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Preaching for a Price: The High Cost of Tainted Motives

By January 29, 2016April 29th, 2022Christian Living, Ministry & Leadership4 min read

My first job was at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. I filed invoices, filled paper in copy machines, and learned the ins and outs of data entry at Calvary Distribution.

When you grow up working in the ministry, there’s an interesting process of discovery. You discover that people might fail, but Jesus never does. You discover that Christians have good days and bad days, and there are many ways to approach the business world from a Gospel perspective. You glean as much of the good as possible, and try to find the best in the logistics of ministry.

Separating your identity in Christ from your identity in ministry is a lifelong challenge.

At one of the ministries where I worked, I heard a transition plan shared. It involved the whole staff being removed from payroll, allowing the previous staff to spend a significant portion of time in prayer, fasting, and vision before anyone was rehired.

I was outraged at this idea.

The idea of firing a whole staff was ridiculous, at best, in my mind.

Over a decade later, that idea now seems brilliant. It didn’t end up being necessary or right in that place, but I understand now the point of that proposal. It was less about firing the staff and more about identifying our motives and calling to ministry.

The simple question still remains: if I knew that I would never receive another penny of income from any ministry source, would I continue to walk in the calling God has given me?

Working in the ministry has never meant receiving a massive income. I recently discovered that my twenty-one-year old friend working in the food service industry in Orange County makes double the amount I have ever received per month from a ministry job. It has never been about the money.

The Gospel we proclaim comes at a price of personal magnitude. At times, we will be misunderstood. Our friends may wound us. Our hearts may betray us. Our leaders may leave us.

I recently came across this verse in my personal devotional readings:

Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” Micah 3:11 ESV

Scripture gives a clear, radical, tangible warning against teaching for a price, and yet I often find, to turn the phrase, that it comes at a price.

The Gospel we proclaim comes at a price of personal magnitude. At times, we will be misunderstood. Our friends may wound us. Our hearts may betray us. Our leaders may leave us.

Jesus never will.

The more I understand the Gospel, the more I marvel at the way Jesus lived the perfect life. His preaching came at a price, but He never joined the payroll of a ministry budget. He modeled a radical, sacrificial, generous love to all. It wasn’t a job. It was always a calling.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Consider your calling. We know that because of Jesus, who became to us ALL THINGS, we can boast in the Lord, who saved us, and called us, and allows even our foolishness to be used for His glory.

I hope that if I knew that from tomorrow there would never be a dime of income at any time from any church, I would stop, and listen to Jesus.

And then carry on with whatever He called me to do, because He paid the only price that is eternal.

Sarah Yardley is a Californian living in Cornwall who loves Jesus, family, friendships, coffee, travel, and guacamole.