Why Charge for Materials?
In our last newsletter we included an article titled "Why charge for Materials? Whats the Answer?" We explained that at no time over the past twenty-plus years of writing had anyone asked the question of us until we criticized the unbiblical practice of biblical counselors charging for ministry. Other ministries we contacted reported that they rarely receive such a question. The following is for your consideration. It is what we believe and practice, and we invite responses to what we have written here.
At the end of the last article we encouraged responses from those interested in the subject of charging for ministry. We thank those of you who did respond and hope this article will clarify our position, knowing in advance that some will still be in disagreement.
One of the most common errors of some respondents was to accuse us of being opposed to a "laborer" being supported. We have continually said that, according to 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 and other verses, the one who ministers can be supported, but there is nothing in Scripture that allows the one who ministers to charge. The support for one who ministers is produced by those who voluntarily contribute. Such support should never be mandated; neither should there be charges for ministry. When one moves from voluntary giving to charging, one violates the intent of Gods Word.
We begin with a distinction. There is a difference between personal ministry and a ministry of providing material goods. Before Jesus sent His disciples out, He said, "Freely ye have received, freely give" (see Matthew 10:5-10). Jesus disciples were supported by the people as they ministered from town to town, but can you imagine them charging for such personal ministry?
What are personal ministries in the church today? Personal ministries include communion, prayer, funeral and graveside services, hospital and home visits, marriage ceremonies, baptisms, worship services, preaching, teaching, Bible classes, and biblical counseling. Anyone who favors charging for one personal ministry (biblical counseling) must be in favor of charging for any of the above listed personal ministries. None of our critics gave biblical reasons for why it would be acceptable to charge for one personal ministry (biblical counseling) and not the others listed. Their only justification is the repetitious response: "If you charge for books, we can charge for biblical counseling," which would then logically extend to charging for any or all of the above personal ministries. If Jesus disciples were here today, can you imagine them asking for payment by cash, check or credit card after giving biblical counsel? In discussing the sin of simony, Thomas Aquinas pointed out that one cannot sell what one does not own.
Functions and Responsibilities of Local Churches, Ministries, and Individuals
Before answering the question of why charge for material goods, we need to speak about the functions and responsibilities of the local church. The local church is a fellowship of like-minded believers with various ministries within it. There should be no charge for personal ministries such as those listed above. A local fellowship should reach out to the unchurched and unsaved. A local fellowship may also provide both personal and material ministry to other congregations or individuals if asked and if the local fellowship has the time, talents and resources to do so.
While a church, a ministry, or an individual believer can minister personally or materially, and all have the responsibility to do so, their responsibility should first be exercised in their own local fellowship. As the church, ministry, and individual can afford, they can minister personally (missionaries, evangelists, teachers, carpenters, etc.) and materially (Bibles, food, clothing, etc.) to those outside their local fellowship.
In considering the spending of money to provide for material goods to others, one first needs to provide for ones own family (1Timothy 5:8), then ones church family, and then the church family at large. As needs arise in ones own church family, one may provide both personally and materially if one has the resources to do so (James 2:14-17). This mutual care among believers may also extend beyond ones own church to those in other fellowships as needs arise and resources to help are available. These opportunities for sharing material goods, as well as giving personal ministry, expand as one has resources and opportunities to witness for Christ.
There is a biblical opportunity to be as generous as possible in working for God. We should have a "we-get-to" attitude. Personal ministry costs someone time; material ministry costs money. Just as personal ministry is limited by the amount of time one has available, so material ministry is limited to the money one has available. Both should be given as freely as one can afford. Only God knows how much of our available time and resources are dedicated to Him.
The responsibility to give materially, whether one is a ministry and has books and other material goods or one is a church or an individual, is the same. The individual who cannot afford to give away material goods has no less responsibility than a ministry who has the books but cannot afford to give them away. Any individual who suggests that a ministry by faith give away what it cannot afford has the same responsibility to do so.
There should never be a charge for personal ministry. Material ministry should be as freely given as true needs are confirmed and as one can afford, restricted by ones need to care for his own family and then his local church family. We are charging for materials that we cannot afford to give away to pay for warnings the churches should be doing. The responsibility to do what we are doing belongs to the local church. We are not a church and do not derive the benefits of being one. We exist because the local churches and the denominations have woefully failed to lead and warn about the dangers of psychoheresy. Worse yet, they have embraced psychology throughout.
Unlike personal ministry, books and other tangible materials are products. They require an investment of money to produce, publicize, sell, invoice, etc. Ministries, such as those mentioned above, are not products. They are not material, but personal. They are the outworkings of what God has done and is doing in and through His people.
If any material goods become an essential part of the ministry of a local church, they should be available free to all who request them. The one book that all agree everyone needs in a local fellowship is the Bible. It should be available to those who need one. Any other book or materials regarded by the leadership as essential to an individual should also be provided without charge within the finances of the local church body. There are times when the leadership in a local fellowship may be called upon to provide Bibles or other books to other churches or individuals in other churches. If they have the funds to do so and the other church lacks funds, the church with the means may help the other church in a variety of ways as was done in the New Testament.
Paul says in his letter to Timothy, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1 Tim. 5:8). Material ministry includes more than books. It includes other such items as food, clothing, and shelter. We need to place the responsibility for material ministry where it belongs. The responsibility falls on all, whether one is a ministry, a church, or an individual. Each person or organization has an opportunity to minister out of what is available. The question is: How much of what we have are we willing to give to the work of God?
The claim that one must spend money for a Bible college or seminary education to become a biblical counselor and therefore can charge is a false one. We were part of the biblical counseling movement for years. At one time we voluntarily headed the biblical counseling ministry in a large church with numerous counselors. None of those who counseled had ever been to a Bible college or seminary. Our greatest task was to convince these mature believers that they did not need psychological training or Bible college or seminary training to counsel. We all counseled, no one was paid, no one was charged, and by Gods grace many were helped.
Think of a church or individual with whom you have extreme doctrinal differences or regard as aberrant or heretical. If ones own church or an individual member is open to it, exercising personal ministry for purposes of correction would be in order. However, to minister materially by giving books to such individuals or churches merely because they ask may be a mistake, no matter how affluent the sending ministry, church, or individual.
PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries
We have been involved in personal ministry for over 25 years. This personal ministry included a number of activities as well as biblical counseling. However, we never charged and we refused donations for such ministry even when we were a part of the biblical counseling movement. In addition, our current ministry involves personal ministry by phone, fax, correspondence, and email. We have ministered to pastors and church leaders as well as to other believers and organizations. Yet, we have never charged anyone at any time for such personal ministry. Again, all ministry financial support should be voluntarily given, not mandatorily charged.
When asked by leadership of churches in which we have been involved, we have given books and materials to individuals in those churches. However, we do not have the resources to give books and materials to all individuals in other churches. But, we have provided free materials to individuals who meet certain conditions, such as people in third-world countries and prisoners who request them. Our priorities are to give free books and materials, as we can afford, to indigent Christians in third-world countries and prisons, after that to other indigent individuals. However, we know of no ministry that without question gives to all who ask, including requests from all third world nations.
When asked, we have given permission to people to copy our newsletters, books, papers, and tapes. Also we have placed much of our material on our web site, where people have free access. We will be adding more in the future as we are able. However, to do what our critics have recommended, would put us in violation of 1 Timothy 5:8. Publishing books costs moneylots of money. If our critics are correct, at worst they should accuse us of publishing books that we cannot afford to give away.
While it is unnecessary to do so, the PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter (PAL) is provided free on a bimonthly basis in America and abroad. Less than 10% of those on the mailing list provide the necessary support to make this newsletter free to all who request it. If someone would like to fund the materials being available to more people, we would be happy to do so and would impose the necessary parameters in order to be good stewards of their contribution. However, there is no biblical requirement for a church, ministry, or individual to provide free materials to all who ask, and such an action would no doubt eventually result in poor stewardship.
The content of much of the newsletter is a brief version of what is in the position papers and books. If someone is interested in a more extensive presentation, they can then purchase a book, paper, or warning package.
The prime income of this ministry is donations, not sales. The donations keep this ministry solvent, not income from sales. If the ministry stopped offering and selling books, papers, and tapes, it would continue to be solvent as long as the donations continued. However, if the ministry freely gave the books, papers, and tapes to all who might ask, it would no longer be solvent. Over the years, if one of us had not been employed full-time elsewhere, we would not have had a ministry.
The sale of books and other study material is for the benefit of those who want more to read and learn. It fulfills a purpose of the ministry to provide access to information about the dangers of psychoheresy and to encourage people to return to the Lord and His Word. Another reason for providing books, papers and tapes through our ministry is for the convenience of our readers. Some of what we provide can only be obtained through this ministry. Many bookstores do not even carry the books we offer; nor are they willing to do so. In addition, the books are offered from this ministry at a reduced price.
As we said earlier, those in favor of charging for biblical counseling must by analogy be in favor of charging for communion, prayers, funerals, graveside services, hospital and home visits, marriage ceremonies, baptisms, worship services, preaching, teaching, Bible classes, or other ministries of the local church. In fact, those who favor fee-for-service biblical counseling no doubt favor a "menu" approach to church ministries with the fees for such services listed. If the fee-for-service biblical counselors would object to such a fee-for-service "menu," how can they justify charging for biblical counseling? The argument that its okay to charge for a personal ministry such as biblical counseling because a ministry or church charges for materials is a specious one, because one can use the same argument for charging for all of the ministries just mentioned. It is doubtful that someone would make such a recommendation. However, one caller told us about a local church in her area that has a menu approach with a large price tag for their members for "full-church funerals," as well as charges for other ministries.
Something to Think About
If there had never been a professional psychology business, which was first licensed less than fifty years ago, would Christians even think of charging for biblical conversation today?
PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110
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