My husband has been preaching through 1 Corinthians this year, and yesterday he arrived at the first half of chapter nine in which the apostle Paul challenges the Corinthians over their lack of financial support for him. We deem this lesson crucial to our baby believers as well; yet we are reticent to preach on the topic unless it comes up naturally through the course of expositional preaching, as it did yesterday.
This passage of Scripture is crucial to a baby church plant because, as I explained to my son last night, “If we want to move on to plant other churches, we must make sure this church is strong first and able to stand on its own. And if we want this church to stand on its own, it must be able to pay its own pastor.”
We are reticent to preach on this topic for two major reasons:
- the prosperity gospel and
- the people’s poverty
The prosperity gospel has burned over much of southern Africa. False pastors, syncretistic churches, and money-making miracle crusades are everywhere in Africa–copying to the extreme the abuses they see on TBN. Every one of those pastors preaches weekly about the tithe or makes big ordeals out of the collection of the offerings and rewards big givers through promises or status symbols. The church is big business over here. In fact, so many of the other churches are like that that we and our church members simply describe them as “money churches.” Thus an obvious, major difference between our church and the prosperity churches is that we DON’T talk a lot about money.
So we feel we must avoid those topics so as to not be joined in a group we consider heretical and detrimental to the Gospel; and when we do address the giving of church members, we sometimes feel that we have to add a lot of disclaimers to enumerate the differences between what we’re preaching and what they say.
Poverty is obviously another big problem. How can they be expected to support their pastors when they have barely enough to live on? Would we want to live on that much?
The issue of poverty is complicated by the centuries of vast amounts of aid Africa has received through the years. The Africans get so MUCH welfare and yet seem to feel that it’s not enough. So it might not occur to them to live sacrificially and plan a budget in order to pay their pastor. After all, so many needs are met from outside them. Why would this need be met from within them?
So one of the questions Seth asked the church yesterday in his sermon was, “If a church can’t support its pastor, is it sinning?” What do you think? Tough question. The answer could certainly be yes; but it could possibly be no as well, if the church were too poor to support its pastor yet tried wholeheartedly to support him more than they supported self-comforts.
There are so many other questions that can be included in this issue. For example, should our poor, small church try to support us with whatever finances they can? At first I said no, because we are church planting missionaries, which is not the same thing as a pastor. But my husband reminded me that the apostle Paul was also a missionary when he assumed the Corinthians should support him.
Please pray for your church planting missionaries around the world, because they cannot leave their churches and begin new works until the churches are selfish, meaning that they have the “Three Selfs”:
and supporting their pastor includes two of those points. We need a change in their cultures and worldviews to allow for sacrificial giving to their pastor (and to missions). At times this seems like an impossible task indeed, but God can do what seems impossible!