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swipe your card for jesus September 28, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in business, religion.

I just can not pass this one up: Pam over at Pandagon found an article on church ATMs. Yes, they are exactly what you think they are: tithing machines for the new generation. The best part is that SecureGive, the pastor of Stevens Creek Community Church’s for-profit company, is installing these automated ushers at other churches for $2,000 to $5,000, plus a $50 monthly fee and 1.9% of each transaction is shared between SecureGive and a card-processing company. Things that make you go hmmm… Just wondering, when Jesus returns do you think he will storm into Stevens Creek and overturn the tables… I mean… ATM machines?

In all honesty, I can not believe that this has not happened sooner. Ever since the Calvinists admitted that knowing who was Christ’s elect was a matter of earthly success, Christianity never has been the same (I doubt many Calvinists continue that belief – but many evangelicals do). I doubt that John Calvin had the perverted Prosperity Gospel movement in mind when he first came up with his “unconditional election” doctrine, but c’est la vie. One has to wonder whether Mr. Baker, owner of SecureGive and pastor of Stevens Creek, watched The Simpsons episode when Mr. Burns takes over the Springfield Church (which led to Lisa’s meeting with Richard Gere) and actually thought it was a good idea.

Maybe I am being a little harsh on Mr. Baker. I admit that I was wierded out about the idea even before I heard that his personal company is profitting from the venture. Sure, there is no difference between using my debit card at a gas station and for giving tithing. Churches should not be afraid of change. The problem though is that change, as many Christians know, is not inherently positive. Mr. Baker’s proclaims that his motives are innocent: bringing the church into the 21st century. If this was true, I would pat him on the back. However, the fact that he is making a business out of tithing pretty much puts him into the “money changers” category, don’t you think?

And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” – Matthew 21:12-13

What do you think? What is the principle of the above passage and does it correlate to the business of SecureGive? We do not exactly sacrifice pigeons and cattle anymore, but Christians certainly give monetary tithings (which is a modern replacement for sacrifices). The people who sold the animals for sacrifices made a business within the temple courts, thus profiting from the commandment to tithe. The issue here, most Biblical scholars would agree, was not so much that it was in the temple, but it was for the temple. But hey, Jesus was American, not Jewish, right? – so who cares about those silly Jewish temple laws?



1. aliveagain - September 29, 2006

There is something slightly creepy to me about ATM’s being used to collect an offering, but I do stop by one on the way to church most Sundays to get some cash for the plate.

Obviously, the card processer is going to charge a percentage, so I guess it makes sense that this guy would want to make a percentage, too.

Still, something about it just doesn’t sit well with me.

I don’t understand your comment about Jesus being American. Maybe it was sarcasm? The story you are referring to from the Bible actually appears in the New Testament, which Jews apparently don’t believe in.

2. brad richert - September 29, 2006

Yes, it was sarcasm. Many Christians believe that they can disregard many of Jesus’ teachings because they were in response to Jewish laws. Yes, the story happens in the New Testament, but Jesus’ actions were in response to theviolation of Jewish teachings against selling and money changing within the Temple courts.

3. khalidmir - September 30, 2006

Brad, didn’t know whther to laugh or cry reading that.
I’ve got some similar reflections on my blog. ‘Other side of the Pond’:

A freind just came back from Ital and herad an american kid standing outside the leaning tower of pisa say:

“Is that another Chuch..’cos if it is, I’s telling ya i aints gonna go, hell no..even if sweet Mary-mother-of-jesus comes down herself I ain’t seeing no more god-damned chuches”

I kid thee not.

4. Marty Baker - September 30, 2006

Thanks for mentioning SecureGive.com. As you know the media cannot tell the whole story, but overall the L.A. Times was very fair and accurate. About profiting from the percentage: Yes when a peson uses a credit card a few pennies will flow to SecureGive. What most of our installations have opted for is Debit Card Giving. With a debit card, the church would pay approimately a dollar for the donation regardless of the size. A thousand dollar tithe would cost a dollar to process. Yesterday we paid the US Post Office 1.04 postage on the “Business Reply” envelopes we send out to members. Those types of fees are part of the business of the church.

Here’s what the article cannot say and that is: Stevens Creek has a heart for people in our community. This summer alone we have baptized 50 individuals. The church started with 24 people in a borrowed living room in 1987 and today it has over 1100 regular attenders. God is doing a work.

We consider SecureGive a tool that will help other church reach their stewardship potential. I cringed when they called it “ATM for Jesus”. We call it a giving kiosk. We are not trying to embrace the world, just reach them for Christ.

Keep blogging and may the Lord bless you.

— Marty

5. brad richert - September 30, 2006

There you have it. Marty Baker is the Paster of Steven’s Creek Community Church. It is always helpful to have both sides of the story. Being heavily involved in church politics and finances myself, I know that there principles within churches are often a fuzzy area. I am personally sensitive to the profiteering, no matter how miniscule, within churches. The article which I read did make SecureGive out to be a for-profit company, not merely a non-profit tool. The article also quoted Mr. Baker’s wife, Patty, saying that if they got rich from the new idea, they would give a considerable sum to the church.

The fear of technology as a critique, however, is unfortunate. I think the key for the Bakers is to make sure they are aware of the Biblical ramifications of their actions.

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