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September 25th, 2011
08:11 PM ET

N.J. church reverses money flow, collection plate holds cash for congregants

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."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Money & Faith

soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Hmm

    I find it interesting that atheists have nothing better to do with their lives than trash other people's faith. Believe it or not, atheism is a religion of it owns. Per the dictionary, one definition of religion is: "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith". Based on how adamant the atheists on this blog are, I'm pretty sure of their faith and ardor in their belief God does not exist. Atheism ... the religion of the self-righteous, narcissist.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • hippypoet

      right so your clearly worth talking to being as dumb as you are......atheisism or however you spell is a lack of belief not a belief system... you make me sad!

      go play back in your sand box, leave the thinking to the adults

      September 26, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Chuckles

      Well Hmmm,

      I will be part of the religion of atheism when you admit that you aren't a christian, but you are actually an Amuslim/Ajew/Ahindu/Aanyotherreligionoutthere, then we would be in agreement,

      Saavy?

      September 26, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • bob

      athiests dont have *fiath* in the non existence of god. but rather we come to that conclusion based upon the evidence. a belief based upon evidence is not faith, and therefore not religion. nice try.

      BTW, it's not that we have nothing better to do, but rather the fact that it's amusing to watch you jesus freaks. you are so cute and adorable in your naivety. we cant help but say 'awww' and play with you for a while. just like a retarded kitten.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Nonimus

      Atheism is a rejection of "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs."

      September 26, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Hmm

      Nice try, hippypoet. Atheism has become a belief system. They even have their own website and are trying to gain followers, not to mention billboards with their website scrawled across it. Oddly, it quite sounds like a religion to me. At any rate, the definition of atheism is simply a lack of belief in God or other supreme being. The atheism religion believes there is no God. They even collect money to convince others that their belief is the correct one. Don't believe me? Look it up yourself. They operate like a megachurch. Click on the support link on top of atheists dot org to donate to their collection plate today!

      September 26, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "They even have their own website and are trying to gain followers, not to mention billboards with their website scrawled across it."
      Iowa Hawkeyes have a website too but they arent a religion either.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • hippypoet

      wow...dude you really are this stupid... your arguement is because others are saying/doing it, it makes it so... LOL... i'm sure that was the same thought jesus had too when he made the choice to lie to everyone with his lies about heaven and his "god daddy" the reason – everyone is doing it and they feed there messiahs, i am hungry, so i am a messiah..yay, i am no longer hungry... most common people are generally ignorant of everything but what they do in there daily lives... religion is a faith based belief system with a higher power at its focal point... because some people who think they know things are taking advange of dumb people like you, you use them as an arguement – now thats grand!

      lets try this one more time – religion – please insert the REAL definition here, or shut up and go away for your words unless the definition will be wasted ones. best save your breath for the rapture, argue your ignorant beliefs to the horsemen!

      September 26, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Hmm

      It's interesting that you classify a religion as an org that collects money, does that mean that any club or group is a religion? Hmm, you're looking at what religion does to support itself and less at the belief system around it in order to classify it as a religion or not. Sure, churches promote themselves, support themselves through donations, use billboards, commercials and other media outlets to promote themselves and their message. When you single in on what makes a religion though, it's the belief in a supernatural agency being responsible for the creation of the universe, with rituals and observances. Atheism follows none of these.

      You could make the argument that some atheists promote atheism witha relgious zeal or ferocity as their christian/jewish/muslim counterparts, but that does not make a religion.

      Come back when you have something useful and intelligent to add.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Hmm

      Oddly enough the Iowa Hawkeyes reference has nothing to do this with this discussion, as the discussion is related to a belief or non-belief in God. The Iowa Hawkeyes are most likely neutral on the issue. The Iowa Hawkeyes are not sinking millions of dollars into an anti-God campaign intended to convert people into following a God-less lifestyle. The Iowa Hawkeyes are not involved in what is clearly an attempt by atheists to insert themselves into religious discussion in an attempt to convince believers that their way is the only way.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  2. RKen

    Uh, what?

    This congregation takes in $30,000 a week (over $1.5 million a year), and doesn't own a church, have a mortgage, or do anything other than rent (likely for an extreme discount/for free) space from local middle school/hotels?

    Where on earth is the $1.5 million in tax-free donations they're racking in going towards? I'm 'happy' to see they've given back 1/52th of their yearly tax-free income to the people, but I sincerely hope that they're doing far more than just that.

    It’s sickening to think that most of that money is more than likely being pocketed, as much as I wish to believe it wasn’t.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • David

      Hush money ain't cheap.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  3. Mark of Tennessee

    iThis is a good deed, if you are a believer or not.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  4. Mike

    We did this a number of years ago at the church that I lead. I gave out $1 bills to every person in attendance and told them they were God's dollars and challenged them to use them as such. One person has turned that $1 bill into over $5000 in donations to a local charitable organization that serves kids with terminal illnesses. That was one of the best things I have ever done.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  5. Science Prevails

    $30,000 a week? Where do I sign up to start a church?

    September 26, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • cultist

      Start a cult (use the Church of Scientology as a model if need be), be declared a religion, enjoy lifetime tax-free status and use Freedom of Religion to get away with anything

      September 26, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  6. hippypoet

    MerCMe

    "hippypoet, you will be singing a different tune by the end of your life. The very God you mock now will be the very same God you will worship and love before you take your last breath."

    your funny, see... i have been down the dead road already, i have died 3 times in my short life... it was interesting to say the least... 2 times were my fault and the third was the other driver... lets just say that being dead has its uses – it was actually like when i dropped 10 taps of lsd and i saw the universe as one energy and we were nothing but blobs of energy circling the drain of energy... reminded me of einstein, then the law of conservation of matter and energy and how its not possible to destory it nor create any new energy, it simply changes forms.... thats when i truly understood. BUT i'm sure you right, i will totally go running after that god you fear and love so much in order to save my immortal soul.... lol

    September 26, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • steve

      You get your theology from acid trips? Well, that explains a lot.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • hippypoet

      why not steve... many have FOUND "god" while tripping hard... i only have a greater grasp of reality then those who are predisposed to following. And doing lsd was a spiritual adventure, not just me doing drugs... i don't do drugs! i am very spiritual, and have researched many native cultures that doing things to further there understanding... that is percisely what i did. i also have studied more about world religions then i am willing to bet you have... more over i know a great deal of information concerning your beliefs... bet you once again know less then I ... enjoy. 🙂

      September 26, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  7. GotThumbs

    Nice to see a church pastor that really does reflect the mission of a religious leader. Too many 'Mega' Church pastors focus on materialistic goals.... building huge grand churches 'In the name of god' but that money could/ should be going to help people within that churches neighborhood and spreading goodwill towards others and helping each other out of respect. How much money do these 'mega' church pastors get paid? I thought dedicating ones life to god involved giving up worldly desires and goods? This is why I feel churches like the 'Mega' churches are less about faith and more about business. I think 'Mega' churches need to starting paying city and federal taxes. They are businesses and I will never believe otherwise.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • S.R

      I could not agree more. What a racket! This church is trying to gain more "customers" by this give away. They make $30,000 every week, this is just a drop in the bucket. Religion is the biggest scam on the face of the earth. Wake up people there was never a single human being that was a god or talked to a god..... There is a god but it's not in religion.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  8. Eric

    Hes all powerful, all knowing, but for some reason... He just cant handle money!
    -George Carlin

    September 26, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  9. Pastor Evans

    This is surprising and refreshing to see a major media outlet reporting something about what God is doing. God is doing great things all over the world for those of you who might not know this, but often-times you only get bad or tainted reports. Good job CNN!

    September 26, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • hippypoet

      god has nothing to do with people giving away good money.... god normally just burns things, or turns them into salt but then we all end up with all this water weight and i don't need that!

      September 26, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • GotThumbs

      This story seems more about the potential good and respect our fellow man has. God is a driving force, but its each individual man and woman who reflects the good in themselves with each and every act they commit. Be it good or evil. Praise God, but don't forget to praise this TRUE religious leader. He should be a shining example of how a REAL pastor should be. Focus on the flock and less on empire building.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Dres

      God has nothing to do with it. These are people, to call the actions of "so-called Christians" the work of God would mean you have to call the Holocaust and dropping of the atomic bombs the work of God as well.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  10. hippypoet

    there is a church in california that holds mass at 4:20 and has a wall full of bongs... its pretty sweet... i guess when you leave if you run into a cop you could say i am high on god. if you view pot as god.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Chuckles

      Don't Tread on me!! Freeedom of religion dude! Praised be herb, king of the plants and who shows us glimpses of the universe when we inhale him.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • hippypoet

      oh Chuckles... don't get me wrong, i pray to the very same god every day, every morning before work – which also happens to be when i'm on cnn.com more..when i'm high at work! 🙂 pot bless everyone! rememeber kids, hash santa wants the good brownies this year!

      September 26, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Chuckles

      And pot bless back at ya!

      Also, I realize this is off topic but I just realized you asked a question on another thread about prophecies and I didn't answer it! My bad!

      September 26, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • hippypoet

      lol, chuckles...no worries, i think you did answer it, it was about the needed prophecies about becoming the messiah right... yea you went into that nicely... if i remember correctly, the only thing you didn't answer was how many prophecies they were, but u did say u weren't sure.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Chuckles

      The one thing I'm certain of about the amount of prophecies out there about a messiah is that there are way more than just the ones that jesus supposedly fulfilled, which I find funny that people put so much stock into prophecies with an obvious bias towards who they believe fulfills them, but point out that those prophecies fall into a set of large prophecies that jesus DIDN'T fulfill and then they back away and point to him performing miracles, as if that proves it.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  11. derp

    Going to church sucks so horrifically, they now have to pay people to show up.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  12. Gracko

    A fantastic story, but you have to wonder how a church with three congregations that doesn't have its own buildings, a mortgage, utilities to pay for can take in $120,000 a month and not be well-off.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Jesus is God

      They give it back to their community and sending out missionaries into all parts of the world. From the comments on this page, it looks like we need missionaries to come here!

      September 26, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  13. momofbron

    Wow, what a nice thing to do. In this economy, there are so many people who could use that help. What a great church!

    September 26, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  14. oafy44

    Its funny to me that as human people, we can get fired, loose our house, family, posessions, health, ect. and they never give up. They fight for every last drop of air, and in many cases, are better for it and come out better then they were before because of their determination. However, when it comes to the Church, a bad experience at a Church will cause a person to quit religion because they feel it is full of hypocrites. There are many churches in everyones area that are run well and give back to helping others and are not concerned about making money. Most Pastor's actually live modestly and give back to their church, you just don't here about it because the Bible tells us to give without making it known, thus all you here is bad things about Churches. Humans are sinners and Sinners run churches, so they will never be perfect. Next time you try to make an excuse to leave a church and never go back to religion, just remember, Jesus could have made an excuse to not give his life for you and me that day.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Religon is a scam

      Jesus did not give up his life for you or me. Jesus (if there ever was such a person) died because he was caught impersonating god. Stop fooling yourself idiot.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  15. athomeinOK

    The church is trusting in its members to use what they are given to do good. Refer to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Even if you don't believe in God or the Bible, the story has a good meaning. Give it a chance.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Normon

      Never understood this parable. The master tells his servants (slaves?) to invest his money and then gets angry because his least capable servant ("according to each one's capabilities") protects his principal. Sure that's seems bad when the other get a 100% return, but is that realistic? We don't know the time frame, so who knows, but there very easily could have been losses, then the 1 bagger servant would have been the hero.

      Not to mention that it doesn't seem as if the servants (slaves?) get anything for their effort. They handled probably a lifetime's worth of wages for this "master" and didn't get squat for it. Even Scottrade charges $7 per trade and brokerage commissions are even higher.

      Not sure what this parable is supposed to be teaching.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  16. Elvis A

    To hippypoet, what is it with you non believers that regardless of The Church doing what is supposed to be a good deed to you guys is nothing but just another scam? Perhaps you should stop smoking that funny stuff that got you stock in the 70's. It might clear your mind and provide you with better judgement. Still GOD loves those who are just as silly as you are.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • hippypoet

      i was just making a joke... the church a joke in my mind for paying for there sits to be filled... not saying what they are doing is bad, its nothing more then an advertising campain...but i would like it if they kept at it, more people now more so then ever need the helpping hand. i offer whatever help i can when i can, both i have a 5 month old back at the house, so i can only help so much. my five year old and i went on a tree planting campain over this past summer – see, we gave people air and we walked around all day taking huge gasps of air so people would ask why, then we got to answer we just planted new trees and are testing the air – seems good here shed say, then i reply – yup, next spot! it was fun... but we didn't get anything but smiles and air out of it... as good as this act is, its still shallow in its efforts to bring people back to a builing... if you wanna worship christ or whoever – good for you, but you don't need a building to have thoughts, prayer, give thanks... all those can be done at home, or in the park....closer to god then any church – if god exists that is.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Dres

      Honestly. We look at you Christians the same way. Can't do a good deed without expecting a pat on the back.

      You divide the world into believers and non-believers. You capitalize The Church although Jesus never endorsed a church.

      And you have extremely ignorant and outdated puritan beliefs about marijuana that has nothing to do with Jesus' precepts either.

      So for those reasons nonbelievers find Christians ridiculous.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  17. Phil in Oregon

    I went to church one day, and put in a prayer request because my truck had been in the shop for 20 days or so. As he read the request, the pastor said, "Since the message was about how we have all things in common, Larry, stand at the door and if anyone has anything to help Phil and his family on the way out, give it to Larry" The stack of bills was 2" thick. And that wasn't even what I asked for.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  18. The Guy

    As if churches paying people for their religious allegiance is new...

    September 26, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      I always appreciate a church that wants to do things differently. Churches and other Christian Org's(like Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) have done wonderful things for people in need.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • The Guy

      Yes all wonderful things indeed. Like other churches and christian orgs preaching that contraception increases chances of contracting AIDs/HIV or molesting children. Glad you christianity as a all pros and no cons.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  19. buck

    Good thing all we have to do is pray our debt away. I am working on doing that to my credit cards right now...

    September 26, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  20. hippypoet

    AND GOD SAID ONTO MAN "PLEASE GO TO MY CHURCH" AND THE PEOPLE DID REPLY BACK SAYING "NO OH HOLY FATHER, WE SHALLN'T GO FOR OUR POCKETS ARE TOO EMPTY TO BARE THE BURDEN OF CHARITY" GOD SAID – "NAH ITS COOL, TODAY I'M PAYING YOU!" AND THERE WAS MUCH REJOICING...THEN SATAN JUMPS OUT AT THE END AND SCREAMS "THANK YOU FOR YOUR SOULS" THEN HE RUNS PAST GOD TOSSING THE HIGH FIVE, GOD TOTALLY GOES FOR IT, BUT BAM – SATAN LEAVES HIM HANGIN...WHAT A JOKER THAT GUY! just like the church, a joke, paying so people attend...thats a sign of the end if i ever saw one!

    September 26, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • MerCMe

      hippypoet, you will be singing a different tune by the end of your life. The very God you mock now will be the very same God you will worship and love before you take your last breath.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • ματηετεσ

      Man, you are angry. What happened?
      Why should I care?
      Well... why shouldn't I care? You are bleeding all over the page.
      What gives?

      September 26, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • hippypoet

      not mad, not anger... just sickened at peoples ignorances.... whats up with you?

      September 26, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • ματηετεσ

      I understand.
      What would help?
      I understand the hypocritical thing. I became an skeptic when people prayed in public and screwed their girlfriends during the week. Then I looked inward and saw I was an idiot too. I was a skeptic because of two-faced hypocrisy.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • hippypoet

      i have already peered into my inner self... i am me, and me is who i am... i got it down. but what still confuses me is the belief in a "god" figure... it makes no sense. all things make sense, logic, and come to a point... religion has no point, doesn't try to make sense, and the idea of an almighty being who is perfect is illogical.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • ματηετεσ

      Logic – how much of our life is illogical?
      Getting on an airplane defies logic.
      How do you define imperfect?

      September 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.