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Monday, March 9, 2009

Who Should The Church Pay: The role of the apostle

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul makes a case for his right to make his living from the gospel just as the other apostles do. He even cites the Lord as the source of the directive (v. 14) perhaps a reference to his commissioning of the twelve and the seventy to take no purse with them for a laborer is worthy of his wages (Matt. 10:9-10; Luke 10:4).

Paul and Barnabas, however, forgo their right for such payment and choose rather to work to support themselves. Paul worked as a tentmaker while starting the church in Corinth at least until others arrived to help in the support so as not to be a burden to the emerging church.

Apostolos, the Greek word translated “apostle” means one sent on a mission as a representative or a special envoy. They are the ones to lay a foundation for the expanding church in every region and among every tribe and nation.

Such a role is not limited to a single church in a given region, but is commissioned to church an entire region. They are not likely to manage an existing church, but lay the foundation for others to build upon...and then are likely to go do it again somewhere else.

This role is actually defined as having a “right” to make a living from the preaching of the good news (vv. 3-9). It is important to note, however, that this right can be laid aside and surrendered for the sake of the church as Paul and Barnabas chose to do. This right should never be demanded at the detriment of the church. Have we hurt the church by making her responsible to employ her leaders like a business? I believe the answer to this question is yes, in many ways. Besides draining her of resources, perhaps the worst detriment is how we have segregated the body into a professional class that does the ministry and a nonprofessional class that works hard to pay them.

6 comments:

scottcheatham said...

Very insightful Neil. Thanks for the reminder. This is an issue worth discussing.

Katie said...

It may be a "right" but it certainly seems that it is not the best. In Acts 20:33-35, Paul says: "I have coveted no one's silver, gold or clothes. You yourselves know that by these hands, I ministered to my OWN needs AND to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord, Jesus, that He Himself said; 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.;"

How do we "help the weak"? Those growing up in faith around us?
We give them models of serving and laying down our lives for the well being of others. We teach by example a leadership that is not positional, with "rights" and entitlements, but rather a leadership that seeks the betterment of those around us. What better way to do this than to remove the issue of monetary support!

Let's choose to lay down entitlements and set a new (old) model of leadership.

I hope this topic, your book, and continued discussion in the Body of Christ will begin to reform what we know as leadership today. Especially in this area of the financial.

Charles Kiser said...

Sheesh...we are really struggling with these questions in our community. I would rather take another job than have the community tank because it can support my wage.

I wonder what you think, however, about the church paying people for part-time work. David Fitch, for instance, suggests that three people share a part-time role in helping to facilitate the life of a church / network of churches.

Another related but tangential question: how and under what circumstances are offerings collected in organic churches? What are the logistics exactly?

Peter Kypros said...

I think if you your church needs to have paid "ministers" then it needs to adopt a less complex structure. Start slow by training up disciples and then turn them loose. I believe that every follower of Christ can/should be a leader (leading others to Christ as they live out their faith in love).

David said...

Fantastic Neil. A balanced view that agrees with my own.

Matthew Berry said...

Excellent post, Neil. Way to take a stab at one of the sacred cows in our religious "Matrix."

I agree that it may be a "right," but is not the best option. The church has taken the concept of full-time support and made it an entitlement rather than an option that can be exercised at the discretion of Father's leading.

It seems like Paul's default was to work with his own hands, not to simply rely on the support of others.

My father-in-law is an apostle. I've seen him father people for many years, releasing them to function in the Body. He is someone who, I believe, views this principle as an option, but not an entitlement.