September 25th, 2011
08:11 PM ET
From Rachel Garrett, CNN
(CNN) – A New Jersey church - already a bit different in that its three congregations gather weekly at two hotels and a middle school - put a new spin on the collection plate Sunday by having congregants take cash-filled envelopes from the plate in hopes that the money will be put to charitable use.
"People are cynical about religion and expect to come to church and be shaken down, but really, it's all God's money," Liquid Church pastor Tim Lucas said prior to Sunday services. "Every bill in the U.S. economy says 'In God we trust,' and we're going to put that to the test."
The Morristown, New Jersey-based nondenominational Christian church claims to collect $30,000 in weekly offerings from its three congregations, which gather at hotel facilities in Morristown and New Brunswick, and at a middle school in Nutley. The 10-year-old church, which says in its materials that more than 2,000 people attend its weekend services, planned to disperse that same amount - $30,000 - on Sunday, with congregants getting envelopes containing $10, $20 and $50 bills.
The goal, said Lucas, is for people to invest or use the money to help others, including those struggling to recover from recent massive flooding in New Jersey. He said he hopes others will invest their funds, nurture the investment for growth, and then donate the proceeds to the church to rebuild a homeless shelter.
Lucas, along with the pastors at the New Brunswick and Nutley branches of Liquid Church, is putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak, with this project.
"We're not a rich church. We don't own a building. We don't hold a mortgage, but we're trying to teach our people to be rich in good deeds," says Lucas, who founded the church and took its name from the church motto: "Jesus calls himself the living water, and we think church should be refreshing."
Executive Pastor Dave Brooks told CNN that the effort was aimed at impacting "our communities. Our emphasis is here in New Jersey, with hopes we can impact those who were affected by the floods of (Hurricane) Irene."
Beyond flood victims, Brooks said, there are people who simply need help.
"A lot of people are really suffering financially these days and looking for the government for a way out. We feel God can provide help for people," said Brooks. "We encourage people to work from the standpoint of generosity. Many people say 'In God we trust.' If you turn that around, God trusts you. We give money that God entrusted to us."
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