Sunday, October 11, 2009

To Charge or not to Charge...that is the question!

I've been thinking about a subject that is probably somewhat controversial, but most people are not really talking about it. The subject I propose to discuss in this blog post is this; should churches and Christian organizations charge for events such as conferences, Ladies' Retreats, Vacation Bible Schools, youth camps, etc.? The next question would be; what does the Bible say about it? How does the Bible teach us to fund God's work?
In Matthew 14:14-21 we read

14And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. 15When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”

16But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

18He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 20So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. 21Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

What was Jesus' solution to the problem of food? Did He ask them to pay money to be fed? Did He ask them to pay money for hearing Him preach and for healing them? The answers to all of these questions is a clear "no." An interesting note in this passage is that when the disciples suggested that the people go into a neighboring village and buy food, Jesus, instead, instructed them to feed the people! Surely, Jesus was hoping against hope that the disciples would have faith in Him! After all, He was God! He must've been thinking, "C'mon, guys! Can't you see that I'm God! I can supply any need!"

How many times do we begin a new ministry, only to expect people to pay to partake of the gospel! How can we do this? The gospel was given to us freely. Can't we trust God to supply the funds for ministry? Of course, that is assuming that He is behind the ministry in the first place. I believe that God will supply the need for any ministry if it is His will for that ministry to exist. If the funds are not available after praying and trusting the Lord to provide, we need to ask ourselves if that particular ministry is His will.

But, back to our passage in Matthew. The disciples had a desire to do something good. They saw that the hour was late, and the people were certainly tired and hungry. Why not dismiss them and have them go and buy some refreshment. Sounds reasonable, right? William Burkitt addressed this quite well. "The motion which the disciples make on behalf of the multitude, Send them away that they may buy victuals. Here was a strong charity, but a weak faith. A strong charity in that they desire the people's relief: but a weak faith, in that they suppose that they could not be otherwise relieved, but by sending them away to buy victuals; forgetting that Christ, who had healed the multitude miraculously, could as easily feed them miraculously, if he pleased: all things being equally easy to omnipotency."

The disciples would've missed this wonderful opportunity for a miracle except that the Lord stepped in and saved the day! How many times have we been of such little faith that we didn't trust God to provide in a wonderful and miraculous way? We just assume that this is a day of small things and so, in order to fund God's work, we must rely on admission charges, courting secular corporations, bake sales and garage sales. This is a sad commentary on our faith! We serve the Creator of the universe, people! He can provide any need we have!

Malachi 3:10-12 "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house..." If we would give as God has asked us to, there will be plenty to fund His work!

I Timothy 6:17-10 "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." We should trust in the living God to supply all funds to cause His work to go forward. We should be willing to share as we are able so those who cannot give or share will still be able to participate in various events and endeavors.

(to be continued)


Chris said...

On the other hand, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:

"If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?"


"Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?

So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel."

The system God set up in the Old Testament certainly "charged" people to support the ongoing work of the ministry.

Miss Music said...

I am not opposed to people being paid who are ministering in the gospel, Chris. By the way, thanks for your comments. What I am opposed to is charging a fee for an event. I believe that God is able to provide sufficient funds for ministries which He ordains. I am opposed to charging people to hear the gospel. "Come hear about Jesus, but bring $$$ to pay your admittance fee." No, Christians are the ones who should be bringing their tithes/offerings in to pay speakers, singers, utilities, food bills etc. for these events.

Chris said...

I wasn't aware you were primarily talking about events to reach unbelievers. Perhaps I didn't read your post carefully enough.

If you are also including ministries to believers, though, God gave the Israelites very specific instructions about what offerings to bring. He didn't just say, "If the temple is to continue, people will have to step up to the plate."

Miss Music said...

Actually, I'm not sure that we, as NT Christians should be charging anyone anything for a Christian event, whether or not it be believers or unbelievers. I'm not sure what to think about all the different things this involves, as this is a fairly new subject for me to really think about and dig in the scriptures about. I don't have all the answers, but the event I'm especially concerned about right now, is an event sponsored by a local church for Christian ladies' and hopefully some unsaved/fringe ladies. Some will come to such an event who will not darken a church door. Either way, I think it would be best to offer it on a free will offering basis, trusting God to provide.

Chris said...

It certainly would be nice for you as Christian ladies to pick up the tab for any unbelievers that would like to attend. I'm sure the organizers of the event would have no problem with you doing that.

I don't equate charging admission with "not trusting God to provide."