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Tuesday, December 19, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Church rebate offer

I'm an ex-Christian will a story that you may have never heard before.

After 16 years of being an ex-Christian, I decided to see if I could get a refund on the money that I tithed to the church over the eight years that I was a believer. My years in the faith were divided between two different fellowships. I contacted my last pastor, and requested a refund of the money that I donated. He agreed to a refund and I am currently receiving a monthly check from them.

Even if you don't have documentation (I didn't either) of your giving, you might be able to get your money back.....I did, and let me tell you...it is so sweet!!

How did I do it?

First here is a short testimony:

I got 'saved' back in 1981. I attended a non-denominational church for about five years. I then left that fellowship and began attendance at Calvary Chapel. I became the worship/music minister. After three years I left the church. This was around 1989.

My experience with leaving the church is pretty typical. I was burned out on spending all my time and effort dealing with the music ministry. I left the church on very good terms with the pastor.

In the years that followed my leaving, I read and researched for answers to all the questions that had troubled me during my service to gods kingdom. I did not trust my pastor or fellow Christians to give me straight answers to my questions. After years of independent research, I now consider myself to be an atheist.

In my reflection on the years I spent in the ministry, I realized that I could never get back the time that I had invested. But maybe I could, at least receive back some of the money I had given.

I believed that whenever I put my tithe in the offering box, I was giving back to god. It was already 'his money'. I believed that the matter was totally between me and god. The church was simply the 'bagman' for my contribution.

Since my de-conversion, I now understand that I was psychologically manipulated into handing over ten percent of my income to the church. The pastor preaches about giving in such a way that if you don't give according to his scriptural interpretation, you are not a REAL Christian. This made me think: If I'm giving money to the church for the work of god, then it is a transaction strictly between myself and god. So....if I change my mind, and want my money back, the church should honor my request in the same way that they honored my contribution. It made sense to me.

I then contacted (via email) my ex-pastor and POLITELY requested a refund of all the money I had donated to the church in the time that I had been attending there. He admitted that he found the request unusual, but was willing to honor my wish.

Then it got down to business: Did I have any documentation of my contributions? Not really..... It had been over 16 years since my attendance at the fellowship, and I had not kept any records going back that far. Either had the church. The IRS could have given me documentation of my charitable donations for the years in question, but they would only show that donations had been claimed. The IRS docs would not show an itemization of who received the contribution. No help there. The bank account on which I wrote the checks had been closed and the branch was no longer in business.

It came down to this: My appeal was directly to my ex-pastor. He knew that I was completely dedicated (spiritually and financially) to the ministry while at the fellowship. He knew that I was trustworthy. Because we had such a close and friendly relationship during my years at the church, he simply put me in communication with the church accountant. The accountant and I negotiated an estimate of what my contributions probably amounted to, and we arrived at a dollar figure. They now are making monthly payments and I pinch myself every time the check arrives.

If this all sound too simple and unreal, understand this....For the sake of time, I have left out MANY details of the story. The only thing that I will add to this introduction, is the fact that all my correspondence with the pastor, secretary, and accountant was always pleasant, respectful, and to the point. At no time was I ever threatening or critical. I never discussed my personal spiritual opinions. I requested (not demanded) a refund of any amount that they would feel to be fair. My goal was to see if they believed what they had taught from the pulpit. Luckily for me, it appears they do.

I would suggest that before you begin a similar project, that you get all the information available in regards to your particular churches' policies on the subject of donations.

.....GOOD LUCK!!

Billy Braun