Pastor Steve Poe of Northview Church in Carmel, Ind., recently did something truly eyebrow raising with his church's tithe. As TheBlaze previously reported, on Jan. 12 the house of worship divided up $83,000 and handed out individual envelopes filled with cash to each adult member of the congregation.
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Poe told TheBlaze that the central goal of the surprise initiative was to inspire Christians to use the cash to do good in their communities.
We spoke with the preacher about the inspirational stories that are already emerging surrounding how the money was used to enrich others' lives.
Considering that 5,600 adults received envelopes each filled with between $10 and $50, there are already thousands of stories emerging surrounding how the cash was used.
Poe shared one anecdote about a restaurant owner who attends Northview Church. The businessman recently noticed that one of his employees was really depressed, so he inquired to find out what was the matter.
"She told him that her 21-year-old son died on New Year's Day and he was surprised," Poe said.
When the restaurant owner asked the woman why she was at work following such a monumental loss, her answer truly moved him.
"She said, 'Because I've got to earn the money for his funeral,'" Poe recounted.
After hearing this, the man took out the envelope he received from the church, added some of his own cash to it and gave it to his employee. Then, he was inspired to go on Facebook, where he posted about her plight; donations then started coming in from others who wanted to help pay for the funeral.
Citing another example, Poe said a woman's car had run off the road and was subsequently impounded, as she had no insurance or money for a tow. In the midst of a terrible situation, the cop -- an attendee of the church -- decided to help.
"The police officer took the daughter to daycare and the mother to work," Poe explained. "Before she got out of the car, he explained to her what the church had just done. He reached in his pocket and gave her the money."
Then there was the local farmer who used the church's money to buy and plant seeds, pledging to donate whatever comes from the two acres of land to a Christian ministry following the next harvest.
The stories are clearly diverse in their impact and scope -- but the overall lesson is clear.
Poe said that he used the reverse tithe as an opportunity to provide an analogy to his Jan. 12 sermon, which focused on properly managing financial resources.
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"The message that day was on the fact that God is the owner of everything -- that we are just stewards of God's stuff and that we have a responsibility to be good stewards," he said.
After opening the envelopes, church members were surprised to find money in them. Poe was quick to explain that this money was not theirs and that it needed to be used for good.
"My statement to them was, 'You need to know this is not your money. This money belongs to the church, this money belongs to God,'" he recounted. "'I'm encouraging you to go out and be good stewards.'"
Poe said that the experience really caused parishioners to think long and hard about where they wanted to invest the money. This, of course, provided another teachable moment that the pastor used to drive home the importance of being generous with congregants' own personal income.
He told them, "You spent so much time thinking about what you were going to do with $20 -- that's what God wants you to do with your entire paycheck."
When asked, though, what he would say to critics who would claim that some people possibly misused the money that was allotted, Poe had a simple answer: "That's between them and God."
In the end, it isn't all about that personal money management lesson. Poe really hopes that the community is blessed by the $83,000 that was distributed.
This isn't the first time that Northview Church has offered a reverse tithe, as Poe did something similar nine years ago. While he said he won't wait quite as long to do it again, it likely won't be an annual tradition.
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