people confined to their homes, victims of shipwrecks, and those who were being punished in various ways because they were Christians.

It is interesting that this collection was taken monthly, not weekly. Also, it does not appear that believers were required or even asked to give a certain percentage of their income to this collection.

Tertullian was very clear in pointing out that this collection was not used to fund lavish feasts or parties. Some of his pagan opponents were probably suggesting that the Christian’s “Agape” feasts (which are discussed later) were simply drunken orgies. Tertullian is countering this claim by pointing out that the people gave money to support those who were in need – even those who were not part of their specific group of Christians.

What do you think about Tertullian’s description of church collections in 200 AD? How does Tertullian’s description of collections compare to collections (“tithes and offerings”?) today? How does Tertullian’s description compare to Scripture?

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Series:

1. Church Meeting in Tertullian – Part 1
2. Church Meeting in Tertullian – Part 2
3. Church Meeting in Tertullian – Part 3


6 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-15-2008

    I do believe this is much more in line with the example we see of giving described in the New Testament. I think the modern practice of a legalistic tithe and offering contributes to many problems in the church.

  2. 7-15-2008

    I do know that I love when things occur in church – what occurred on Sunday at our church.

    We did have our regular offering BUT we once again (have done it many times), the SP announced about a family in our church that has had medical setbacks – hospital bills, off of work, etc …

    And we gave and the money went to that family to help them get back on their fweet.

    By no means is that going anywhere near the writing we have hear, but it is things that I like to see occur.

    Are we (institutional churches) too far down the road to do a U-TURN and get back to this IF we think this is how it should be ?

  3. 7-15-2008

    What a sensistive subject my brother. Truth be told studies show that 75-80% of all giving goes to overhead, the rest is stored for surplus for the months leading up to the Christmas holiday where giving is down. So lets see where this money goes:

    1. Staff salaries
    2. Building upkeep
    3. Landscaping
    4. other misc cost (printing, office supplies, coffee, etc…)

    Alan I am not being judgmental brother but I struggle when I know I am sitting in a 20MM facility (that is the mid range) and in turn the pastor gets up and talks about being “faithful” stewards. This is sad indeed.

    Finally its funny when the dreaded “money” sermon series comes. And as smart as these fellas are they still refuse to let go of the tithe or the smarter ones use 1 Cor 16, 2 Cor 8-9 to validate “weekly” giving when it fact Paul is calling them on the promise they made which motivated the Philippians to give above what they were able. So Paul is telling to collect what they vowed and give it because they vowed it. He wasn’t starting a building fund or a weekly collection program in Corinth. That came once buidlings had to be funded and man became clergy.

  4. 7-15-2008

    Lionel:

    Thanks (cynical) for pushing a hot button for me.

    (serious)

    I am really struggling and frustrated with this area right now.

    Our community is about to launch circles (move the mountain) to try to eradicate poverty. It is a great ministry, if you are not familiar with it – check it out – it is doing wonders.

    Anyways, in my “dumb” belief. I think that we as a church should give the 1.5 million dollars that we are going to spend on a small addition to end poverty in our community INSTEAD of building a small addition; we can make things work.

    To me, I think we would be a little more biblical but no, let’s build.

    As you mentioned, it is not just us, everychurch it seems is building and building bigger.

    Now, I am on staff and when we do budgets and see the income/expenses, I gasp at times. It is a struggle.

    I am thankful (start) that we are currently giving 20% to missions/outreach .. but still

    *sighs*

    What a way to enter staff meeting in 20 mins :)

  5. 7-15-2008

    What a beautiful description of the way money was given, and the way it was used in the early church. Men could see their good deeds and glorify their Father in heaven.

    Tertullian’s description is like the NT, and different from churches I’ve been in. Believers today are generous when presented with special needs, but our giving for the most part pays for the overhead.

  6. 7-15-2008

    Everyone,

    Thanks for the comments. I agree that Tertullian’s description of church collections is very similar to what we see in Scripture.

    -Alan