Thoughts to Ponder

What ever happened to ministry?

I can remember having guest speakers at our church, when I was young. Whether it was a singing group, or an evangelist or a missionary, they were all supported through what we called a love offering. A love offering was a special offering taken during the service specifically for the guest.

I really enjoyed having guests at the church, because they would stay with us at the parsonage. You got to know them and they got a nice home cooked meal with the pastor and his family.

Times have changed drastically. Now if you attempt to get someone to come minister to your church, you better be ready for a different attitude. One popular Christian author that we tried to get, told us that he would come on the following conditions: We paid for his travel here and back, we paid for two days accommodation at a hotel with all meals included and we paid $4000 up front before he came. This was all to put on a four hour seminar on a Saturday afternoon. That breaks down to an all expense paid trip and $1000 per hour for four hours work. Ministry has gotten much more profitable then when I was a child.

We managed to get another well known author to come and speak to our church. At the time my wife was transcribing all the sermons from tape and I was posting them on the church's website. Just before the service started I went to this gentleman and told him what we had been doing and asked for his permission to post the text of his sermon on the website. I was not ready for his answer. He told me that he could not allow that to happen. He was just about to publish a new book and some of the material in this sermon was also in the book and it would not be good to have it out in the public before the book was published.

Another ministry had the following conditions for their appearance. You (as the sponsoring church) had to get at least four other churches to announce and pass out leaflets about the up coming seminar. The other churches were required to co-sponsor the event, meaning they had to stress attendance to their congregations. This ministry did not want any money up front, but you had to guarantee at least 2,500 attendees. This was a four day event, starting on a Thursday evening and ending on Sunday evening. During the event you were required to take an offering each session, but all of the money that came in was to go to the ministry, you were not allowed to take any expense money out of the offerings. Nor were you allowed to take a second or special offering during the event to cover your expenses.

The list goes on and on. Ministry has taken on a new face. Seldom can you go to a Christian concert and show your appreciation by putting what the Lord lays on your heart in the offering plate. Oh you can still go to a church to hear Christian singers, but it will cost you $20 to 35$ per person to do so. Of course they will still tell you to bring your unchurched friends with you. If you are lucky, they might even give a short testimonial of what God has done in their lives and in rare cases even a salvation message.

I don't mean to make it sound as if all Christian ministries and groups are like this, just the ones I have had personal contact with. It just makes me kind of sick to hear these people speak about their 'ministries' when it looks a lot more like a business to me. I am also not trying to say that these people should not be able to make a living, but if this is a ministry why not trust God to support it? Why not take a more meager salary and thereby minister to more people?

It is not only the 'outsiders' either, it is happening in the local churches too. Again I am not speaking of all churches, but neither am I speaking from the vantage point of only one church. Many pastors feel that the church is their job. They don't feel their 'job' should include after hours duties. Having been a Police Officer, I will tell you that death does not always visit families during work hours. At two in the morning when there has been a fatal car accident, people need the support of their pastor, not just the hospital chaplain. Calling most churches in the middle of the night will get you the office hours and times of the weekend services, but nothing more.

We had the opportunity to visit with and minister to the kids at juvenile hall on Thursday evenings. A couple of us started to go each week and we even got some of the teens from the church interested in going. Things were going well, but we felt like we could use a little help from the youth pastor. We approached him and he sounded excited about the idea. We explained that we already had about 10 of his youth group going, we just needed him to come once in a while to help us. He again sounded excited and said he would love to do it, but we would have to change the day to Wednesday because that was his ministry night. We tried to explain that we had not chosen the night, that the county had given us that night and we could not change it. He looked sad, and said that was too bad, he couldn't come on Thursday because Wednesday was his ministry night.

There are many Christian groups which try to cross over to the secular music scene. Now they will tell you that it is so they can 'minister' to a wider audience but when you listen to their 'secular Christian' music you wonder what makes it Christian and not just secular. If you can't tell their music from the music of the other secular groups, what makes it a ministry?

When did we quit listening to Jesus' words? (Matthew 6:33 NIV) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

What makes a ministry a ministry? If you listen to many in the Christian community they will tell you that God called them to their particular ministry, but it flies in the face of Scripture. I don't see anywhere in Scripture where God called someone to fame and wealth. That is not to say that He calls them to poverty either. God will take care of His people.

These people in 'Ministry' who think that it is important for the world to respect and honor them have lost sight of Scripture: (James 4:4-5 NIV) [4] You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [5] Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?

I am not advocating the idea that Christians need to live in poverty. Paul clearly tells us that those who minister should get their support through the ministry: (1 Corinthians 9:13-14 NIV) [13] Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? [14] In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. I want to make that clear.

What I am saying, is that when ministry becomes nothing more than a way to make money, then there is something wrong. I have no problem with people who want to make a business out of music or teaching or anything else, until they start to claim that what they do is ministry.

These so called ministries will tout themselves as equipping the church for service. Or they will say that they are helping people have a deeper closer walk with God. Yet they charge $1,000 per hour to do it!! They won't even come until you guarantee the full amount. Are they serving God or money? (Matthew 6:24 NIV) No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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October 2002