Christian BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY
Or: Why We Never Actively Ask for Donations (Though We Always Welcome Them)
We would like to share with you some ministry principles that God has lead us in, by which we manage Truth To Tell Media. We invite you to think them over with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We also hope that it will help you to better understand and appreciate the principles by which we run this ministry.
According to 1 Tim 5:17-18, an elder is worthy of his salary (the Greek can literally be read, 'Let the elders who have been serving well be considered worthy of a double honorarium (income, salary)...' 1 Tim 5:17a).
('Do not muzzle an ox that is treading out the grain' 1 Tim 5:18a (as well as 1 Cor 9:9 and Deut 25:4) means that the ox, that refines the grain it walks on, is entitled to eat from the grain it prepares.)
This passage (and others) has a lot to teach us about how a Christian ministry is supposed to work.
It demonstrates to us principles of how any worker who works primarily with the spiritual side of people, should be making a living. And the great apostle Paul remains a shining example in all of this.
Notice that we didn't say, just now, any worker 'who is in full time Christian service' - for every Christian who doesn't do an immoral job, is in full time Christian service. Thus, we need to raise all other jobs to the level of where we usually place what we wrongly call 'Christian work'. Everywhere in the Bible, all moral, legal work is godly or 'Christian work' - a radical principle (especially for the ancient Greeks, who loved to separate body and soul).
So a job that is primarily Christian spiritual work, i.e. investing spiritually in other people's lives, is on exactly the same level in God's eyes as any other legitimate job, and should be compensated like any other job (according to services rendered). (See Luke 10:7: '...eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages' (also 1 Tim 5:18b).)
Therefore it must be obvious that working for God is not working for charity - in other words, it is neither receiving alms, nor asking for alms.
The spiritual (or any other!) worker should be supported by the people they serve or minister to. (Find this Biblical principle very clearly stated in 1 Cor 9:4-14. See also 1 Thes 2:7.) Paul often voluntarily waived this right of support he had, because the lazy, leisure-oriented Greeks too easily saw it as begging, and Paul did not want to hinder the gospel in any way (1 Cor 9:15-18, and also v19-23; 1 Thes 2:7). But the point is, in the retail business, you obtain and provide a product (clothes, groceries, computers, books, etc.) and get paid for it by the people you serve. In the service industry, you provide a service (accounting, banking, educating, pest control, etc.) and get paid for it by the people you serve. Likewise, in (primarily) 'spiritual-oriented' work, you get paid for it by the people you serve. A very straightforward and consistent principle.
Therefore, spiritual workers should be paid by those they preach to, minister to, counsel, etc. And what if such income is not enough? Or what if there is no such income (e.g. in the case where a person evangelises unbelievers (as long as they are unbelievers they would not pay the missionary for preaching to them, and neither should they))? Very simply, in that case they should get income from any other employment - like Paul, who made tents (Acts 18:3) (1 Cor 4:12; cf. 1 Thes 2:9). This is an honourable example for spiritual workers who are also industrious in other fields of employment.
Such an approach has many advantages above the alternatives.
This means, of course that Christian spiritual workers shouldn't live by soliciting donations (i.e. alms, charity). Rather, they should strive to live from the money they get from those they serve (and the point of 1 Tim 5:17-18 is that those they serve must pay them properly).
Consistent with all of this, Paul didn't ask for donations for himself, though he did ask for and encouraged donating money for others (e.g. charity to the church members in Jerusalem, who struggled for survival under severe hardship and famines (1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8 and 9)).
That said, Paul gladly and gracefully accepted spontaneous/free donations when they were given (Phil 4:10-19).
Also, there were times his colleagues on his team worked for income to support him so that he could devote himself to preaching (Acts 18:3,5; cf. 2 Cor 11:9).
Of course, all this implies that the spiritual worker must also be worthy of that payment. They should work hard and responsibly, and conscientiously carrying the full burden of God's calling on them (2 Cor 6:5, 11:27, 1 Cor 16:15-16). They must fully execute and discharge their calling (in spiritual work) to the extent that they are called (fulltime or part-time, whether paid or not) (cf. Col 4:17), and to the very best of their natural and spiritual abilities, making efficient and wise use of both their time and abilities.
In all this we see that Christianity is not an abstract, airy-fairy faith, but is extremely practical. Maybe sometimes too practical for us - but that is the type of reality, and living faith, that the Bible teaches. All Christians should be solid, exemplary citizens to a fallen world, keeping the Name of Jesus above reproach in everything. That is radical Christianity.
(Suggested listening for more on this subject: David Pawson's Work - A Blessing or a Curse? Also listen to The Use of Our Money (Christian Efficiency series), the De-Greecing the Church series, and Money (Church Membership series) all on CD format.)
These are insights that God has lead us to apply in our management of Truth To Tell Media's ministry.
Therefore we believe that a Christian ministry (such as the apostle Paul had) should be essentially self-supportive in the sense that it should either get its support from the people it serves, or from legitimate sales, or where that is not possible, that it should derive income from employment of some sort. Like Paul, we don't ask for donations for our ministry, though we do very much welcome donations freely given by believers. In fact, should our orders, and our income from it, decrease, our operation will simply have to scale down.
While Truth To Tell Media is a not-for-profit organisation, we manage it like a business, as far as efficiency, administration and income is concerned, able to support itself and its employees (which is in fact, how we believe a church should be run) - albeit in a thoroughly Christian spirit, with eternal goals in mind.