I thank Paula for her comments on my previous entry. As I hoped, I’m glad that the entry is prompting examination of the issue of “selling ministry”. As I set out to answer some of her questions, I realized that the length of my response was better suited as a new entry.
I agree that people who labour in the ministry God gives them are “worthy of their wages” and those on the receiving end are responsible to support them materially. Paul upholds this (1 Cor. 9: 7-14, 1 Tim. 5:17). However, Paul never demanded payment for his services rendered in preaching the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:12, 15-18; 2 Thess. 3:8-9).
These scriptures appear to give responsibility to both the giving and receiving ends with regard to payment for ministry: 1) on the part of the minister, to follow his calling and offer freely of his gifting, trusting that the same God who raised him up to serve will also raise up his supporters; 2) on the part of those ministered to, to accord “double honour” to those who serve, and give materially to those who labour for them on behalf of the Lord and are “worthy of his wages”.
As for ministry transmitted by books, recordings, etc., this wouldn’t have been commonplace in Paul’s time, other than Paul’s letters to the churches (it’s amusing to imagine if one of Paul’s epistles ended with “the suggested donation for this papyrus is 20 drachmas”). Of course, in light of the labourer being “worthy of his wages,” it would be wholly unreasonable to demand that those transmitting their ministry through mass-media cough up their production costs (even though Keith Green did so, and prospered). So I don’t have sufficient grounds to determine that the “selling” of such ministry is unallowable. Such ministers are nonetheless accountable to seek God on what constitutes “freely giving” in accordance with the spiritual gifts they freely received from God (Matt. 10:8).
I suppose in this time and place, such “ministry” is consumer driven, and it’s the buyer who makes the choice to fork over 20 bucks for this or that item with the hopes of beefing-up his belief. But as I said in my last entry, this “consumer” has been encouraged and edified by precious little that he actually had to pay for, and greatly blessed by ministry that has been freely received and given in part.
So what does the minister do if his support dries up? In Paul’s case, he says he was “compelled to preach the gospel” no matter what. Paul had to make do with much at times, and with little at other times (Phil.4:10-13). It is also recorded that Paul sometimes worked as a tent maker to support himself in ministry (Acts 18:1-4; 2 Thess. 3:7-10). George Tabert, who I referred to in my previous entry, himself doesn’t receive a salary but is supported by those who receive from and recognize his gifting to teach. George once told me that if his support dried up to the point where he could no longer fulfill his God-given obligation to support his family, he would “go out and pump gas.”
On this note, I have long perceived a need in the church for clarification as to what actually constitutes “ministry”. There tends to be a lot of playing fast and loose with calling this, that or the other activity a “ministry” (such as the work of plumbers, doctors, musicians etc. being called their “ministry”). A distinction has to be made between the exercise of vocational skills, which is mandated in the creational commission to work and rule over creation (Gen. 1:28; 2 Thess. 3:6-10), and the exercise of spiritual gifts, which is specifically outlined and mandated for the edification of the body of Christ (1 Cor.12:7-10, 27-28; Eph. 4:11-13). The former report to earthly clients and bosses who are in turn responsible to pay for the services rendered. The latter report to God in the exercise of the gifts, and are duly provided for on account of his authority and promises to do so.
For example, my position as a school teacher is not my “ministry”; it is my vocation for which there is a contractual exchange of service for money. If God gives me a spiritual gifting (such as for teaching in the church), I am bound to freely impart it to others, and leave them accountable to God on “what they owe” for the service.
Bottom-line: it requires, on the part of both minister and ministered-to, the free exercise of faith that it is God who supplies so that they can bless others, and thus follow the command, “freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8).