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What is an offertory?

Question: "What is an offertory?"

In evangelical circles, an offertory is usually the musical selection played during the “passing of the plate” as offerings are received in church. The word offertory can also refer to the time during the service in which the donations are given or to the donations themselves. In Catholicism, the offertory is part of the service of the Eucharist. The time during the ceremony when the bread and wine are brought and placed on the altar is called the offertory. The offertory is often paired with alms-giving.

Different churches have different procedures for the offertory. Often, the receiving of the offering is accompanied by music or prayer or both. Some denominations hold the offertory at the end of the service, and some in the middle. There is no instruction in the Bible to govern the offertory ceremony, so churches are free to receive gifts in the manner of their choosing. Tithing is commanded in the Old Testament, and the court of the temple in Jesus’ day had containers set up to receive tithes and voluntary offerings (Mark 12:41). Under the New Covenant, the command is to give generously. In the early church in Jerusalem, worshipers brought their voluntary gifts to the apostles and laid them at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:35, 37). Churches in Macedonia and Achaia took up collections for their brethren in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). It seems, from 1 Corinthians 16:2, that offerings were normally collected “on the first day of every week.” The formal procedure of the offertory, however, is not mentioned in Scripture.

God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and, when we give with glad and generous hearts, whether the money goes into an offertory plate, a bag on a pole, a box in the back, or the hand of someone in need, it is pleasing in God’s sight.

Recommended Resource: How to Worship Jesus Christ: Experiencing His Manifest Presence by Joseph Carroll

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