The decisive advantage of the professionals is obvious: they can finance their mission or mission project themselves. Jesus said unequivocally, "In vain have ye received, in vain also give!" (Mt 10:8). Professionals do not have to rely on donations. They do not have to report regularly to friends or partners to convince their supporters that their gifts are well invested.
Often the success is anything but measurable. Often only seed is scattered and later it is someone else who reaps. Jesus made that quite clear. He himself is the one who sends out into the mission, a mission organization can only confirm this - but it does not have to. Even if no one believes in you, you can still be a missionary. Whoever's life has been changed by Christ always has something to say in this society! And if you are employed, your voluntary work in the mission brings a reward of inestimable value. It is about this reward that we want to understand better in this part: "What then is my reward?" asked the apostle Paul: "That in my preaching I may make the gospel free ..." (1Cor 9,18)
Before Paul the missionary came to talk about why he preached the "gospel free of charge," he first emphasized the legitimacy of supporting missionaries: "If we have sown you that which is
spiritual, what great thing is it if we reap from you that which is earthly?" (1 Cor. 9:11) For missionaries who have no means of earning their own living, donations are of course not only
welcome but also quite essential. In this sense, Paul even speaks of God's order: "So also the Lord has commanded those who preach the gospel to live by the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:14) But this is
true only for those who actually preach the gospel. That is why it is so important to understand what this means.
Unfortunately, some church activities have little to do with the original idea of missionary work. Specifically, for Paul, this meant that missionaries went from village to village preaching the gospel as their main activity - just as when Jesus sent out the disciples. The missionaries of whom Paul wrote were not employees who were on the payroll of a church. This much should be clear that no Christian organizations or service organizations had even been established yet. The missionaries were frugal people who considered themselves provided for if they had food and clothing, as Paul wrote, "But if we have food and clothing, let us be content with them." (1 Tim. 6:8)
Although Paul emphasized at length that a missionary need not feel guilty about accepting donations, he makes a decision for himself and justifies it in very powerful words:
"I have not exercised any of these rights for myself. Nor am I writing this because I want to claim it now. I would rather die than have this glory destroyed. For if I preach the good news, I cannot boast about it, because I must preach it. Woe to me if I do not! If it had been my free decision, I would receive wages. But because it is not so, I am entrusted like a slave only with the office of a steward. So what is my reward? It consists in my sharing the gospel free of charge and renouncing what is due to me in return." (1Cor 9:15-18) - Paul
What a voice for volunteer ministry!
It is actually hard to imagine what Paul is describing here. Two completely different ways of life are contrasted here, which bring a different reward. The difference must be so enormous that Paul would rather die than lose this reward. You have to imagine what he is saying here! On the one hand, there is the traditional model of payment; on the other hand, there is the model of self-financing of a missionary. In most cases, the latter happens through a parallel professional activity, if there are no major savings. So it came to Paul, the point in his life where it was no longer an acceptable option for him to be paid for praying and preaching.
Not be a burden to anyone
Nfter the disciples left their nets, they learned from Jesus not to be a burden to anyone. It is quite conceivable, for example, that Jesus brought considerable savings with him from his long professional activity. Likewise it is also not to be excluded that he continued to be sporadically active as a craftsman and now and then helped with the erection of a roof truss. But it is safe to assume that there was at least no regular income for the 13 men. That is why Jesus once declared, "The foxes have their burrow and the birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest." (Lk 9:58) There is indeed a hint that some women, "supported them with their possessions" (Lk 8:1ff), as it says in Luke. But this does not mean that Jesus and the twelve apostles were fully provided for by them.
It is interesting that Jesus once forbade his disciples to take their purses with them, so that they would learn to trust in God's care: "Did you have to spare anything there?" he asked them. No,
nothing at all, they answered." (Lk 22:35) But after this lesson, there was a second, more probing phase: "But now, he said, take your purse and storage bag with you, if you have them." (Luke
I had to think about this for a long time. First they were to live on donations, but later they were to be self-sufficient. Isn't that a contradiction? No, I was allowed to derive the following lesson learned for myself: Living off donations is certainly an exciting experience that can strengthen our faith. But it does not always have to be this way! God can also bless us, so that we do not need this support at all. I have come to know this as the royal road from now on.
A personal testimony
When I started preaching, God talked to some Christians about how they could financially support my study time and further theological education. These dear people blessed me so much that I even
had money left over for a new car after the end of the training period. I was completely overwhelmed by this generosity. And of course, it was an honor for me to be able to serve them later with
the Word of God.
I could see: There is justification for both, to preach the gospel without one's own purse and with one's own wallet. But it is interesting that Jesus called the second variant after the first one - quasi as a higher lesson. It seems that the second variant is a very special challenge. Jesus sums up the decisive statement and the goal with the following mnemonic: "For free you received it, for free you give it!" (Mt 10:8).
Consequences and next steps
- RECOGNIZE GOD'S ORDER! The order of creation has provided for man to earn his living through work. In principle, this also applies to everyone who leads his own mission project or is active in missionary work.
- SUPPORT MISSION PROJECTS! For a missionary who, for example, has no possibility to earn a living because of local circumstances, donations can also be a real blessing for a while and help to spread the gospel. MISSION PROJECTS with a clear beginning and end can be supported in this way. Individual mission trips can be such temporary projects. Even Jesus' public ministry had a clear beginning and end. But compared to Jesus' long occupation as a carpenter, it was a relatively short project.
- WORK FREELY IN YOUR PROFESSION! Those who are employed should not believe that they must first be set free for mission by quitting their jobs and becoming donors. Truly free are those missionaries who are independent. They should take advantage of the opportunity to volunteer alongside a professional job to make disciples of people - following Paul's example.
- SEIZE THE BLESSING OF VOLUNTEER WORK! The blessing that rests on the volunteer proclamation of the gospel is so tremendous that the apostle Paul would rather die than renounce it. Just accept it. I tell you: the blessing will stick to you!