For people involved in what can only be called ‘living without any money’ (!) , it’s been an increasing problem to raise support, not the least because of what are best-known as ‘TV Evangelists’, and ‘celebrity’ preachers who exist to make a fortune out of ‘their ministry’. Plus, of course, since 2008, a worldwide recession….
There are endless horror stories of preachers – not necessarily evangelists’ – in fact, most of them AREN’T evangelists – charging massive ‘fees’ and expenses. I heard from a very reliable friend of a group of Christians in Norway, if I recall, some years ago, who invited a ‘big name’ American speaker to minister in their country. They received a contact: they had to guarantee first class airfare for the ‘big name’, and 4 or 5 of his team: business class for the rest of the team: a whole floor of the top 5 star hotel (even though they’d occupy only about 10% of it), luxury food diet requirements: the total offerings from the conference/event (with no consideration for the organisers’ costs): AND $5,000 a DAY for the big name.
With what can only have been wisdom from the Lord, they responded with a ‘yes’ to all – on condition that the preacher guaranteed a minimum of 5,000 people saved during the event. They never heard from the speaker again….
Those who know me know that I have never ‘charged’ nor even mentioned expenses, to any place that I go, unless they’ve asked me to give them an idea. That’s because God spoke almost audibly when he called me to this life: ‘Trust me for your home, security, and income: you’re never to charge’. And it seems to me that Jesus spoke pretty clearly about it, in Matthew 10: ‘As you go, say that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand: heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, raise the dead. FREELY YOU’VE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE’. I don’t see where, in that last part, we have any right to charge. But Jesus also said that the labourer is worthy of his hire.
It becomes a problem when I’m invited to go somewhere, and – as Andrew Wilson implies below – the ‘honorarium’ is far from ‘honouring’! – or where you’re told offerings will be taken, and they are – but you don’t get to see them….some years ago in Finland, I was promised that all the offerings from a very very busy preaching ‘tour’ were for me…. I knew near the end of the trip that they topped 13,000 euros – which was a ‘dream’ amount to me….except that I got 1300, which just about covered my various airfares to get there, not a dozen days of intensive ministry, and one heck of lot of praying – successfully, in a lot of case, I’m grateful to God for – for healings and miracles. I challenged the … gentleman (I won’t even say his title!) who’d promised me what he didn’t come up with, while we talked about it one night: at which point he keeled over onto one buttock, and farted at me….
I had one situation where the offerings had been promised to me, and had disappeared when the organiser went to get the money: and was told that the pastor had taken it, and gone home!!
The dreaded ‘thing’ is the sealed brown envelope…. particularly if it rattles! It’s been an additional burden, preaching in England, when invitations don’t take into account the fact that Belfast to London round trip can be – and frequently is – around £200….. 🙁
A friend passed on the blog I’ve pasted here, as it is a theological look (by a theologian!) of the funding of itinerant ministers…. and it’s good. It’s perhaps specifically aimed at churches who send out itinerants: unlike some of us who are ‘sent and called’ but not by a specific church. I think Acts 2 and the ‘early church’ is a good model, that everyone helped everyone else. I remember back in the 1970’s hearing a very young Gerald Coates say, ‘If the money’s not in my pocket, it must be in yours: if it’s not in yours, it’s because it’s in mine’….
I love the ministry that God has called me to: it seems that quite a lot of places I go to like it too, which is a blessing. But it doesn’t mean that my living and ministry expenses are covered! – in fact, what I get in through regular support, is about 40% of what I need, so even after 30 years, a lot of time is spent asking God for divine supernatural help!!
Andrew Wilson is a pastor and writer, with theology degrees from Cambridge (MA) and London School of Theology (MTh), and is currently studying for a PhD at Kings College London. He is a columnist for Christianity Today, and has written several books, most recently The Life You Never Expected and Unbreakable. This article, from his blog, is a good theological look at how itinerants
How Should We Fund Itinerant Ministry?
The problem is simply stated. A local congregation releases one of their pastors to serve another local congregation, but there is no widely accepted means by which the sending church, and/or the pastor, can be remunerated for their work. Usually, the receiving church simply gives a financial gift, which (a) may not cover the true cost of the pastor’s time, travel, preparation and so on (in my experience, it rarely does), and (b) may not end up in the right hands (either it goes back to the church when it should go to the pastor, or, more commonly, it goes to the pastor even though the church is still paying their salary).
This, in turn, can cause various types of resentment. For instance:
– The pastor ends up out of pocket because the gifts he/she receives are not sufficient to cover their costs, and resents this; or
– The sending church ends up out of pocket because they are paying the pastor, even though he/she is working for the receiving church, and resent this; or
– Both churches are both paying the pastor for his/her time, which means his/her income is disproportionately high, and they resent this; or
– The receiving church is required to pay a certain fee for the pastor’s input, and/or to buy lots of resources to subsidise him/her, and/or take up specific offerings for him/her, and feel this is unspiritual / mean / prosperity gospel-lite / a slippery slope, and they resent this; or
– The receiving church’s gift for the pastor covers their time teaching, but not their preparation time, and as such undervalues it, and either pastor or church resent this; or
– Something else.
The result can be either that local churches do not release their pastors to serve in wider contexts, or that they do, but their people end up suffering overall for having gifted leaders. Neither of these seem right.
Jesus and Paul, in particular, talked a fair bit about the funding of gospel ministry, including the following:
1. Local church elders, particularly preachers and teachers, should be paid by their local churches. “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 5:17; v18 shows that money is clearly in view here).
2. Leaders are entitled to be paid by any church they serve with the gospel, although they may renounce it in order to preach the gospel free of charge, if they choose to. “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should make their living by the gospel. Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right” (1 Cor 9:14-15).
3. Christians who benefit from teaching or preaching ministries should support them financially. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches” (Gal 6:6).
4. Preachers and teachers can be funded by churches other than the ones they are serving in, if those churches choose to support them. “When I was with you and in need, I didn’t burden anyone, for the brothers from Macedonia supplied my need” (2 Cor 11:9).
5. It is appropriate for churches who receive itinerant ministry to cover all the needs of the individual preacher/teacher while they are with them. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe … that you may help her in whatever need she may have from you” (Rom 16:1-2). “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you … Help him on his way in peace” (1 Cor 16:10-11).
6. It is appropriate to ask/urge/insist that churches do so. (As above).
7. When churches do so, they are blessed. “If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it” (Matt 10:13). “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt 10:41).
8. Individuals should give what they have decided to give, not what they are ordered to give. “Each should give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).
9. Nonetheless, congregations as a whole can be asked to give generously towards specific needs. “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift and not an exaction” (2 Cor 9:5; the context is poverty relief, but I doubt this undermines the point, as in 1 Cor 9, Gal 6, 1 Tim 5, etc).
10. Individuals who teach false doctrine should not be funded or welcomed. “If anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 11).
This is the tricky bit. There are countless models – gifts can go to the church or the individual; there can be specific offerings, profits from sales of resources, or gifts from the treasurer in brown envelopes; gifts can be stipulated in advance, recommended as a guide, or entirely at the discretion of the local leadership; and so on – and gifts can vary dramatically. (Last year, as I have mentioned before, my largest gift for one day’s ministry was 13x the size of the smallest, and the variations can be considerably larger.)
None of these models are necessarily wrong, or sinful, but at the same time, there are some obvious ways in which some of them can produce bad fruit. Stingy gifts are an obvious example, honouring neither the speaker nor the sending church (and depriving the receiving church of blessing, as per #7, above). Taking up offerings for the teacher/preacher, or encouraging the teacher/preacher to make ends meet through the sale of resources, could easily encourage extended sales pitches, and/or exaction or compulsion, and/or remuneration on the basis of perceived performance (which incentivises messages that church members most want to hear, which may not always be what theyneed to hear.) Allowing a teacher/preacher to keep all ministry gifts, even while they receive a salary from their local church, de facto encourages the individual to travel more and serve their church less – if your car is broken, just add a few more trips and you can pay for it – which is bad both for the pastor and the local church they serve. And so on.
So a proposed model could look like this:
A. The home local church pays the salary of the teacher/preacher, as per #1, above.
B. When the teacher/preacher serves elsewhere, the true cost of their time is calculated (which would include preparation time, office costs, ministry time, travel time, travel and accommodation expenses, etc). In my case, that works out at about £250 per day plus reasonable expenses; if preparation time is required, this would increase pro rata.
C. All ministry gifts go back to the sending church, assuming they are already paying the individual a decent salary.
D. If the sending church is releasing the individual as a gift – which is often the case – then the sending church is prepared to get nothing back, or to receive derisory gifts, on occasion. This is part of their serving the wider church, and they think nothing of it.
E. If, however, the sending church releases staff for a substantial number of work-days in a year, whether through one individual or many, they may not be able to afford to keep on giving out their staff’s time without receiving payment. As such, they should write to the receiving church with a suggested figure (as per B). (This often has the added benefit of sifting the wheat from the chaff when it comes to invitations!)
F. If this letter comes from the church (whether via the trustees, the elders, or whomever), and not the individual, it has two benefits: it stops the individual from looking like a money-grabber, especially since the money doesn’t go back to them anyway, and it helps the church leadership to feel connected to what the individual is doing, and to shape their ministry decisions if needed.
G. If an individual is writing or producing resources to sell as part of their church employment, then the proceeds from this (royalties, direct sales, or equivalent) should go back to the local church. If not, then it is at the individual’s discretion. (This, again, has been what I’ve done.)
H. Receiving churches are, of course, at liberty to increase gifts if they so choose.
Given the wide variety of ways in which different churches handle this, and the sensitivities about financial models which (let’s admit it) are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, not to mention the prickly responses of many British people to discussions about money, I wouldn’t be surprised if this post annoys or even alarms a number of people. In mitigation, I can only say that I am trying to provide some guidelines in a notoriously nebulous (and sometimes tricky) area, and that if I was American, I’d probably charge a lot more and talk about it a lot more. Hopefully, though, it might help some of you. And stop you being so shocked if you get a letter about it.
I’d be interested in your comments and feedback on this – and of course, to say, that if God calls you to support a wandering Cockney preacher praying for the sick, I’d be very grateful! The past (almost 2 years) have been especially tough!! I hate raising money for myself, it goes against every instinct: that’s why I never ever mention ‘my ministry’ (!!) /funding/support in any meetings. I have no problem raising money for people in need, like Ana Beiba in Cali, Colombia….it’s so hard raising support for yourself. But I’ll STILL NEVER charge…..!