Posted by: Pastor Terry Hagedorn | January 19, 2009


Every church must raise funds from time to time for special projects. There is nothing inherently wrong with that activity. However, that activity is fraught with dangers. Remember how that Paul gave the most stringent instructions concerning the handling of collections and special love offerings. (I Cor. 16:1-4,11 Cor. 8 ) So, even Paul, had to raise funds. We all have to raise funds for special projects. It seems to be part and parcel of the ministry. One well known pastor says that when he dies that his epitaph will probably read, “And.. .the beggar died’ (Luke 16:22).

It has been my experience that we are most likely to lean toward the flesh—no matter how spiritual we think we are—when it comes to money. We all need to remember that anything we accomplish with the help of the arm of the flesh, can never be the blessing it would be if we were to allow the Lord to do the work.

In 1993, lifting a pew gave me an epigastric hernia (that’s above the navel). I had to have surgery to correct it. I was almost killed by a pew! Yes, a strangulated bowel can be fatal. What’s worse is that the surgical cure can also kill you—just ask the anesthesiologist. Just before the surgery he cheers you up and says, “You may bleed to death, you may have a stroke, you may get gangrene, you may never wake up, you may have a heart attack, we may accidentally take something out that we shouldn’t, etc. sign this so we can get started” AND, YOU’RE ACTUALLY CRAZY ENOUGH TO SIGN IT!

How did I ever get into that mess?

The same way a lot of my fellow preachers get into messes. The curse of fund raising! When we moved into our new building in 1985, we could not afford to buy new pews. So, we brought the old pews from our old building. Although these pews had a certain class about them, there is nothing so depressing as old pews in a brand new auditorium. It’s like buying a new car with seats from a junked car in it. These pews were not junk. They were solid one inch oak. The seat, back, and end pieces were made of single boards! They were beautiful and heavy. There were twenty-one pews: there were seven ten footers and fourteen five footers. The ten footers weighed in excess of two hundred and fifty pounds—just enough to give you a hernia—give or take a pound or two.

As beautiful as the pews were, they were a torture rack to sit on. The back was straight. This means that unless you sat as straight backed as a debutante at her coming out party—or Frankenstein at the blind man’s house— your back was going to hurt. Secondly, the seat edge cut into the back of one’s legs. Folks complained about their legs going to sleep. It was so embarrassing. When some people got up, they were not aware that their legs had fallen asleep, and they would crumple to the ground like they were “slain in the spirit”. A good Baptist cannot tolerate that! And, the constant whining about “how much better it would be if we just had new pews” can make an otherwise good pastor do some dumb carnal things.

When you’re given into carnality and when you don’t trust the Lord to give you new pews through more spiritual means, then you must connive some method to procure them for yourself. Well, this dastardly plot usually involves a holy promotion (a gimmick), a hefty thermometer and a hard sell. Two of those things are carnal. Permit me to explain. The gimmick was this: First, determine how many new pews you’ll need. Twenty-two twelve footers? They will cost $427 a piece. That is $9,394 Right? Okay, then divide the number of old pews into that amount. Since that is more toes and fingers than everybody in the church has—just round it off to $400. Now, here is the promotion: everyone who donates $400 gets one of the old pews! ‘Which church members must arrange for a truck to pick up by themselves the day before the new pews come.” Do not offer to deliver.

No doubt you are asking, ‘$400 a piece. ..but…but. some of them are five footers and some are ten footers.. .how can they all be worth $400? Some of them are in better condition than others—how can you be fair?” Calm down. Where there is a will of the flesh—there is a way of the flesh! I will explain all this a little later. The thermometer is usually made on a big white poster board. In this case, there are twenty-two gradations—each marking a $400 increment. The bulb of the thermometer is filled with that amount of money that you couldn’t ‘cipher (the remainder from $9,394 divided by 21 old pews @$400/piece). You must get one of the men, who can figure that amount out, to make a motion in the next business meeting “to retroactively place (that amount) into the Pew Fund—as reflected by the Big Pew Thermometer hanging in the back.”

Be prepared for possible trouble from the floor. If no one else shows up for a business meeting, you can always count on a parliamentarian, prude, and a peacock to be there! Sometimes they are the same person (an unholy trinity— of sorts). They or he/she are convinced that it is their calling to question everything—every single thing you do. So they question the ethics, fiscal wisdom, legality and constitutionality of that move. Picky! Picky! Picky! Don’t those folks understand that even sound and wise arguments are of no value to a man or church possessed with a “project”. Besides that, we’ve already got the big thermometer made! It is do or die! It’s the principle of the thing! It’s the NEW pews—and how good that they’ll make “our church” look. Don’t worry. Just ride out reasoning—wise and otherwise! Threaten to quit—if you have to!—but stand your ground.

You ask, “How will it be fair to give one person a five foot pew and another a ten foot pew for the same $400 ‘gift’?” Easy! You “cast lots” claiming Acts 1:26 as your authority. You just number the pews one to twenty-two. You put slips of paper numbered one to twenty-two in the offering plate and let everyone draw the number of their pew! Isn’t that simple?

Now, to get off to a good start on the Pew Drive: 1. PRIME THE PUMP. 2.USE A HARD SELL.

Pastor, you should give the first check on the first Sunday of the big Pew Fund Drive. Do it with no small fanfare. Make certain that everyone sees you place that first check into the collection. Make some remark about, “If my wife and I can do this….” Then use the hard sell. Brow beat the deacon(s), trustees, teachers, nursery workers, your children, etc. to do the same—and you’re half-way home. (Guilt is such a powerful force for getting things done— especially for raising money. Just look at the TV evangelists. Don’t use, “If I don’t get this money—God is going to call me home!” That’s already been used. It works but it will ruin your ministry. You need to be original with your gimmick.)

Well, it may not be pretty but it works’ We were able to raise the funds in four months time. Consequently, I became the proud owner of a ten foot long pew However, I had nowhere in my house for the same. So, I put it in the workshop area of my barn— “Where there is plenty of room,” I assured my wife. However there must be some unwritten law of. physics that states something like, “A pew’s area is equal to the biggest nuisance squared.” Somehow that pew was where it would always be in the way. It was a curse. It became a clutter collector. Worse yet, it would attack me! Whenever I walked past it—especially if I was carrying something large and cumbersome—it would jump out in front of me and hit me in the shin! Well, one day it attacked me— one time too many! This was getting personal. It was either that pew or me. One of us had to go! This town—this barn, at least—was too small for the both of us!

It repented me that I had ever “earned” the pew. What was I to do? “I know!”, I thought to myself, “I’ll put it in the loft of the barn!” Isn’t it funny how the stupidest idea always seems like such a good idea—at first?

The pew was solid one inch oak. It seemed like it weighed a ton. The pew had to go up through a three foot by three foot access to get it into the loft. The pew was thirty six inches high; however, by carefully twisting and turning the pew, I felt that I could easily work the pew into the loft through the square opening. Isn’t it funny how the stupidest idea always seems like such a good idea—at first?

I stood the pew on end, climbed into the loft and reached down to start pulling up the pew. I had to reach so far down that I almost fell through! I barely caught myself. My life past before my eyes—it stopped with a newspaper headline, “Pastor Killed By Pew”.

Finally, I grasped it. I did a “clean and jerk” to my feet. (I think weight lifters call it a “clean and jerk”—l don’t know why because there was nothing clean about it.) Then my foot went through the rotten floorboards of the hayloft. Dust flew everywhere. I was gagging and choking. I fell to my one knee with my other leg protruding through the ceiling of the workshop area of the barn—a kind of “a dirty and jerk”. (I think that I heard the pew snicker.) Somehow, I got back up. I got the pew in a bear hug hold and started to shimmy it up into the loft. Some things can be shimmied—some can’t. A pew can’t.

I was so involved in shimmying that I forgot about the middle leg. The middle leg got stuck on the access panel opening. It was really stuck. I just thought that it had gotten heavier— or, I had gotten weaker.

“I just need a little more oomph,” I thought. Well, I now know what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object: you get a hernia. If you’re fortunate, it is, “Hey! I just popped the snap on my britches”, If you are being chastised by the Lord, then you just “popped” an epigastric hernia—above the navel.

The corrective surgery hurts more than all the pews in the world are worth! Believe me. Do what you will; however, I hope that my pew fund raising days are over!

I know that my pew raising days are over! The next time I have to raise money, I am going to do things differently. I will use a thermometer, however, I promise that I will never use another gimmick. I will never hard sell anything ever again. If the Lord’s in it—then the funds will come in without using the world’s tactics. AND, if the Lord’s not in—then you don’t want a pew for a prize. BELIEVE ME! I WAS ALMOST KILLED BY A PEW!

– Pastor Hagedorn


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