Business or Ministry?
A business sells a product and makes a profit. A ministry serves a function that cannot be done at a profit. One of the keys to detecting a business being disguised as a ministry is to see how the funds are generated. If this group uses “buzz words” to gain an entry, beware. The following are some of the buzz words.
1. “I would like to come by and share our ministry.” This is a common phrase of buzz words. If the business offers a legitimate product or service, then it ought to stand on its own merit. It should not require a spiritual endorsement to get in the door.
2. “Pastor, we have something that will help your people.” When a group orients its sales pitch to pastors, be on guard. If it’s a product for pastors or a program for the local church, then pastors are the group to call on. But if it’s a product, diet plan, insurance, wills/trusts, or gold mines, and it is directed toward pastors, then be aware that the group is trying to ride in on his credibility. Unfortunately, since many pastors are not well paid, they also fall into the finder’s-fee trap. Often the group will offer the pastor a fee for anyone he recommends who buys the products. There are many pastors who have lost their personal credibility by recommending a company to their people.
3. “You can help other Christians.” Without a doubt this is the real clincher in fleecing the flock. If a company can convince its salespeople that the end result of their efforts is to help others, then the methods can be justified. It’s the old “the end justifies the means” syndrome. In other words, you’re not really hurting them by receiving them; after all, it’s for their own good.
Matthew 21:12 describes the event when Christ ran the moneychangers out of the temple. Why did He do that when obviously they were meeting a need of the people who were coming to the temple to worship? The law gave the Jews the right to sell an animal designated for sacrifice if they had a long journey, then use the money to buy another animal for sacrifice. The moneychangers served this need and most of the people seemed satisfied. So why did He get so upset when both sides benefited? Because Christ knew that the motive of the moneychangers was to “fleece the flock.” Why do you suppose this event was reported in the Scriptures? One reason may well be that Jesus wanted His disciples to understand exactly how He felt about fleecing the flock.
If we, as Christians, are to do business with each other, we must follow fundamental biblical principles to avoid the fleecing trap.
The first principle: Don’t develop a sales program exclusively for the “church.” Obviously, Christian teaching materials would be created for a Christian market, but other products are not. Most programs aimed almost exclusively at the Christian market are really secular products with some Christian terms sprinkled in. “In their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:3).
The second principle: Don’t practice deception. If you have a product to sell that you honestly believe will benefit other Christians, let it be known, but don’t promote it as a ministry or as a spiritual happening. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. In other words, let people know what the company is and what the product is. If there is a referral or finder’s fee paid to another person for a lead, let that be known too. If you’re afraid of losing a sale because of total honesty, then the program is dishonest.
Posted with permission from Crown Financial Ministries www.crown.org