For years now we have been in “full-time” ministry. I know that everyone is a full-time minister in their own right, but we decided a while ago that the way we would put food on the table was by doing ministry and letting the pieces fall where they may. It was risky. Years later we still don’t regret it. We are happy.
Even so, one main challenge was how in the world we would deal with the very tangible and real issue that is money. Mainly, would we charge for books that we wrote that cost us money to create and years of our lives to write? Would we charge for events that sometimes cost us a lot of money to host? For any job aside from ministry, charging for your work or for what you produce is common sense. Oddly though, people in ministry are held to a different expectation; to simply give everything away. And as whacky and devaluating as that is towards people in ministry, if we did charge for events and materials, would we being causing some people to miss out on the whole point of ministry…which is that the Gospel message is free?
After all, in Isaiah 55 it says, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
Clearly, God’s desire is that anyone that wants the wine and milk of the Gospel gets it. At the same time, I was also aware that the message that we had about life and the goodness of God was incredibly valuable. I surely didn’t want to throw my pearls in front of people that would carelessly trample them on the ground. To me, this message was and is beyond price. It was and is priceless. I have learned that people value what they pay for. Putting a price on something puts a value on it. Thus, I started to realize that when we made an event free, people didn’t value it as much if they forked over $50. And in all honesty, people got offended less when they had paid registration. They cost caused them to put value on what they heard.
Then to make it even more complex is the digital culture that we live in. There is much that is offered for free nowadays. People feel more entitled than ever, and when something actually costs money, they are easily deterred. After filling themselves on the meaningless videos of entertainment found on YouTube and Facebook, most people would rather eat metaphorical McDonald’s than to pay a few well spent dollars for something that is actually going to bring life to them like a book we wrote or a training we host. If it isn’t free, people glaze over it and keep scrolling, missing out on a meal that can change their life.
And in the end, what those of us in ministry want is for the mass to hear what God is saying to them. We want people to be loved on. We want people to be made happy by the love of God. We want people to be healed. We want people to come into relationship with God. If the way we are doing things isn’t ensuring that these above realities take place, what is the point?
Thus, the problem: The Gospel is free, but at the same time, pricelessly valuable. Also, the Gospel is free but people generally do not value what they have not paid for.
So, how do we convince people that something has value that is free? How do we steward what He has given us so that people actually want the milk and wine of the Gospel over the constant technological onslaught of metaphorical fast-food? Do we maximize people’s desire for a book that teaches about God by putting a value on it, or do we maximize the amount of people that will pick it up by attempting to make it free? And if we do make it free, will the person even read it or will it just sit on their computer or Kindle for years while they consume the newest fear-based-terrible-excuse-of-a-book on the end-times that they paid 10 dollars for? Which avenue, charging or free, reaches the most hearts and makes the biggest impact for Heaven?
We have been back and forth on this issue. For years we have charged for our events. The registration cost weeded out troublemakers and caused those that came to truly encounter God. The downside was that not everyone wanted to pay to come to an event. Thus the meetings were small, albeit blessed.
Lately though, I have started to become so sure of what I believe that I wouldn’t mind a troublemaker here and there. It may be fun actually. I have felt less and less of a need to protect my heart from backlash as I did a few years ago. In addition, lately I have begun to understand that if we can simply get someone to the meeting, they will get rocked. If we can just get people through the door, God will take it from there and they will encounter Him. And so while I think that both charging and making things free can be right and successful, lately I have felt a push from the Lord to begin to lean towards making our meetings and resources free. We are wanting to ensure that anyone and everyone that wants to explore the love and goodness of God, can.
In the end, maybe the Gospel is so incredibly valuable that it can only be given away.