Take a second, and look at Peter’s calling to Caesarea to minister to Cornelius’ family (Acts 10). This chapter is such a significant turning point as the Lord confirms to Peter in multiple ways the uncircumcised Gentiles could also receive salvation and the Holy Spirit without being like the circumcised Jewish believers. However, this would not have happened in this way with Peter if He did not be obedient to the calling of God on his heart.
Like Peter, John, Phillip, Paul, and a whole host of other minister’s in the New Testament traveled thousands of miles by foot, beast, cart, and ship. Never once do we see in one of their letters or the book of Acts stating these individuals required money from the people they were going to minister before they could come. However, in our day in time, and for some time, the trend has been for those in full-time ministry to move away from a “missionary-mentality” with finances to a “for-profit business model.” Whether they do this truly for-profit, or because they are worried about making ends meet with all the expenses of full-time ministry is between them and God. However, greed and worry could both be reasons why Paul warned Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
I speak from experience as a minister for the past 19 years, pastor for 13, and musician-singer for almost all of my life. These thoughts are nothing new to me. I was raised in this mentality of ministry and continue to see Scripture sharpening my perspective toward this way.
The Bible teaches us to financially support ministries, and the Apostles took a “Missionary Mentality.”
So, what does the Bible teach about supporting ministries financially? First, we are encouraged to support the ministry of our local church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians believers, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). For believers, the Church was like a storehouse where their gifts were given and dispersed as needed. To local ministries and other traveling ministries.
This particular offering being collected was “for the saints.” Acts 6 and other passages talk about how the early church had feeding ministries to the poor and widows in the assembly. So, we quickly see why it is essential to support ministries. In this world, money is a tool we use to perform service to others.
Another Scripture I want to point out is comes from a situation of Paul’s in Corinth and Philippi. Paul wrote to Corinth, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
Paul wanted the Corinthian church to be aware of the generosity of the Macedonian Christians. Their overwhelming financial support was not done from the flesh, but the Grace of God working beyond them. They were simply willing to be a blessing. This type of giving was not new to Paul. His letter to the Philippians was, in large part, a thank you to their gift, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Phillippians 4:10-18). The church at Phillipi seemed to spearhead many giving opportunities.
Paul uses his examples and the many others connected to it, to encourage the believers at Corinth to be givers “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7). Paul speaks as though it is a sign of spiritual maturity and one of the many ways we see ourselves growing in Christ.
One finally passage about the support of ministry within the church deals with “honoring” servants of the Word. Paul, this time writing to Timothy, noted, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward” (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Paul noted that those in the leadership of the churches, especially observing those who labor in Word and doctrine, were worthy of double-honor. The honor was indicated as the value or price of something. This goes both for respect and pay. We should not that double does not necessarily mean “times two.” Double is simply used in the language at this point to denote something greater.
The illustration that Paul gives is muzzling the ox. This reference is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The idea is that the ox should not be prevented from also eating of the same corn it threshed while it worked. Paul applies this to the support of the pastor-teacher. While the minister is studying, teaching, and providing other pastoral care, they are not able to always work in other areas to provide for their family and self. Therefore, Paul noted they are entitled to financial support from the Local Church. Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 9:7-12, “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.”
Scripture also teaches there is nothing wrong with a bi-vocational ministry.
Paul would sometimes choose to work in a secular profession. In Paul’s writing to the believers at Corinth, he defends himself by his bi-vocational work, “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:7-15).
Paul, not wanting to be a financial burden on the people at Corinth, choose to work a “tentmaking” profession to support himself. The people thought Paul was acting like he was too good to take money from them while receiving from others at times. Paul noted that he did not want to take away from them. He also knew their pride and other spiritual issues, he did not wish to be bound to them in anything. This action was Paul’s choosing, and nothing was mentioned elsewhere in Scripture that would make bi-vocational ministry seem any less desirable than full-time ministry. One might argue that Paul’s statements about marriage and being divided in their attention in First Corinthians 7:32-35, may also be applied here, but I will save that for another time.
I believe this is where many get it wrong for themselves and their local church in demanding to be a burden. As a reminder, many sorrows are the result of those who love money. Paul’s admonition to those church leaders who thought to seek money over the ministry and probably even money through the ministry had been choked out of the faith and pierced by the fiery darts of the wicked one. Local churches have been weakened, and many closed due to the greediness of individuals seeking more “honor.” Paul’s answer is godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Contentment with what you have. Contentment with a bi-vocational ministry. Contentment without the popularity of a number one song or book. Contentment with a small congregation (the normal context for spiritual maturity, but I digress). Contentment in whatever state of life God has you in, remembering that His next upgrade for your life may be a downgrade in your perception.