A Hypothetical Class of Ministers

“If a Minister should be a man of means, then would his church nevertheless be obligated to support him? 1 Corinthians 9 leaves no room for doubt. It clearly teaches that such as labor in the Gospel are entitled to live by the Gospel. There is no intimation at all that such as have other means of subsistence, are not entitled to support. Also, during Old Testament times the Priests and Levites received tithes regardless of their personal circumstances. This was by command of God. Hence we take it, our Church Order makes no exception, but simply states what the Churches should do in all cases. The moneys to which their labours entitle Ministers of some means (to be sure a rather hypothetical class of Ministers as far as our Churches are concerned) these moneys are theirs, to use or to give away as they see fit, and concerning which they shall have to render an account before God. Of course, if any Minister of means desires to labor for but a small salary, or for no salary at all, that would be entirely his business. And in case the Church concerned should happen to be a poor struggling Church, good-will of this type certainly would be very commendatory.”

– Van Dellen and Monsma, The Church Order Commentary, p.55


One thought on “A Hypothetical Class of Ministers

  1. Hey Jeremy,

    I agree with what is written in your post but I came across this that I thought would add another element to the conversation about minister support:

    Scholarly interest in the role of business in world mission first began to appear around the
    middle of the twentieth century under the heading of “Tentmaking”. Based on the
    missionary model of the Apostle Paul and his friends Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:3, Rom.
    16:3, 2 Tim. 4:19), mission experts began experimenting with the idea that one’s
    professional skills can be used as instruments to advance God’s kingdom, particularly in
    less-Christianized countries.

    It is worth pausing here to reflect on Paul’s motivations and strategies, because they
    reveal some interesting and surprising facts that have important implications for the
    tentmaking debate. First, a strong case can be made that Paul’s mission work was, with a
    few exceptions, largely self-supported. At a minimum, he earned his own way in Corinth (1
    Cor. 9), Ephesus (Acts 20:34-35), and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:9, 2 Thess. 3:8). Second,
    he worked even though he did not have to. In 1 Corinthians 9 he makes the strongest case
    in the Bible in favor of donor support for those in spiritual ministry. He did receive some
    financial support from the Philippians (Phil. 4:15-16), but his vigorous refusals to accept
    support in 1 Corinthians 9:12 and 15 suggests that it was not his modus operandi. Given
    that Paul’s passion in life was to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16) and see churches spring
    up in the spiritually driest places (Rom. 15:20), this raises the important question of “Why
    did Paul work when he had every right to live off the financial support of others instead?”

    A careful study of his letters reveals the answer. For Paul, self-support was an integral part
    of his missionary strategy. Preaching the gospel for free added credibility to his message
    (2 Cor. 2:17, Titus 1:10-11) and served as a model for his converts to follow (2 Thess.
    3:7-9, 1 Thess. 2:10-11, Eph. 4:28-32, 1 Cor. 4:12, 16, 1 Cor. 9:12-18). Remember that
    many of his followers were reformed idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, and
    extortionists (1 Cor. 6:9-11) who likely had no idea what a Godly lifestyle looked like. By
    modeling a disciplined and Christ-centered lifestyle, Paul helped transform not only their
    spiritual worldviews, but their economic and social conditions as well.

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