It’s a disturbing precedent.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (January 31, 1990), Clark University is offering students a money-back guarantee on — of all things — student cafeteria food.
Anyone who recalls four or more years of dining hall cuisine will share my astonishment at the Worcester, Mass., school’s bold action. With this guarantee, the school does ask displeased student customers to first meet with the dining-hall manager and discuss reasonable alternatives before they receive a refund.
Still for those of us who vividly remember meals of “mystery meat” drenched in gravy (aiding the sense of mystery, I suppose), this kind of offer is quite remarkable.
The danger is that the idea may spread.
For example, Pastor Smith is greeting members following a typical Sunday service when along comes Mr. Jones — choir member and life-trustee. Pastor Smith extends his hand to greet Mr. Smith when he suddenly hears:
“Pastor, I’m afraid that service this morning wasn’t much of a blessing to me. You went a bit long, and I didn’t think that illustration about the two donkeys made a bit of sense. In fact, the whole sermon this morning just left me cold. I’m afraid I’m going to ask for my offering back.”
With this kind of system, a few weak sermons and the whole church budget is shot to smithereens.
And if you that’s where it stops, just think again. Pastor Smith is soon paying a visit to the Dean of the seminary where he graduates fifteen years earlier:
“Dean, I’ve got to level with you. When I was in school here, you didn’t do too bad teaching me church history and theology, but I’m afraid the New Testament and preaching classes just weren’t up to snuff. In fact, my sermons have been suffering from this poor training ever since. I’ve just got to request a refund of my tuition.”
Seminaries all over America will be dripping into the endowment funds soon if such a policy spreads.
Just imagine the chaos that might ensue: young people demanding refunds when they fail to find inspiration on a youth retreat, churches demanding refunds on Sunday School literature that’s not being used by enough pupils; TV evangelists facing refund appeals from view who find that TV-church isn’t as meaningful as worshipping with a local congregation.
Wait a second. We might be on to something with that last one.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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