Your Money+Our Community

January 6, 2009

Okay, here is a little discussion I’d like to have with my readers:


Are full-time ministers meant to have other people’s donations be their sole source of income?


I was talking with my friend about this a few weeks ago, and I can’t decipher an actual answer. One one hand, Paul was a tent-maker who had no reliance on the church to “get by”. Then there were the Levites who gathered 100% of their income from the other tribes donations because they had no trade.


I remember living in Vladimir, Russia with my family. My dad started a church there and eventually handed it over to locals, and it is still going on today. I am not sure that we could have made it with out itinerating and raising funds. I don’t know if we ever actively pursued other means of income though, either.


What are your thoughts? How do you feel when a missionary/traveling minister comes to your church with the sole intention of raising money? What about your local leadership? Do you think they could accomplish what they do with out requiring your financial support?


I have my own opinions, just curious to see where this conversation goes!







  1. Churches and ministries are non-profit organizations and this is how all non-profits gain their income. Nothing wrong with it.

    From a Biblical standpoint, this is one of the oldest models for a church. When Moses and his people built the tabernacle (basically the first church ever), all the materials for the church were donated by the people. God gave Moses the revelation/idea/plan for the tabernacle, but Moses still had to rely on donations of material and time from the people to build it. And, yes, this was absolutely a monetary donation as many of the people gave their most precious gold and fine cloth to be used.

    Jesus himself had his own accountant for His ministry. He had the largest ministry in history, of course there was currency coming in and going out.

  2. What are your thoughts on people that are able to manage their time better and succeed at gaining income independently while serving a ministry? I, of course, am not referring to you. I just think about cases of missionaries who have this heart to go to some foreign land, and think it’s not the will of god for them to go, because they can’t raise enough donations. Meanwhile, they could be working and saving up their money, and most likely accomplishing the same thing on their own. The point of this post is kind of geared towards that. I think we tend to rely on people’s charity some times, when god wants us to work for it, ya dig?

  3. Very thought provoking, Josh, I like it!

    So I think there are two sides. If God has called a person to do missions work here and there (as in like 1 trip per summer/year) then it’s absolutely necessary they receive an income from another job. I have received letters from various people going on a mission trip asking for donations to totally fund their trip and it always brings about mixed feelings. If you feel called shouldn’t God be providing a means of going (not necessarily other people giving you hand outs)? Yes, people can show support by donations, but not sure if the ENTIRE trip should be donation supported. I realize finances are tight for everyone practically, but if it’s something close to your heart and a real calling on your life, it should be prioritized and not a problem finding the financial means to support a trip.

    On the other side. If a person is called full time into missions work then it’s absolutely necessary they have some sort of steady income to support it. Whether this comes from supporters/church or their own money, I don’t think it matters. If they have a talent/gift outside of missions and it results in income then by all means use it, as long as it wouldn’t interfere with the mission work. However, once a mission is up and running, I think sustainability is definitely a sign from God that it is of Him! If that requires a person to seek financial support from other churches or supporters then by all means it would be ‘okay’ in my mind.

    Personally, I enjoy when missionaries visit the churches that support them to share about what’s going on and what needs they currently are facing. It makes donations feel validated.

    Definitely agree with you that sometimes people rely too much on charity when they have the means of getting the income/managing it themselves!

  4. Yeah, I agree w/ you also Josh. On the missions side, if someone has a heart for it and doesn’t go because of lack of donations, I think it’s kinda wrong. Judi and I have willingly supported lots of missionaries because we believe in the impact of it. I would expect anyone going on short term or long term missions to be actively pursuing some sort of gainful employment to support their goal. That’s what I did when I went to Dominican Republic.

  5. Josh-Mac-Daddy, good question. Good insight from Markie-Mark. Biblically you see support for both models. In 1 Corinthians 9:1-9, Paul defends his rights as an apostle, one of them being his right to eat (or be financially supported) from the work of his labor. He uses the illustration of the oxen while treading grain in v9 to support this. Yet, as you mentioned, the same Paul chose to work his own business in order not to be a burden to certain churches. You see this in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 as Paul says he worked night and day in order not to be a burden to the church at Thessalonica. So I think it is a case by case situation. In fact many scholars believe that Paul actually spent more time doing tent making than he did doing actual ministry work. Kinda scary when we think about everything he did. We had someone come to one of our chapel services this past semester and talk about the future state of ministries in America. He proposed that given the economic hard times, we might be moving to a model where more and more “pastors” will need to work full time elsewhere to support themselves, and then do ministry on the side, just like Paul probably did. It was somewhat of a challenge to us if we would still fulfill our callings if we weren’t getting paid to do so. Somewhat scary to think of, but might just be where we are headed.

  6. @mark So do you think there is a way to carry that attitude over to full time ministry? You have direct experience, so I am curious.

    Also, I am suprised no one has commented on my awesome picture…haha

  7. @paul, thanks for the input! Just what I was looking for. It REALLY does question ministry motives when money is out of the question.

  8. Great questions here Josh, I wish I knew more.
    The comments reminded me of a situation two of my good friends were going through. They were married and lived on their own working hard to make ends meet. His dad was the pastor of the church they had both grown up in/later returned to. Both of them had attended college for awhile but left before getting degrees so were taking on extra jobs to pay for finishing their educations. Meanwhile her parents (her father was an elder at the same church) were hosting in their home another married couple who felt called to the ministry. They were both enrolled full time in seminary but neither had a job. The church and families whom they were connected with were basically paying for both school and room/food. What was the saddest of all was how my friends heard this couple talking about how once they wouldn’t have to be like everyone else once they had masters degrees. I wish I were making this up. I can’t help but imagine how this looks from the outside. Are these “chosen”/”called” people privileged(?) to live lives that are free from the hardships others endure (in this case the exact same thing) because they are “doing it for God?” I remember thinking that we are all called to lives that glorify God, this didn’t sync. All in all I get pretty grossed out thinking about this kind of entitlement. Remembering all the college students in my old church sending out letters asking for support to go here or there on a “mission” trip. Thinking about how many people the cost of just a one way ticket could feed. It all just seemed a vacation that was fairly suffering/obligation free (not down playing missions, just the reasoning behind some trips). Not sure if any of this adds to the convo, just struck a chord with some thoughts that were in my mind. I just can’t help but think that it’s easy for us to put ourselves ahead of resources that God may have intended for others…missions or not

  9. Extremely interesting example, Archie.

  10. i’m not sure if you noticed, josh-mac-daddy, but paul was heavily influenced by 90’s rap. haha!

  11. haha, I can just see him now, wearing his jncos and baseball jersey backwards.

  12. hilarious picture josh! was that an original caption you added there?
    (i am thinking about a real answer to your question. i have been on both sides and want to have a somewhat intelligent answer to offer. so i will check in again later.)

  13. haha, no I didn’t add the comment. I just did a google image search and BAM

  14. kriss kross will make ya…jump! jump! (i am so gonna get it!)

  15. I think it comes down to the heart of the person. When a speaker visits my little fellowship we don’t pay them. One of our elders has a habit of saying when pushed that if what a speaker has to bring is so important for us to hear that God will provide the way. When a person comes we normally make a love offering to them. The end result might be the same but the process by which it is achieved is far more important.

    It’s about the heart of the person. A person going on missions should not be seeking to be a burden. It’s why Paul was a tent maker. In the same way when a speaker visits a local congregation they should be seeking to bless him in continuing his or her ministry. I can certainly see the need for full-time ministry but I think it’s not the ideal state of affairs.

    I think it’s important to maintain a distinction between what the Jews did under the Law and what we are Christians are meant to do. Tithing is a certainly a biblical concept; certainly a Jewish concept but I don’t think it’s necessarily a Christian concept in the New Testament with regard to Paul’s directions to the various Gentile churches on collections for the church in Jerusalem.

    There are important things to remember with regard to tithing. It’s all God’s money any way and how you spend your time and effort are as a much an indicator of your priorities than what you do with your income whether it’s gross or net

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