I'd like to offer a suggestion about the comments that are made in our assemblies just before the Lord's Day contribution. If there is one comment that we hear more than any other, it is something like this: "If you are visiting with us, this is not a solicitation for your funds. The contribution is an obligation of the members here, and we don't want you to feel that you have to participate."
Another frequently heard comment is that the collection is being taken up "as a matter of convenience." I know we have reference to the timing of the collection at that point ("while the men are still up here"), but it often leaves the impression that the contribution itself is not really required; we only do it "as a matter of convenience."
Together these comments often deliver a one-two punch that diminishes the importance of the contribution. A visitor who didn't know anything about our services might reasonably conclude that this is not a very significant part of our service and that, in fact, we are a little embarrassed about it ourselves. Out of all the remarks that could be made, if the two main things we want to emphasize are that "visitors don't have to participate" and "this is a matter of convenience," what are we teaching our guests about the value of the contribution?
I know it is not our intent to apologize for the contribution; if we leave that impression, I'm sure it is accidental. But in the attempt to make a couple of practical points, we may be conveying a message we don't really want to convey. (We preachers struggle with this all the time; in addition to the signals we're intending to send, we send some others that are not as helpful.) Communication is, after all, a tricky business, and all of us are prone to error (Proverbs 10:19). But this is not an argument for giving up; it's just an argument for being careful -- and for trying to "hear" what others actually hear when we speak.
The "visitors" and "convenience" points may need to be made occasionally, but do they need to be made so often? There are so many good things that might be said, we need not limit ourselves to comments like these. As with remarks before the Lord's Supper, perhaps the men could spend more time thinking about what needs to be said prior to the collection. What are the thoughts that would be most helpful in preparing us to do this as the Lord would want us to do it? It's a matter that merits some prayerful thought by the one who is presiding.
In regard to the Lord's Day contribution, then, let's work on several things: (1) let's recognize the honorableness of this activity as a part of the Lord's plan for the church, (2) in our remarks before the contribution, let's be sure our visitors know that we see it as important, and (3) let's convey our gratitude for the privilege of helping to support the most important work in this world, the work of the gospel.