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Q. Is it wrong to be fully supported for Christian ministry work?

Why is it a "Sin" or wrong to do something on behalf of the Lord and that be all you do and not have a public job? I know of preachers that go all over this "backslid and proud of it" country and do nothing but preach the Word. I have friends that are International Missionaries and have been for over 20 years and they don't have "Public Jobs" that they go to on a daily basis. Literally all they do is this Missionary work. Now I'm told that it's wrong if I were to do either of the two and not have some means of other work that I do. What I can't get a straight answer on from anybody is why it's wrong for me and not wrong for these out there doing Mission work or Preaching and who do literally nothing else. Not one person has yet to give me a straight answer on this. Can you? All it boils down to is they wouldn't do it because they don't have the faith in God to step out and pull some crazy stunt like that and they don't want this dummy doing it either so they say it's wrong.


1. The Lord Jesus was supported by others (Luke 8:1-3), although He could easily have created the means to sustain Himself (see Matthew 17:24-27; Luke 5:4-10; John 21:1-11). This enabled Him to devote His time to His ministry of healing and teaching.

2. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, it was expected that they would be fed/supported by others because of the ministry they carried on (healing, casting out demons, etc.) – see Matthew 10:5-10, noting especially verse 10.

3. It should also be noted that Jesus changed the guidelines in Luke 22:35-38. Early in His earthly ministry, both Jesus and His disciples were very popular, and sought after, not only for His teaching (and feeding), but because of the healings and demons cast out. Late in His ministry Jesus and His disciples would be rejected and persecuted. They should not expect to be welcomed by all, and supported by many. Thus, they should make provision for supporting themselves. Paul exemplified this and taught others to follow his example (see Acts 18:1-5). His desire was to give, not to take (Acts 20:33-36). See 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul makes it clear that he, as an apostle, had a right to be supported, as did Barnabas, but they gave up this right for the sake of the gospel. No one could say they were in it for the money (as so many are today).

4. It is clear that some – all too many – are “serving the Lord” for what it will get them (status, honor, money, fame, a following. Repeatedly in Scripture Paul warns against this kind of motivation (see 1 Timothy 1:6-7; 3:3; 6:5-10; Titus 1:10-14).

5. It is clear in the Book of Philippians that this group of believers did send Paul a gift (Philippians 1:3-5; 4:10-20). We see that Paul was content when there was no support. It is also clear that Paul’s financial support was not a constant flow of money, and thus his need to labor with his own hands.

6. Having said all this, believers do have an obligation to support (financially and otherwise) those who perform a beneficial ministry to them (1 Corinthians 9:1-14; Galatians 6:6, 10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). In this regard, I note that in 1 Timothy 5 the sequence is ministry first, then money follows. All too often it seems folks wish to see the money first and then they will minister. Paul tells Timothy that those who labor hard and effectively in ministry should be generously rewarded (but this is not like a secular work contract).

7. I speak here from experience as a father of five children. In our church there were a number of opportunities for your kids to engage in short-term missions trips. The normal pattern was for them to send out “prayer letters” with the expectation that others would come up with the money. What I saw from time to time was an expectation that if I wanted to minister to others, all I had to do was to let others know and they would pay the bills. I’m not sure that is a biblical mindset. And thus we’ve made some effort to require young people to earn some of their own support by working, rather than simply asking others for money.

8. As I read the New Testament, the church budget looked nothing like what we see today. Today, the major expenses of the church are (1) the church building, and (2) the church staff. When I look at the New Testament it seems as though the priority is on those in need (see Acts 2:43-45; 4:36-37; 6:1-6; 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8 and 9; Galatians 2:10). Thus, if the funds were not available, I would work with my own hands so that those in need could be cared for. (Sadly, many of the Bible hucksters today take advantage of the poor, convincing them that if they give, God will multiply their gift in return.)

9. Raising support is somehow the norm for sustaining ministry today, and I’m not all that comfortable with this approach and the mindset behind it.

10. Should some be supported in their ministry? I believe so, but these are folks who have proven their worthiness by the ministry they have already demonstrated (back to 1 Timothy 5:17).

11. There is one more thing that I would add, which is very important. I’m referring to what I would call “business as missions.” Today, missionaries are not welcomed, not even permitted, to minister in many parts of the world. Those who are able to enter such places are those who have valuable skills which these countries welcome. These folks not only support themselves, they gain a hearing for the gospel by their skillful labor and godly character. I think that we are now at a time when the world needs fewer missionaries (those who raise support and go out as missionaries) and more skilled laborers and businessmen and woman (see Proverbs 22:29).

12. Some – perhaps a good number – of those you refer to are not those whom I would support, personally. Should you be supported? It would depend upon the nature of your need and the value of your service. Paul continued to minister whether the money (support -- Philippians 4:10-13) was there or not. Christian ministry is sacrificial and not self-serving.

I hope this will prove to be beneficial to you,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Christian Life, Finance, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Missions, Pastors

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