Rule of thumb:
“Business as ministry,” as a general principle, is honorable and good. “Ministry as business,” as a general principle, however, is neither honorable nor good.
Necessary points of explanation and nuance:
* God created man to be industrious and to work. Work has intrinsic value in and of itself.
* God expects us to earn a living and to provide for our families from our work.
* As followers of Jesus, we are all called to be on kingdom business 24/7, and we should use opportunities our everyday work provides for us as opportunities to advance the agenda of the kingdom of God.
* God has also ordained that those who preach the gospel should make their living from the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). I believe this includes local church pastors as well as others who are engaged in other forms of full-time and part-time Christian ministry.
* For those who engage in “secular” business, within the bounds of general principles of ethics and Christian morality, it is not wrong, in and of itself, to be guided in business decisions by profit margin.
* Even those who engage in “secular” business, however, should guard against greed and should remember the poor and underprivileged and be generous with the proceeds of their business in order to help them.
* Those who engage in Christian ministry, however, should not generally be guided in ministry decisions by profit margin.
* This does NOT mean that it is not valid to seek by legitimate means associated with these ministries to provide for expenses involved in carrying out these ministries, including basic living costs for those individuals engaged in these ministries.
* Neither does it mean that it is wrong for Christian ministries to seek to expand the scope of their ministry in the interest of good stewardship and making a bigger impact for the advance of the kingdom of God. This will often imply the need for fund-raising and encouraging fellow Christians to financially support these ministries.
* Taking all the previous points into account, though, it is generally wrong and harmful for the advance of the gospel, whenever those engaged in Christian ministry find themselves guided by personal gain, or even the prosperity of their particular ministry, rather than the advance of the kingdom of God in general.
* Those engaging in some endeavors find themselves, by their very nature, with one foot in the world of business as ministry, and another in the world of ministry as business. Christian publishing houses come to mind. Also the careers of Christian recording artists. Some Christian recording artists, for example, see their music primarily as their business, through which they seek to glorify God just like any other businessperson. Others, however, see their music primarily as their ministry. But they still need to make a living in order to keep on doing what they do and to provide for the needs of their families. All this calls for grace, balance, and discernment.
* It is crucial that we all, as Christians, are painstakingly honest and aboveboard in the way we handle these issues, and not portray what we do as primarily a ministry when deep down it is really primarily a business enterprise.
Anyone else have other points to add? Points of agreement? Disagreement?