Saturday, February 17, 2007

* * Should Christians "Raise Support"?

Should Christians raise "support"? Should international missionaries live off of the financial giving of others? Should domestic missionaries? How about pastors? Church wages are little more than highly organized disbursements of giving... or financial "support". If we're trying to model a life that all Christians can emulate, is support a good idea? Why or why not? (2007/02/08)

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I can identify two kinds of financial "support". The first is institutional support that comes in the form of a paycheck (i.e. pastor's salaries like mine). The second is extra-institutional support that comes in the form of direct donation (i.e. missionary difts, Campus Crusade, etc.). Excluding the portion of support that goes to ministry expenses (i.e. stuff other than personal bills), how does this distinction challenge our thoughts and feelings on the subject? (2007/02/17)



Adam Gonnerman said...

"Should?" I don't know. "Can Christian missionaries raise support?" Yes, of course, why not? It's not my preferred method, but I wouldn't have been on the field any time at all had I not received support. Also, my brother-in-law Marcelo is a VERY effective evangelist and receives some support from the U.S. If he had full support, he could get A LOT MORE done. I, on the other hand, would prefer to be bi-vocational with the possibility but not necessity of receiving outside support.

Makeesha said...

I prefer the bi-vocational approach personally but I think there are times and seasons when it's better to raise support. I'm not really dogmatic about it either way.

I think there are pros and cons to both and while now we are bi-vocational, I suspect in the not so distant future we'll be "raising support" in some fashion.

John Lynch said...

As a pastor, I'm paid by the giving of my congregants. Yes, it's support-raising of the laziest sort! Without ever writing a single support letter, the money just keeps coming in and I keep getting paid... to do ministry.

The New Testament does indicate that those who teach are "worthy of their wages", but Paul makes it clear that he didn't accept money from the Corinthians. Why didn't he? And he was an Apostle with a capital 'A'! If anyone deserved special funding, it was him and others from Christ's inner circle. Is there a principle in there that applies across the board?

Adam's stated the obvious pro to financial support... more time to do ministry.

But what are the cons? Do they outweigh the pros? Are there alternate ways to fund life (by life I mean rent, bills, food, etc.) AND do ministry?

Julie said...

Should anyone in any "service" position ever get paid? I mean shouldn't teachers just teach (and raise our kids) out of the goodness of their hearts. Waiters should just really care about serving us for free. Psychologists help us so they shouldn't get paid - they all need to work "real jobs" to make a living and "serve us" on the side. Pastors must work a full time "real job", then spend 70+ hours a week as a pastor out of the goodness of their hearts, and of course have a perfect non-dysfunctional family at the same time (oh yeah, and have lots and lots of time to evangelize as well). If Pastors are too lazy to work a real job or are too selfish and spend time with their family - they don't deserve to be paid. Or if they are paid - they had better never go out to eat, go to the movies, or buy clothes because those would be hedonistic ways to spend "God's money."

Can you tell that I'm really sick of people telling me we should be doing this out of the goodness of our hearts... ?

Michael said...

I think the Key to the question here is this, If you didn't get paid, would you still serve people the same? The answer to the question lies within the answer to the question! LOL That sounds funny..

I agree with Mak on this one however. For me I find it more enjoyable to keep work, work. I don't think it's wrong for people to raise support. Money does make the world turn.. Wait, gravity makes the world turn..which i guess God made gravity so...God makes the world turn..?

ANYWAY, doing ministry as a profession or career isn't my style. SO, for me... I don't want to completely say no to the idea, but it would be my last resort for sure. We do need those that are getting paid to run ministries though. I do know one thing for sure, God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit is pretty Rad No? :)

Destination...Gloryland! said...

I'm assuming that what I am about to describe could be considered "bi-vocational", but because I'm not up on the terminology, it may not be exactly the same thing... Anyway, I thought I would tell you how it is at our church since I never grew up in a church that deals with finances like this one. One disclaimer: I'm not trying to say that our church has it all together or anything. It's just an example.

One Sunday a month is for Benevolence/Missions. Another Sunday is solely for Missions. Another is for monthly bills and yearly sponsored church outreach events (i.e. utilities, compensating a member for snow plowing when we can get him to accept it :) etc.) but this fund was getting a surplus, so until the fund is dwindled down, the Sunday's offering is also being used for missions and the monthly bills come out of this surplus. Another Sunday's is the pastor's offering. The 5th Sunday, when there is one, goes into the building fund for larger projects like replacing shingles or carpet. Each Sunday, whatever comes in is what is available for the designated area. In other words, whatever comes in on the Sunday designated for the Pastor's offering is all there is. Decisions regarding missions and benevolence recipients are made during the all-church business meeting held once/month.

We are a relatively small church and the pastor and "assistant" pastor get what may seem as small amounts. They both are "tentmakers" with other forms of income.

I have a couple other thoughts. I can see Julie's point to an extent, but isn't ministry different? Should it be an expectation to receive payment or just an added blessing? On the other hand, our church, and many other churches and individuals, are VERY generous in giving to missionaries and mission organizations. In order for someone to give, someone has to receive. Yet conversely again, one discussion during one of our business meetings was whether it was best to "fully cover" the financial needs of a missionary. One person expressed the spiritual benefit he experienced when during his mission work of many years he did not have the "income" to cover all of his (and his growing family's) needs. He witnessed miracles of the Lord's provision as he had no where else to turn but God.

So there you have it. Just some other thoughts and examples to throw into the mix.

Mike said...

To me this is a question of posture.
How do we best posture ourself to reach those around us? Is that as a full time pastor or is there a better way? Is that better way support? or bi-vocational? I am currently raising support and looking for a job, along with my wife building her business. All of this is to posture ourselves the best we can in our community. I am raising support to allow me to have time for proximity (time, frequency, & spontaneity) so I am not totally trading my time for dollars to pay the bills. I am looking for a job to give me an in to the community. It also gives me a good answer to the question, "what do you do?" To say Pastor or Missionary can be a turn off but to say construction or I work at ... levels the relationship landscape instead of always going up hill. I have been thinking a lot about this lately... can you tell.

David said...

You know, my answer kind of lies where I'm at and what season I'm in.
Right now it's cool be bi-vocational because we don't have to worry about money, raising money, pissing people off that give money if you do something they don't like...etc.
It elimates some fear of man for me that I have. If my groceries don't depend on someone elses giving, then for me, I have more freedom to do things that might be provocative. Me? No!
On the other hand, there may be a day when we are full time.

But for today, I'm spending most of it doing ministry instead of tent-making anyway. Oops. :-)

Paul did both. He made tents, and he got support. I think throughout his life that sometimes we was a 'full-time' Apostle and other times he worked his trade, all the while doing the work of the kingdom.

What concerns me with a 'full-time' ministry, is that pastors then generally spend 70 hours a week in the church and not out in the culture which they should be reaching and equiping others to reach. How can they reach and equip if they don't know what's going on?

John Lynch said...

I wish we knew how Jesus paid for food, lodging, clothing, etc. We see examples of soliciting it from people without paying (upper room, commissioning of the 70, etc.); but those seem to have been for limited term engagements. Like, specific projects or short-term endeavors... not necessarily a lifestyle principle.

After all, every Christian is called to minister, right? And if every minister depended on "support" then who would pay that support?

I've experienced the freedom of time and focus for ministry that financial support provides; but I've also experienced a number of problems with support raising.

1) It often comes with fixed and unflexible expectations (as all jobs do) thus limiting availability to frequent travel as well as spontaneous and radical calls of God.
2) It often results in less time with the lost.
3) It's a cultural barrier between us and all the "regular" people with "regular" jobs.
4) It often removes us from the experience of people we're reaching out to.
5) It calls our ministry motivation into question (i.e. "You get paid to pray... I don't have time 'cuz I have a job.")
6) It feeds and enlarges the already excessive institutional identity of Christianity.

John Lynch said...

BTW - Mike I like your notoin of "posture". It's a missional approach to the question... which always helps keep us kingdom-centered in our thought! Thanks, dude.

John Lynch said...

JULIE... I just discovered you & Mike live in Yorkville??? That's crazy! My wife & I live in Lombard & I work in Aurora. You guys wanna grab lunch some Sunday afternoon or something?

Julie said...

hey John - that would be fun. I think Mike has your email (he said he recently contacted you about the faith and environment thing???) and will drop you a note.

grace said...

This has been an interesting discussion. When you posted the question, I was curious about what kinds of responses you would get.

I don't have an opinion about salaries for people employed by a church or support for those in full-time missions because I am not in that position. I want to be careful to say that my comment is not a reflection on someone else's vocational choice. I am not referring to whether or not pastors should get paid. If they are working for a church, they should be paid for their services.

My response is more to your question of a model that all Christians can emulate. Based on the concepts that everyone is a minister and that all of life should be viewed as ministry and mission, the context that most of us attempt to live that out in is the reality of 40+ hours/week jobs.
That is what I am looking for in an example.

My reality is that living missionally - serving, mentoring, connecting with the lost - do have to happen "on the side" and in the midst of the reality of a full-time real job. The fact that we work full-time doesn't let us off the hook from the greater purpose of living a life of mission and service. The truth is that the majority of us won't get paid for the ministry we do. It is out of the "goodness of our heart" and our desire to be a part of God's mission.

What I look for are examples of how to live missionally in the midst of the juggling act of jobs, kids, and limited spare time.

(Hopefully, I've included enough disclaimers to indicate that this is not a statement against paid pastors, etc.)

Julie said...

I guess my question is why is choosing/being called to the vocation of pastor/missionary so different that people don't deserve to get paid for it? Where does that concept come from?

I fully agree that all people are ministers and whatever we do should be in service to God. Its not an add on to real life, but part of who we are as believers.

I often wonder if there is a bit of envy involved in the call to stop paying pastors. People see pastors doing things they would like to do and often with flexible (although long) hours. Mix that with misconceptions of what a pastor does (don't they just write sermons and have coffee with people...) and the call for them to get a "real job" pops up.

So someone said before that being a pastor is different that other serving jobs (teaching, counseling...). Is that because being a pastor involves God? Should nothing done for God be paid? What about seminary professors? Christian school teachers? Church preschool workers? Church janitors? Just because pastors are teachers, counselors, janitors, cooks, CEO's, graphic designers, accountants, construction workers, web designers, and many other things all in the same job but done for the main purpose of serving God they shouldn't get paid and therefore have to do all that stuff on top of a "real job".

We allow people to make a living using the other talents God has given them - singing, teaching, playing sports, cooking... With the obvious exception of stay at home moms, most activities that take up all of one's time, energy, and resources are compensated. That is how our economic system works these days. I just really want to know why devoting oneself to the full time service to people and God is different.

John Lynch said...

Julie, there's no doubt that you and your husband are definitely worth compensation. I know how it feels to have people compare vocational ministry with "real jobs". (It sucks.)

My interest in this dialogue is in the impact support-raising has on ministry effectiveness and kingdom-living. I like how Mike Scheid says it above, "How do we best posture ourself to reach those around us?"

I also believe another important consideration is what Grace touched on, "What I look for are examples of how to live missionally in the midst of the juggling act of jobs, kids, and limited spare time."

So in addition to posturing ourselves to reach the lost with maximum effectiveness, I'd add the question, "How can we demonstrate a kingdom lifestyle that enables every Christ-follower to imagine how they themselves might live?"

David said...

I revert back to the fact that there is a season for both.

One advantage of being Bi-vocational (other than what I stated earlier) is that we HAVE to delegate. We have to live as a Priesthood of all believers.
We can't do it all. We don't have the time.
This has forced us to step back at times and watch other people step up.

For example, I don't give the message at Revolution till March 18th.
If I wasn't Bi-Vocational, I would be expected to lead everyweek (my own expectations and others putting expectations on me), and the others in our gathering with a teaching gift (or whatever) would just sit there.
Same for worship, as our worship leader is in FT seminary. He has to delegate and have other people lead on a regular basis.

Again, I see both, but right now, we are experiences an organic, body approach, to ministry, and not the 'ol hierarchal structure.

John Lynch said...