Tag Archives: Finances

Lydia McGrew: we need an army of tentmakers

Lydia McGrew has a post up at What’s Wrong With the World blog that is just excellent. (H/T Apologetics315)

Excerpt:

Apologetics is wonderful and incredibly important. It’s a wonderful thing that a revival of specifically evidentialist apologetics is happening in the United States and even, to some extent, in the Anglophone world at large.

Unfortunately, this revival of interest in apologetics and in being Christian philosophers is coming at a very bad time, economically. Even if you are a genius, your chances in 2013 and following of getting a stable job by the route of going to graduate school in philosophy (or almost any area of the humanities) are pretty darned slim. If you’re not a genius, fuhgetaboutit. Nor were there ever all that many jobs in philosophy. It was always an iffy proposition, but it’s much worse now than it was even twenty years ago.

As for starting ministries, a poor economy makes it extremely hard to do that, too, because people don’t have as much disposable income to donate. Moreover, even in a more robust economy, if all the eager young apologists were to flock to start apologetics and/or campus ministries, they would be competing among themselves for a finite number of available dollars from donors. So that’s not the best idea either.

Let me speak very bluntly here: In my opinion, God doesn’t need a whole raft of impractical idealists out there getting themselves into debt or half starving (or really starving) with no idea of how in the world they are ever going to support even themselves, much less a family, out at the other end of their education. That just burdens the church with a large number of able-bodied but needy Christians who are in a seemingly unending stage of transition, “getting an education for the kingdom” or “hoping to do work for the kingdom” without a viable plan in mind or any fiscal light at the end of the tunnel.

Instead, I believe that we need an army of tentmakers. If you have a job or a marketable skill, for heaven’s sake (literally), don’t quit that job and join the ranks of starving students. Keep your day job, but enrich your mind and prepare yourself to answer people’s questions about Christianity by studying on your own time. If you have entrepreneurial abilities and the capital, start a business. That will support not only yourself but others you employ, and if successful, you will have more money to give to Christian ministries.

But even if you aren’t the entrepreneurial type or don’t have that opportunity, at least make sure (to the extent that one can in today’s world) that you can pay the rent and put food on your own table as well as supporting whatever number of additional people you plan to take on. (In other words, if you are a guy who would like to get married and have children, bear that in mind.) This will inevitably mean spending time at all that distasteful stuff like networking and making a resume. Bookish types don’t enjoy that stuff, because it seems bogus, but it can’t be helped. It will undoubtedly mean, for most people, not being full-time students beyond the undergraduate level, especially not in the humanities, not trying to become full-time academics as a life work, and not going into full-time ministry, even if you would ideally like to do one or more of those three things.

In the end, if we can have this army of tentmakers, there will be (Lord willing) money to allow some people to work in full-time ministry. But it’s going to be quite a small proportion of those who are interested or would ideally like to do so.

[…]Inevitably, the course of action I am suggesting will mean a bifurcation for many between their day job and what they are most passionately interested in. So be it. Indeed, so it has ever been in the world. What proportion of people at any moment in human history have been blessed enough to spend most of their time working on what they are most passionately interested in? The question answers itself. So I think that bifurcation has to be accepted by a great many people and that doing so will lead to what I might call a healthier “Christian economy” among committed Christians than what we could otherwise end up with.

So let’s see her advice in bullet-point form:

  • The job market for philosophers is very bad
  • A bad economy means less support money is available
  • It’s important to have a plan to fund your  ministry
  • Leverage your full-time job to fund your ministry

I often find that when I talk to Christians, there is this sort of hyper-spiritualized way of deciding what to do. People read the Bible, which is good, but then they don’t tend to also look at things like economics, science and public policy. The Bible doesn’t say much about what to study or what job to get, but there is an example of Paul working at tent-making in order to fund his ministry. So there is precedent for the idea of learning a trade and working to earn enough money to support our families, our ministry and even other people’s ministries. I think we have an obligation to take the Bible seriously when it tells us what we can do to please God, but coming up with a plan to please God most effectively is our job. We have to make the plans to serve God. Our plans must be within the bounds of Biblical morality, but they should also reflect our knowledge of how the world really works, too. We’ll be more successful with a good plan and some hard work.

Be sure and listen to the podcast by J. Warner Wallace on this issue, and read my comments too (same post).

J. Warner Wallace: practical advice on becoming an effective one-dollar apologist

As promised, below is my summary of J. Warner Wallace’s most recent Please Convince Me podcast, and my comments.

Details:

J. Warner continues examining the Christian life in light of God’s desire for all of us to become Christian Case Makers. Jim reads listener email highlighting some of the typical frustrations involved in starting an apologetics ministry and then provides a template to help you become the Case Maker you’ve always wanted to be. Jim also answers the question: Why Didn’t Jesus Reveal Scientific Facts to Demonstrate His Deity?

You can grab the MP3 file here.

This episode is probably one of the best episodes of the Please Convince Me podcast I’ve ever heard, because it’s practical. I like listening to the cold-case detective talk about practical things.

Summary:

  • e-mail from someone trying to start an apologetics ministry for college students and facing difficulties
  • the challenge of getting Christians to take an evidential approach to their faith
  • tips for getting Christians exposed to apologetics materials
  • there are a lot of Christians who are making a daily contribution to apologetics even with a full-time job
  • Wallace himself started his apologetics ministry while working full-time
  • Wallace, as an atheist, was initially skeptical of religion because he thought it was too focused on money
  • His plan as an apologist was to take money right out of it – do it for free, and  be self-funded
  • 1 Cor 9: “But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision.”
  • People in ministry deserve to be supported, but Paul dispensed with that right to raise support for his ministry
  • Paul self-financed his ministry in order to avoid all appearance of doing his ministry for financial gain
  • Similarly, Wallace’s goal of being self-financed was to avoid the appearance of doing ministry for money
  • If you plan your life carefully enough in the first half, you’ll have the money you need to do ministry in the second half
  • Wallace wanted the liberty to pursue things without any financial need, and he achieved this by working full-time
  • The problem with money is that it often causes us to not cooperate well with other people
  • Ministries and churches sometimes avoid working with other people, like scholars and apologists
  • They do this because they are afraid of losing their own people to these scholars and apologists
  • Wallace wants to get the money out of it and be able to serve anyone with a need
  • Wallace: you need to work hard in the first half of life, in order to have freedom to serve in the second half
  • First area: financial preparation – you need to escape financial needs so that it doesn’t restrict your passion
  • Wallace married well, to a woman who was a good saver, very frugal, and not materialistic – he saved 30% of his income
  • Second area: need to prepare yourself educationally for being able to teach apologetics materially
  • That doesn’t always mean doing the MA in apologetics, but you do have master the material – continuous learning
  • Third area: try to focus on the parts of your career that might have some connection to apologetics
  • You want to have experiences in your work where you learn something that can be used in your ministry
  • Wallace actually made career choices to focus on evidence, case-making and teaching
  • It’s hard because men are naturally competitive – we focus on promotions, money and consumer goods
  • It’s not always the right move in your career to get promoted if it takes you away from skills related to apologetics
  • Christian apologists need to not neglect to develop leadership skills and to develop influence
  • He recommends a book called “Platform” by Michael Hyatt, which Doug Groothuis also recommended to me
  • If you are financially independent, then if an unpaid opportunity arises, you have the freedom to take it
  • You can volunteer for positions that you want to have, instead having to take what pays
  • Wallace writes for Breakpoint, and he is able to dispense with the 1000-word limit that gets a fee
  • Money opens up the danger of corruption, so it’s another reason to just take it out of the picture
  • You can be very effective in your apologetics ministry while still working full-time
  • The second half is a good time to have even more freedom because your kids are grown up
  • A good wife can really help you if she is picking up the slack so that you can work on your ministry
  • Jane Pantig works for Ratio Christi, an organization that promotes apologetics on campus
  • Jane’s model: she is in full-time ministry, with a BS in biology and an MA in apologetics (Biola)
  • Jane is able to get many high-quality speakers to speak for free/cheap at San Jose State University

The rest of the podcast deals a question that was asked at the San Jose State University event that Wallace did for Ratio Christi. I blogged about it this morning. I  laughed my butt off while listening to that podcast, starting at around 62:50 and on. It’s pretty funny when he does the role-pay between Jesus and the people listening to him.

My comments:

The reason I wanted to post this is because I think that a lot of people feel obligated to quit their jobs and raise support because they think that you have to do apologetics full time. It’s not true. Wallace explains that he worked as a cold-case detective until just recently when he took his pension. His pension is now underwriting his ministry. Similarly with me, I work a full-time job and run the blog out of my income. In addition, I probably donate a few thousand dollars each year to people who are organizing apologetics lectures, debates and conferences – events featuring speakers I like best.

This blog gets about 1 million page views per year, depending on the year (election years are better), so that’s not an insignificant impact. In addition, I meet a lot of young Christians in university in different countries who want advice or mentoring, so I spend a few hours here and there mentoring them, and sometimes sending them rewards (books) for doing difficult degrees at good universities and getting good grades. My full-time job helps me to do all of these things. And before I could have a full-time job in information technology, I had to put in the time and effort to get the Bachelor and Masters degree in computer science.

So I think that Christian men especially need to be thinking about how much the apologetics enterprise of a one-dollar apologist relies on money. We really need to be thinking about that early on, in high school, and choosing to study hard things and to do well in those hard subjects. The higher-paying jobs that are more secure tend to be in fields like science, math, technology and engineering. We need to be thinking of doing these courses in high school – especially the men, but also the women – in order to be able to pay for our apologetics ministry. In addition, my decision to not marry (unless I meet a woman who can support me in my plan) gives me even more freedom to work on my ministry while working full time.

I fully approve of what Wallace said about self-financing your apologetics ministry – and supporting other apologetics ministries – in order to avoid all appearance of self-interest. In fact, I have long admired Wallace for his intentional, practical way of doing his ministry. He doesn’t take donations, and he gives away tons of materials for free. I like that.

Video explaining how higher taxes affect families

ECM sent me this video that he found on Caffeinated Thoughts, and I am going to leave it up ALL DAY Saturday to make sure that you all watch it.

This is why I am annoyed to no end by fiscally liberal social conservatives who want government to solve all of these “crises” like enacting universal health care and preventing the global warming monster from killing us all. Stop it you miserable toadies! Especially you, stupid Mike Huckabee! You’re eating up all the money that single men need in order to have the confidence to start families.

I’m going to say it one more time. Good men are running the numbers on marriage right now. And we cannot take on the roles of husband and father when the jobs situation is a mess because of Obama, the taxes are too high because of Obama, and there is a looming entitlement crisis for our future children that Obama is making worse with his trillion dollar deficits. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about from punitive divorce courts, false DV charges, underperforming public schools, and weak deterrence of criminals and terrorists.

Think! If you want men to marry then vote for policies that allow men to marry. If you want big government, then you can’t have marriages and families and children. You can either have marriage and children, or you can have big government social programs. Choose.

MUST-READ: Is Wes Widner right to oppose short-term mission trips?

Here’s a challenging post about short-term missions (1-3 weeks) from Wes Widner. Read and see what you think.

Excerpt:

One of the biggest elephants in the evangelical, missiological, soul-winning room is the lingering question of just how much good short-term mission trips are and whether or not they merely amount to sanctified vacations taken at the expense of others.

Now, to be fair, I’m not claiming that either the missionaries or those who fund them are intentionally nefarious. On the contrary; I believe that for the most part, those who go on short term mission trips and those who support them financially have honest evangelistic intentions. I am simply wondering whether we’ve fostered this “super spiritual” mindset around something we call “the mission field” and, as a result, neglect to ask the burdensome and unpopular questions of stewardship and effectiveness.

He explains how people misunderstand the great commission by thinking that it requires people to go to foreign lands, and then he writes this:

Because of this misunderstanding of the great commission and what it truly means to make disciples of those around us, we tend to overlook questions of stewardship and logistics. In fact, since we think the imperative is to go we tend to start to think that any cost is acceptable and questions of logistics are a mere nuisance.

How much does a round-trip plane ticket usually cost to travel overseas? $1,000, $2,000? More? Once you count the cost of food, lodging, transportation, etc. you can often approach figures well over $3,000 just to send a single person overseas. Is this really the best way to reach the lost?

I agree with him completely that it is not a good use of money to send laypeople as missionaries to foreign countries. However, I do think that it is worth it to send scholars with doctorates to foreign universities and other centers of influence to lecture and debate. So basically we agree on the stewardship question, except if the missionary is a scholar headed to a center of cultural influence. What laypeople can do instead of going themselves is to work hard in school, get good jobs, and to financially support Christian scholars in their studies and public events at home or abroad – e.g. – William Lane Craig debating Muslims in Turkish universities or debating atheists in Chinese universities, etc.

I also agree with Wes that the right way for laypeople to disciple non-Christians is to deal with the people who are around you in your workplace, etc. The thing is, it is much more difficult to build a relationship with non-Christians on the same social rung as you are who you have to work with day in and day out. That’s much harder because you have to live as a public Christian where you are, and let it affect your life more personally. This isn’t flying off somewhere to deal with poor strangers who you will never see again. It’s much easier to fly off somewhere and not to have to deal with people over the long-term. Flyig off to “do good” gives a person the feelings of “being good” and “doing something” but without any of the hard work and persecution of having peers equal to you in social standing seeing you every day bearing with suffering and striving for holiness. Instead of trying to squeeze feelings of goodness out of temporary experiences “helping the poor”, we should be dealing with the smartest and most challenging people in our own lives – family, friends and co-workers. It’s not as emotionally fulfilling and spectacular, but it’s where God has placed us. It’s harder, too.

Secretly sponsoring the PhD studies of an aspiring Christian philosopher, lawyer or scientist would be an excellent use of your money, although it is not as flashy or emotional as helping the poor in Africa. You can’t really tell people back home about your spiritual experiences signing a check to bring in William Lane Craig to debate. You can’t really show impressive pictures of yourself working overtime to keep your job so you have money to support influential Christians like Michele Bachmann or Jennifer Roback Morse. But we have to ask ourselves which is more effective – not which caters to our emotional needs to get attention to force spiritual experiences and to feel good about ourselves.

More Wes:

Why do we go? Why do we really go? If our real aim is to make disciples as we are commanded to, then we will gladly step back and examine the questions raised above (and many will come to the conclusion that short-term, long-distance mission trips are simply not a good idea) but I believe the main reason most Christians go is to satisfy a desire for an emotional experience which they equate with “being close to God”. And therein lies the heart of our dilemma.

In the end, what’s the difference?

When we take vacations, we are expecting experiential reward. We don’t expect to leave a lasting impact on the lands we travel to, and we expect to receive a euphoric high from our experiences. Sadly, most testimonies I hear from short-term missionaries are wholly self-centered (though they are couched in a plethora of “Jesus speak”) with the focus being on the person as opposed to the message and often with little thought as to the lasting impact and cost vs. benefit to the congregation that helped send them.

We have a responsibility to God to think about what we are doing and produce results for him. We need to stop having pictures taken of ourselves hugging children in foreign countries, and to instead think about working hard in school, studying hard things that matter, and saving our money, so we can actually move the ball forward. I know lots of Hollywood celebrities who make a big deal out of supporting animal rights and global warming, but they want nothing to do with chastity, fidelity, marriage, parenting, etc. Christians should not be thinking of Christianity as a fashionable cause that allows them to feel good and be recognized by others. We’re not Hollywood celebrities. We’re supposed to be concerned with truth, not feelings.