Tag Archives: Frugality

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.

Is it wise for women to postpone marriage?

This UK Daily Mail article that ECM posted on Facebook got a lot of comments.

Excerpt:

Eight years after that wonderful engagement party in 1989, I walked away from dear, devoted, loyal Matthew, convinced that somewhere out there, a better, more exciting, more fulfilling life awaited me.
Only there wasn’t.

Now I am 42 and have all the trappings of success – a high-flying career, financial security and a home in the heart of London’s trendy Notting Hill. But I don’t have the one thing I crave more than anything: a loving husband and family.

So what happened? Well, here’s what:

In the summer of 1989, while out for a romantic meal, Matthew proposed properly with a diamond solitaire ring. Two months later, we held our engagement party for 40 friends and family at the little house we were renting at the time.

The following year, we bought a tiny starter home in Grays, Essex, which we moved into with furniture we had begged, borrowed and stolen. We giggled with delight at the thought of this grown-up new life.
I was in my first junior role at a women’s magazine and Matthew worked fitting tyres and exhausts, so our combined salaries of around £15,000 a year meant we struggled to make the mortgage payments. But we didn’t care, telling ourselves that it wouldn’t be long before we were earning more and able to afford weekly treats and a bigger home where we could bring up the babies we had planned.

But then, the housing market crashed and we were plunged into negative equity.

Struggling should have brought us closer together, and at first it did. But as time went on, and my magazine career – and salary – advanced, I started to resent Matthew as he drifted from one dead-end job to another.

I still loved him, but I began to feel embarrassed by his blue-collar jobs, annoyed that, despite his intelligence, he didn’t have a career. Then he bought a lurid blue and pink VW  Beetle.

Why couldn’t he drive a normal car? Things that now seem incredibly insignificant began to niggle.

I began to wish he was more sophisticated and earned more. I felt envious of friends with better-off partners, who were able to support them as they started their families.

I stopped seeing Matthew as my equal. I stopped seeing all the qualities that had made me fall in love with him – his fierce intelligence, our shared sense of humour, his determination not to follow the crowd. Instead, I saw someone who was holding me back.

Our sex life had dwindled and nights out together were rare. I stopped appreciating little things he did, like leaving romantic notes on the pillow or scouring secondhand bookshops for novels he knew I’d love. He was my best friend, yet I took him totally for granted.

After festering for weeks about his shortcomings, I told Matthew I was leaving. We spent hours talking and crying as he tried to convince me to stay, but I was adamant.

My parents were horrified that I was walking away from a man they felt was right for me. My father’s words to me that day continue to haunt me. ‘Karen, think carefully about what you’re doing. There’s a lot to be said for someone who truly loves you.’

But, I refused to listen, convinced there would be another, better Mr Right waiting around the corner.

I moved into a rented flat a few miles away in Hornchurch, Essex, and embraced single life with a vengeance. By now I was an editor on a national magazine. Life was one long round of premieres and dinner or drinks parties.

One of the commenters on Facebook said this:

This is what feminism and narcissism (which are rampant in our society) have done to women. Feminism told her that she should work, have a career, climb the ladder – and that this is the most important thing. Marriage and family are goals unworthy of a woman, according to feminism. Narcissism told her that her own goals and desires were the most important thing in the world. Other people and their needs are only important if they coincide with what she wants. If someone is “bringing her down” or “holding her back” they need to get out of the way because her desires are what is most important. So when her marriage required her to actually sacrifice a bit of her own ambition, she walked away from it. What a stupid and self-centered thing to do.

I found another article by her where she spent £5,000 on cosmetic surgery. It’s just strange where she ended up.

Those who complain about corporate greed may be greedy themselves

From the moderately leftist National Post.

Excerpt:

But what about that 99%? What responsibility do they bear for the situation the world finds itself in? The answer is: plenty. Greed doesn’t just live on Wall Street: it finds a home on Main Street too. And when people think it’s perfectly OK to take out mortgages they can’t afford, or rack up credit card debt to buy flat screen TVs, clothes and appliances, or draw on their home’s equity to finance cars and vacations, well, as they say, you reap what you sow.

[…]But you only have to crack open the business pages, or watch a reality TV show like Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s “Princesses” (about heavily indebted young women) to start questioning the moral purity of the 99%. Many of these people are the authors of their own misery: they consider credit to be cheap, if not free, money. The result is that even here in Canada, the ratio of household debt to personal income has hit a whopping 150%, up 78% in real terms in the past twenty years.

I have no pity for those heavily indebted people, in part because I was once one of them. My love affair with credit started in university. While the limit on that first card was low – $1500 – it allowed a student with a part-time job to buy things she couldn’t otherwise afford (and mostly didn’t need). After getting married, I kept spending, even cashing in my meagre RRSP to help finance the wedding. Post-divorce, I racked up consumer debt, over $15,000 at its peak, at which point I took a harsh look at myself and said: enough. At the time, I was selling my condo: I took the proceeds, paid off the debt, invested the balance, and vowed to both save and pay monthly bills in full, promises I have kept ever since.

Luckily, I got religion well before the meltdown of 2008. But many people didn’t. And this makes them responsible not only for their own problems, but those of their neighbours.

Sure, it’s easy to blame the Wall Street CEOs for bundling rotten mortgages and contriving arcane debt instruments that weren’t worth the paper they were written on. But someone took out those mortgages. Millions of people, actually, who bought more house than they could afford. Did someone hold a gun to their head? No. They were just as greedy as the 1%, only on a smaller scale.

Governments are also just as guilty. In the U.S., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac granted mortgages to people deemed disadvantaged – minorities, the poor – in the hopes of increasing home ownership. This spurred the private sector to compete and fuelled the infamous subprime mortgage market.

The Canadians have special tax-free savings accounts that encourage them to save money instead of spending it. That’s something that we should do – provide people with tax-free savings accounts. Give people the incentive to save their money instead of spending it.