If It Isn’t Free, It Isn’t Ministry (#519)
Wayne and Brad continue their discussion about monetizing ministry and the ramifications it has on both the one charging for his version of the Gospel, and the content of what he seeks to sell. There's a reason Jesus calls his workers, 'gifts'. It's because they are to bless others, not exploit them for their own gain. Whenever someone's livelihood is attached to a message, things get distorted because of our very human inclination toward trusting ourselves instead of trusting in him. "Freely you have received, freely give," is how Jesus put it and it's the only way to ensure that the Gospel stays untainted by our desire for profit from it and that those who help others are not just hirelings doing it for the money. Each of these two have had their own journeys learning to trust God for resources and not just monetize a gift, that always does serious warpage to the gift!
Part One of this discussion can be found in the previous podcast
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Does that include books?
Thanks Wayne and Brad for addressing this topic. Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 6 and Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy chapter 6 have been memorable guardrails on the journey in steering clear of “False Teachers and the Love of Money“. I prefer reading the entire chapters for context but here is excerpts that highlight your point, “If It Isn’t Free, It Isn’t Ministry”. From The Message Bible:
4 “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.”
1 Timothy 6
2-5 “These are the things I want you to teach and preach. If you have leaders there who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumors. Eventually there’s an epidemic of backstabbing, and truth is but a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck.”
Of course there is much more in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, but it was easier for me to remember Matthew chapter 6 and 1 Timothy chapter 6 as parallel guardrails for the topic of ministry and money. “If It Isn’t Free, It Isn’t Ministry”
Another concern I have is all of the conferences going around the country that are charging for Christians to come. Putting up these super Pastors up in hotels, paying their way and feeding them.
Like to know your thoughts.
The point of the podcast is not that ministry can never happen if people are being charged, but when a person needs to live off his ministry it will shape his/her message in ways that will take it away from kingdom priorities. Conferences are definitely part of that problem and the exorbitant fees and expenses paid for those coming to preachertain or worshipleadertain the crowd are definitely ridiculous. Though people may be touched in some ways at such gatherings, I would argue the touch doesn’t last very long. They only become dependent on those environments to feel close to God and don’t know how to walk with him back home where the rubber meets the road. Lots of problems with all of that… But I’m not interesting in going to war with folks who love that stuff, just remember it has a very different priority than the kingdom does…
You mentioned it at the end, and I found far greater freedom in giving when I moved away from any “tax receipt” associated giving.
I wish all tax receipting would end. If people want to give, let them give (look at all the free advertising from philanthropic giving by people that have more money than they could spend and are into buying power and creating opportunity for worship of themselves by others – please forgive if that is too cynical). I think it would help in institutionalized settings (like the IC) and do a great service to limiting the expansion of causes that are false or harmful or both. Perhaps it would work to clean up, or discontinue, many of the ministry frauds in the “so called christian message ministry world” if their incomes were reduced because of decreased giving. On the other hand, I suspect their deceptive marketing schemes would continue to work with the bulk of the gullible market they are currently tapping. They would just ramp up the manipulation, deception and false advertising (sow a seed, give and get back, can’t out give god, god told me this or that, give your best gift and get our gift to you, etc.).
The underlying tragedy is the attempts to “market” God in general, whether monetized or not. (you are a sinner going to hell, get your ticket to heaven, your life sucks in whatever way, come to Jesus and get stuff – it is called blessings…and so on and so on…)
So many conversations seem to come back to “does one really want God, or does one just want what that will ostensibly get from him?”. If we could help them see Him as he truly is, they might want him, for him. Perhaps this is why Jesus was so often asking “so who do you/they say I am?”
I find that those who know God are most often talking about him, not so much about what happened as a result of supposedly knowing him through going through some formulaic process of getting him.
I agree totally but what do you do with Matt 10:10 and similar texts which are often quited to prove that a teacher has a RIGHT to receive his food etc. from those he teaches?
The word “right” is an interesting word and not one that’s in Scripture. What Scripture points to in this passage and in reference to “not muzzling the ox” is that they are free to live off of the generosity of those who want to help them. That’s very different than charging $800.00 for a seminar, or making people feel like they are cheating God if they don’t give into their offerings. Our title of this podcast wasn’t meant to make a rule of any kind, but be provocative enough that people will listen to the content. The focus here is not on whether people who give themselves full time to the Gospel aren’t FREE to receive from others generosity, it’s about merchandizing the Gospel to make living off of it by pressure and manipulation…
Thanks Wayne. I’ve been out of the church culture for so long that I’ve virtually forgotten all the mega church (and mega church wannabes) manipulations. It seems really strange and illogical to me now. Makes me feel sad for the many people who must think of God like a punitive distant father….Just as a side, having a conscious attitude of generosity puts us in a wonderful position to receive from God, and not be so concerned with trying to take care of our needs….that becomes very exhausting. I’m reminded to rest in him always.
Really enjoying your podcasts, by the way.
Hi Wayne, We were talking about the same thing as Evgueni, would love to know your thoughts on that one too….
See above, Alyssa.
Totally agree, Wayne. Money always changes the dynamic between believers. The Lord hates venality and workers are encouraged as the apostle Paul did, to rely on Him by faith. The history of faith ministries is encouraging. In 1829 a guy called Anthony Norris Groves wrote a tract called ‘Christian Devotedness’ which profoundly influenced people like C T Studd, Hudson Taylor and George Muller in the UK. A biography of him called Father of Faith Missions by Robert Bernard Dann (you can get it on Amazon) is absolutely mind-blowing. I’d heartily recommend it if you want to know what living by faith means for all of us, not just the Lord’s workers.
Another point, for those who may go to the 3rd world for ministry. Not only do workers expect to be paid for ‘ministry’, but churches in India will expect you, the minister, to pay them to receive your ministry. It’s happened to me and it’s a scam of outrageous proportions.
Finally, the archetype for false prophecy in scripture is Balaam, who ‘loved the wages of unrighteousness’. Seeking pay in the Lord’s work is often a sign of the false prophet. It has always been present with the Lord’s people – Israel had to deal with it (Balaam, Micah the priest in Judges 17-18, etc) and it was evident in the first century in the early church. Paul speaks of those in Corinth who ‘peddle the word of God for profit’. In this Paul was in the rabbinic tradition that saw taking money for expounding the Torah as a heinous sin, in contrast to the Greek sophist tradition which saw philosophy and religion as a trade. Look what tradition won in the end. The apostle to the gentiles gave clear instructions to elders (Acts 20) to work for their living so they could be an example to the church as act like the apostle himself who made it a practice to work for his own living (see also 1 Cor 9 & 2 Thess 3). It is so clear in the NT what God wants from his servants, but it has so sadly been distorted by the tradition of men. Would to God that he would raise up men and women again to show the church how he expects his servants to live, to work hard for their own living, to be generous with their surplus and to meets the needs of the less fortunate. Amen.