In a sermon on Sunday, Indiana pastor Steve Poe reminded his congregation that all resources—whether they were time, energy or money—were gifts from God that he had entrusted to humans, before the ushers handed church attendees envelopes filled with $10 to $50 in cash.
Northview Church, in Carmel, Ind., gave away $83,000 to its congregation, a gift that its lead pastor said came with no restrictions or strings attached to it.
"I don't care what you do with it," Poe told RTV6. "I don't care if you give it back to us, or to a homeless person. I don't care what you do with it, as long as you feel like you heard from God on what to do with it."
The pastor did admit that if the congregation did decide to intentionally bless other people or ministries, the donations could have a widespread impact.
"It can do a lot of things, especially if people put money with it and then use it to help others," Poe said.
Many members of the excited congregation expressed their gratitude on the church's Facebook.
"AMAZING service today!! I'm glad to be reminded that everything we have, including our financial resources, is a gift from God. What a way to put it into new perspective this morning!" wrote Angi Natalie Kraus.
Another church-goer said that she was looking forward to hearing stories on how individuals decided to spend their cash.
"I can't wait to hear what God leads our congregation to do with this surprise. ... What a great impact on them and the community," wrote Marcia Wilson Baker on Facebook.
The church, which boasts an average weekly attendance of close-to 5,600 people, also gave away thousands of dollars to its congregation almost a decade ago. The church is currently in the midst of a sermon series called "Vital Signs."
Northview Church has sites in three Indiana cities and has embraced other non-traditional ministry efforts over the years. In October, it canceled worship services to send out 5,000 church volunteers across the region to complete 75 different community projects.
In 2011, Liquid Church in New Jersey gave away $30,000—the amount it said it brought in from a weekly service—back to its congregation in the form of $10, $20 and $50. The church gave away the money with the hope that members of the congregation might invest the initial cash and take the proceeds from the investment and apply them to helping those less fortunate.
"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 told CNN. "Every bill in the U.S. economy says 'In God we trust,' and we're going to put that to the test."