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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « On Biblical Leadership: Submission, Control, and Authority in the Church | Lying to the Holy Spirit Question »
    Tuesday
    Feb212012

    A Case for Full-time Ministry? Part 1 of 6

    *My little disclaimer: This is not intended as an attack on any person or ministry. However, we should all be on a constant search for truth, i.e. what God's word (the Bible) honestly says. This is a collection of my notes of one Bible study which purports to prove the Bible supports full-time, paid ministry positions such as missionaries, pastors, or other church functions, but the purpose of this study especially looks at missionaries.  


    After reading through a Bible study put out by NavPress advocating the support of full-time ministry called, “Biblically Funding the Work of God”, here are my findings.

    Intro

    1. On the title page, front and center, is a quote from the late Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen. According to Lighthouse Trails Research, Nouwen embraced and advocated Buddhist philosophies later in his life. Here is one quote as an example,

    "Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God."

    —From Sabbatical Journey, Henri Nouwen's last book, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/nouwen.htm)

     

    2. Of the 6 sections in the study, only one (Part 3) seeks to give a Biblical basis for being supported. This however is not the same thing as active fundraising (which the disciples and Jesus did not do) which the first line on p. 3 of this study admits to, “developing ministry partners (which has traditionally been called fundraising)…” The name of Part 3: “Biblical Examples of Funding”, appears somewhat deceptive because of this.

     

    4. On p.4 in the intro, the study methods for determining what the Bible says are described. They are listed as “Observation Questions”, “Study and Opinion”, “Feeling”, and “Summary and Community Activities”. Of all of these, only two focus on determining what is being taught, “Observation Questions” and “Study”.

     

    Personal opinions and feelings do not matter when it comes to learning about the Bible. Studying scripture is learning what the Bible is actually saying, not what we think, wish, or want it to say. The “Summary” implies the author’s summation of what he thinks the reader should come away with.

     

    Using “Community Activities” as a study method implies that God’s word can only be made known in a group setting, which sets the stage for possible peer-pressure answers and submission.    

     

    Part 1: God is the Source of All

    Using 1 Chronicles 29:1-20 (King David preparing for the building of the Temple), this section seeks to show that God provides the means for His work to be carried out when He calls for something to be done.

     

    Certainly there is ample Biblical evidence for God’s provision (Jesus feeding the people, God’s provision for His Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant, manna in the desert, etc.) and for people giving gifts to God as well as various sacrifices.

     

    Still, there is no evidence that God stops providing for His children who are not walking where He has called. In my own life I have seen this, but the Bible should be looked at as a basis.

     

    One example is the Israelites in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. God continued to provide water, manna, and even meat (after they complained) throughout their 40 years of wandering despite constant grumbling, outright rebellion, not trusting God after all they had seen and been through, turning to idols again and again, and breaking the commandments they agreed to in solemn, communal covenant.

     

    They did nothing to warrant being provided for, and everything to be abandoned and destroyed by God in the desert. Yet, He continued to provide for their needs, down to their clothing and sandals.

     

    The other inference in this passage is that David saw he was doing God’s work (working for God), and gave quite generously to support it. There is one glaring flaw in the use of this example. God never commanded or demanded a temple. 1 Chronicles 17 records David’s initial desire to build a temple for God, and God’s response through the prophet Nathan in verses 4-6,

    “Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day.

    I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

     

    There is more that God tells David, and He does say one of David’s sons will build a temple, but God still does not ask nor command this to be done. This is consistent with God’s unique character that He is and remain represented as different from other deities. In other words, most other big-time gods/goddesses had gorgeous temples built for them, but God does not need it or desire it.

     

    Skipping ahead to 1 Chronicles 28, David makes a royal announcement and proclamation which embellishes somewhat on God’s words from chapter 17. Here we read that David still has his heart set on seeing a temple built for God, but understands Solomon is the one to accomplish it.

     

    Still, David is more than ready to get the ball rolling “for Solomon” which ends chapter 28 and goes through 29. Certainly this was an act of zeal, sincerity, and love for God, but it cannot be correctly claimed as God’s work since God never asked it.

     

    2 Corinthians 9:5-15 (Paul’s thanking the Corinthians for their gift)

    Using this passage as proof that fundraising is Biblical is somewhat misleading when we consider that 1 Corinthians 4:11-12 Paul states to the same group,

    “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands…”

     

    Acts 18:3 explains that Paul was a tentmaker, and in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul writes upset that he sees a double-standard at play. He is not asking for support however,

    “…I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me (verse 15)…If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it (verses 17-18).”

     

    Although modern application assumes the implication in this passage is “it is alright to be employed to preach, but Paul personally chose not to”, the opposite of “volunteer” is not “employee”. An assignment, charge, duty, trust (like the passage says), or commitment with or without pay as opposed to strict volunteer work, seems closer to what Paul is addressing here.  

     

    In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Paul writes to the Corinthians (as he apparently did the Galatians) concerning a gift for God’s people to be collected weekly and distributed by Paul and other approved men.

     

    My Bible notes that “God’s people” here refers to impoverished Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were being persecuted at that time. Therefore, the gift(s) that Paul is thanking the Corinthians for in 2 Corinthians 9 is not for himself or his traveling companions, but for others.

     

    On the issue of whether Paul worked as a tentmaker his entire ministry or not (and if not, must therefore have been supported by others), scripture provides the answers. In Acts 18 Paul goes from Athens to Corinth and stays and works with a couple who were also tentmakers,

    “ 1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

    5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”


    Verse 5 says he then preached and taught “exclusively”, but it not clear from this verse whether he quit tent-making in order to preach, or whether he preached exclusively to the Jews on the Sabbath (verse 4).

     

    Even if he stopped working, “preaching exclusively” leaves no time for fundraising or any other administrative duty. Paul stayed in Corinth for a year-and-a-half (verse 11) and when he left it was with the same tent-making couple (verse 18). There is no indication either way of Paul being supported by others or working.

     

    Acts 19 describes how Paul traveled to Ephesus, eventually staying for three years (Acts 20:31) preaching to Jews and Gentile Greeks and teaching other Christians. Verse 8 says,

    “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.”

     

    This could be interpreted to mean that for three months Paul never left the synagogue but preached there continuously, if it were not for Acts 20:34-35. Acts 20 opens with Paul and his companions traveling from city to city with brief visits. Beginning in verse 17, Paul gives a farewell speech to the Ephesian leaders as he and his companions prepare to travel some more. Verses 33-35 are noteworthy,

    “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

     

    Lastly, it should be noted that verses 6-11 of 2 Corinthians 9 are not necessarily a promise for worldly wealth as the study would seem to suggest. A look back again at 1 Corinthians 4:8 in which Paul is exhorting the believers against pride and boasting,

    “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings-and that without us! How I wish you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!”

     

    Paul is referring here to spiritual riches and authority, just as in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, and 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.

     

    Surely God loves a cheerful giver and a generous person as is evidenced from the passages presented in the study (and elsewhere throughout the Bible). This fact however, does not equate to or support a case for “fulltime-supported ministry” as we know it today. 

     

    Romans 8:32, the stated key verse for Part 1 also seems to be taken at least somewhat out of context. The verse here appears to say God will “give us all things”, but the entire focus of Romans 8 is on spiritual/Heavenly rewards in light of earthly sufferings.

     

    Finally, “The shoulders of giants” (p. 11). Who are these people and why are they “giant” Christians? Is the author suggesting missionaries are better/more faithful/more spiritual than the “average” Christian and therefore deserve to be funded?

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    Reader Comments (1)

    Good observations!

    February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRev. Stephen R. Wilson

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