Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Questions Continued: What About Financial Support?

  • In the process of organic church planting, how does the person support his family?

My quick answer?  By working a job or jobs, or having a spouse who works to financially support your family's income needs. 

I find that most of the time this question is asked by those who have been financially supported in ministry by receiving a salary from a traditional church or ministry.  Simple, Organic, Missional ministry is very different.  There are a few instances that I know of where a denomination or an organization who is seeking this direction of church planting is funding the Organic Church Planter because that is how traditional church does church planting in the West.  There are others (a very few) who receive income from their writing and speaking forums in this area. 

The majority of Simple, Organic, Missional Church Planters work secular jobs to support themselves and family in some way.  

For me, between my husband and myself, we have 9 separate streams of income from various jobs - (all but one is part-time and/or seasonal).  It's part of the paradigm change to consider "full time ministry" not as something special, positional, professional, and from which you receive a salary,  but instead where "ministry" is the normal Christian life for ALL of us as we present and live Christ to those around us in our daily journey. Ephesians 4:12 says, we are all called and equip "for works of service" in our normal lives made powerful because of Christ in us.  In this paradigm there are no "secular jobs" or "sacred jobs", where one is holy and special, and the other not. Work is ministry, life is ministry - for everyone.

When we work at a job/jobs, it means that there is not a lot of extra time to "do" ministry in the way we have thought it had to happen in the past traditional sense. This is where we think of ministry only happening in time slotted meetings, prepared orations of teaching, directed study, preplanned activities and organized events.  The Simple, Organic, Missional paradigm is that ministry is not something we do, but rather live, and it fits into our lives naturally in its' various contexts.  It is not something for the "chosen few" professionals, but rather the whole Body of Christ.  It is not "slotted" but fluid, and responsive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. We look for opportunities at work, with our families, in our neighborhood, with people we associate with through our children, communities of activity, in fellowship with other Christians, etc. to live ministry and Christ fluidly and naturally in all contexts.  I spoke with a guy recently who resigned from a pastoral job and went back to school to become a nurse.  He shared with me that he feels he is ministering to others far more through his nursing job, than he did through his weekly church events that were called "ministry".

But what about those in Ephesians 4 who are called to "equip the saints for works of service"?  Shouldn't they get compensated?  

My short answer?  Yes and no. 

Those called to equip the Body are not professions and positional.  They are functional and with a divine authority attached to them that results in effective equipping and obvious fruit.   Not everyone who thinks or calls themselves one of those listed in Ephesians 4, who take an assessment that tells them what they are, or have a seminary degree or title given by others,  are necessarily those described in Ephesian 4 as 'equippers' of the Body.  We should be looking for fruit and the obvious evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit that endorses such a claim.

The Apostle, Teacher, Evangelist, Pastor Paul (all obvious when viewing the fruit of his life) said in I Thessalonians 2:5-9, "For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed - God is witness -nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.  But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.  Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased  to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.  For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not be be a burden to any on you we proclaimed to you the gospel of God."

He speaks of his authority and yet uses the example to describe his leadership as being "like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children".  That is a distinctly opposite visual picture to "seeking glory from men, flattering speech, greed" and positional authority.  A nursing mother is quiet, subdued and totally there for the nursing child at her breast.  Certainly no mother expects compensation.  Can you imagine a mother saying, "you owe me for nursing you ten times a day, seven days a week, for two years!"  If we can see true Biblical leadership in terms of good mothering and fathering instead of as a CEO who needs compensation, then we will begin to understand this passage much better.....but that is another future blog post I'll have to write.........

RARELY do we hear and read books about the teaching in the Scriptures of the Apostle Paul (and others) who supported themselves financially WHILE living and "doing" ministry. Why not?  Is it because most of those who teach the Scriptures don't work secular jobs, and they don't want to lose their financial support which would cause them to have to work secular jobs?  It seems to me in reading the book of Acts, that Paul did incredibly powerful effective ministry WHILE making tents. Equipping Aquila and Priscilla, starting churches, teaching principles and doctrine, disciple making of men and women who would go on to plant churches and make disciples of their own. Paul did receive financial gifts at various times, his incarceration being one of those times. While he was in prison the making of tents was likely denied him, but I'd bet if given the opportunity, he would have made tents to support his own needs while he was sitting in jail. 

 I Corinthians chapter 9  is full of Paul's exhortation regarding the right of those who minister to receive financial support, but he also chooses not to be dependent upon it.  In II Thessalonians 3:7-10 Paul says, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we did not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.  For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order; if anyone will not work, neither let him eat." 

The Scriptures have many verses that indicate that we need to financially support particular leaders who devote themselves to equipping the Body for ministry.  In order to get more of the Body of Christ really ministering like we emphasize in Organic, Simple, Missional life, we need the Equippers to be equipping!  And that might mean supporting some financially so they have more time to do it.  

And, we need more examples of those who claim to be "equippers" working "day and night" and "as a model" to the Body of how to live ministry fluidly in the contexts of life AND work who do not expect financial support as a "right". 

I believe that if there is evidence of fruit and impact, in certain seasons of life, and under certain circumstances, that some should receive financial support at times if they are truly equipping others for service .  We have to follow the teachings in Scriptures that endorse financial giving and working to support oneself - both! Going back to the Apostle Paul, he sometimes got financial support and others times he supported himself and those around him.    

It should be both and, not one or the other.

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